Colony of Tasmania
The Neglected Children's Department was established in March 1897. It was the first government department in Tasmania that specifically managed children who were considered to be offenders or neglected. In 1901, following Australian federation, Tasmania became a state and the state government took over the management of the Neglected Children's Department.
The Youthful Offenders, Destitute and Neglected Children's Act of 1896 created the Neglected Children's Department. It was located within the Chief Secretary's Department.
George Richardson was the first Secretary, appointed in 1896. When he became Commissioner of the newly created Police Department in 1898, Frederick Seager replaced him.
The Secretary of the Department was the guardian of all wards of state. He decided whether to place them in a receiving home, the boarding out system, in a training school, such as the Boys' Training School, a voluntarily run children's home, or in an apprenticeship in which boys usually learned farm labouring and girls domestic service. The work of the Department included correspondence with children, especially older ones, their parents, foster parents, and employers. The Department also carried out inspections of the homes where wards of state lived.
The Neglected Children's Department was formed at the end of Tasmania's colonial period so that most of its activities took place after Australian federation and the newly formed state government had taken it over. However, a couple of trends were set in the early years.
Firstly, one of Richardson's first acts was to abolish the volunteer Central Boarding Out Committee, which had previously managed the boarding out system. In 1897, he took over some of their administrative responsibilities which led to a dispute. The Committee stopped holding monthly meetings until Richardson restored their powers. He did not and the Committee disappeared in 1898. After that, wards of state were managed by public servants and the role of volunteers continued to decline. One advantage of this arrangement was that the public servants knew the children personally.
Secondly, in 1898, the Premier, Edward Braddon, said that, to save money, the Youthful Offenders, Destitute and Neglected Children's Act might have to be repealed. This led to cost cutting which undermined the ability of the employees of the Neglected Children's Department to do their work, a situation that continued until at least 1911.
1873 - 1901 Charitable Grants Department
1896 - 1901 Neglected Children's Department
1901 - 1918 Neglected Children's Department
1918 - 1935 Children of the State Department
1934 - 1961 Social Services Department
1961 - 1983 Social Welfare Department
1983 - 1989 Department for Community Welfare
1989 - 1993 Department of Community Services
1993 - 1998 Department of Community and Health Services
1998 - Department of Health and Human Services
2018 - Department of Communities Tasmania
Sources used to compile this entry: Brown, Joan C., 'Poverty is not a crime': the development of social services in Tasmania, 1803-1900, Tasmanian Historical Research Association, Hobart, 1972, 192 pp; Evans, Caroline, Protecting the Innocent: Tasmania's Neglected Children, Their Parents and State Care, 1890-1918, University of Tasmania, Hobart, 1999, 251 pp, http://eprints.utas.edu.au/14453/; Evans, Caroline, Landmarks in Mothering: Tasmanian Child Welfare Legislation, 1895-1918, Australia and New Zealand Legal History E-Journal, 2006, 1-20 pp, http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/journals/ANZLawHisteJl/2006/8.pdf; Evans, Caroline, 'Declining Volunteerism in Tasmania's Neglected Children's Department, 1896-1918', Tasmanian Historical Studies, vol. 16, Centre for Tasmanian Historical Studies, 2011, pp. 73-88; Parry, Naomi, 'Such a longing': black and white children in welfare in New South Wales and Tasmania 1880-1940, University of New South Wales, 2007, https://www.unsworks.unsw.edu.au/primo-explore/fulldisplay?docid=unsworks_1369&context=L&vid=UNSWORKS&search_scope=unsworks_search_scope&tab=default_tab&lang=en_US.
Prepared by: Caroline Evans
Created: 4 March 2014, Last modified: 7 April 2014