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Western Australia - Legislation

Child Welfare Act 1947 (1948 - 2006)

  • Child Welfare Act 1947 (WA)

    Child Welfare Act 1947 (WA)
    Details

From
1948
To
2006
Categories
Principal Act
Website
https://www.slp.wa.gov.au/legislation/statutes.nsf/law_a123.html

The Child Welfare Act 1947 was the principal legislation governing child welfare in Western Australia, regulating the treatment of children sent to WA as unaccompanied child migrants after 1947 as well as all others in out of home care in the State. The Act repealed the State Children Act 1907 (as amended to 1941) but essentially retained the scope of the earlier legislation. Its purpose was to 'consolidate and amend' the laws for 'the protection, control, maintenance and reformation of neglected and destitute children' and related matters. New provisions included enabling penalties against a child to be withheld if it could be shown that circumstances such as a child's upbringing or health had contributed to the offence (s.26). The Act was amended many times during the 1950s and 1960s but was not greatly changed until the Child Welfare Amendment Act (No 2) 1976 was implemented. The Child Welfare Act 1947 was eventually repealed by the Children and Community Services Act 2004 on 1 March 2006.

Details

The Child Welfare Act 1947 governed out of home care in Western Australia from January 1948. It repealed the State Children Act 1907 and all its amendments, including the State Children Act Amendment Act 1919, the State Children Act Amendment Act 1927 and the Child Welfare Act Amendment Act 1941. The purpose of the 1947 Act was not dissimilar from the legislation's origins in 1907: 'to consolidate and amend the law relating to the making of better provision for the protection, control, maintenance and reformation of neglected and destitute children, and for other purposes connected therewith.'

The Act:

  • Granted the Secretary of the Department the care, management and control of wards and their property, and the supervision of 'all children nursed by foster-mothers' (s.10.1) and to place children brought into departmental care. The department was to follow Ministerial directions and regulations in the placement of children (s.10.2) and could not overrule a children's court recommendation for placement without Ministerial approval (s.10.2.e)
  • Required the children's court to take the child's future welfare into account in determing where to place the child (s.25)
  • Enabled an officer of the department to apprehend any child deemed 'neglected' or 'incorrigible' or 'uncontrollable' (s.29); and enabled the children's court to commit children who it found to be 'neglected' or 'destitute' to either the care of the department, to an institution, or release the child on probation (s.30)
  • Allowed the children's court to 'have regard to the antededents, character, age, health, or mental condition of the child convicted' and the 'nature of the offence or any special circumstances of the case' and refrain from imposing a penalty on the child (s.26)
  • Generally required that children who were 'neglected' or 'destitute' should not be placed in an industrial school (s.41.2). Industrial schools were for children who were found guilty of an offence (s.41.1). However, the court might identify 'special circumstances' (s.41.2) that enabled it to send a 'neglected or destitute child' to an industrial school, or allow the Minister to approve the transfer of a child 'for misconduct' from another institution to an industrial school.
  • Enabled the police or any officer of the department to return a 'ward who absconds from any institution, from his foster-parent' or any service placement or apprenticeship to be apprehended and 'conveyed to such institution' of the Secretary's choice (s.46).
  • Enabled the department to determine where to place children in its care. These children could be placed in an institution, boarded out, 'placed with some respectable person', apprenticed or placed at service with a 'suitable person'(ss.31, 41, 50-51)
  • Required young people who were wards of the State to be released from departmental control when they reached 18 years of age. Young women could have their wardship extended to 21 years of age (s.49).

Although the Act was amended many times during the 1950s and 1960s, it was not greatly changed until the Child Welfare Amendment Act (No 2) 1976 was implemented with a number of modernisations.

The Child Welfare Act 1947 was eventually repealed by the Children and Community Services Act 2004.

Timeline

 1874 - 1893 Industrial Schools Act 1874
       1893 - 1907 Industrial and Reformatory Schools Act 1893
             1907 - 1948 State Children Act 1907
                   1948 - 2006 Child Welfare Act 1947
                         2004 - Children and Community Services Act 2004

Related Events

Related Glossary Terms

Related Legislation

Publications

Books

  • Buti, Tony, After the Removal, A submission by the Aboriginal Legal Service of WA (Inc) to the National Inquiry into Separation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children from their Families., Aboriginal Legal Service of Western Australia (Inc), Perth, Western Australia, 1996. pp.448-450 highlights the detrimental impact of the Child Welfare Act 1947 on Aboriginal children and their families. Details

Online Resources

Photos

Child Welfare Act 1947 (WA)
Title
Child Welfare Act 1947 (WA)
Type
Document
Date
1947

Details

Sources used to compile this entry: 'Child Welfare Act 1947 (WA)', 1947, http://www.slp.wa.gov.au/legislation/statutes.nsf/main_mrtitle_7632_homepage.html; To Remove and Protect: Aboriginal Lives Under Control [website], 2010, http://aiatsis.gov.au/collections/collections-online/digitised-collections/remove-and-protect; ; Law Research Service, Melbourne Law School, Law Library, The University of Melbourne. 'Find and Connect Project - Western Australia Legislation', 13 December 2013, held in the project files at the University of Melbourne eScholarship Research Centre.

Prepared by: Debra Rosser