The Infants' Welfare Act 1935 (Act no.26 Geo. V No.96) also known by its full title 'an act to consolidate and amend the Law relating to the Welfare of Children and the Protection of Infant Life' replaced the Children's Act 1918 (Act no. 9 Geo.V No.15). This new legislation covered many of the same areas as its predecessor the Children's Act 1918 (Act no. 9 Geo.V No.15) detailing regulations and requirements for institutions, the application of criminal law to children, guardianship and child 'negligence'. The act also formerly recognises the dissolution of the Children of the State Department and transfer of its power and authority to the newly created Social Services Department. This act was repealed by the Child Welfare Act 1960 (Act No.48/1960) on 2 September 1961.
Section 10 of the Infants' Welfare Act states that:
every child of the State may be
- placed in some receiving home;
- detained in an institution;
- transferred with the approval of the Minister from one institution to another institution;
- boarded out, apprenticed, or placed at service with some suitable person; or
- placed in the custody of some suitable person who is willing to take charge of a child.
Part V provided for children's courts (originally established by the Youthful Offenders, Destitute and Neglected Children's Amendment Act 1905) where proceedings could be heard by a special magistrate, a provision introduced by the Children of the State Act 1918. If one was not available, a police magistrate or two Justices of the Peace could preside. As in previous legislation, the cases had to be heard in a different room to adult hearings. As before, the court's jurisdiction extended to cases that could be heard by Police Magistrates, a Court of Petty Sessions or by a Justice of the Peace. It did not include indictable offences, such as murder or manslaughter, which had to be tried before a jury. Like the Children of the State Act, the new Act provided for probation officers to be appointed to investigate complaints and report to the court.
Under Part VII of the Act, any female person could apply to the Director to be licensed as a foster mother and to have her home registered as a nursing home. The licence was renewed every twelve months. To be eligible for a licence, the applicant had to be of good character and able to nurse and provide for any infants in her care or charge, and to be in good health and free from any constitutional disease of physical or mental disability.
The Director appointed inspectors and inspecting nurses to supervise and carry out the licensing and registering functions.
The definition of a 'neglected' child provides some understanding of the social context of the day. Relevant categories are a child who:
1863 - 1867 Industrial Schools Act 1863
1867 - 1896 Industrial Schools Act 1867
1875 - 1896 Destitute Children Act 1875
1875 - 1918 Juvenile Offenders Act 1875
1896 - 1918 Youthful Offenders, Destitute and Neglected Children's Act 1896
1905 - 1918 Youthful Offenders Destitute and Neglected Children's Amendment Act 1905
1895 - 1936 Prevention of Cruelty to and Better Protection of Children Act 1895
1918 - 1936 The Children of the State Act 1918
1935 - 1961 Infants' Welfare Act 1935
1960 - 2003 Child Welfare Act 1960
2000 - Children, Young Persons and Their Families Act 1997
Sources used to compile this entry: Ombudsman Tasmania, Listen to the children: Review of claims of abuse from adults in state care as children, Office of the Ombudsman, Tasmania, Hobart, November 2004. pp.54-56.; Law Research Service, Melbourne Law School, Law Library, The University of Melbourne. 'Find and Connect Project - Tasmanian Legislation', 20 January 2014, held in the project files at the University of Melbourne eScholarship Research Centre.
Prepared by: Cate O'Neill
Created: 12 January 2011, Last modified: 26 May 2015