Legislation relating to child welfare records has existed in Western Australia since the State Children Act 1907. At the very least, the department responsible for child welfare, the institutions that housed children and licensed foster-mothers were required to keep a register of the child's name, age, sex, nationality, religion, dates of admission and departure, and the names of parents and near relatives. The Children and Community Services Act 2004 (s.128) requires all records created under s.11 of the Child Welfare Act 1947 and still in existence in 2005 to be kept forever, along with all records created 'in respect of wards and children placed under the control' of the department after 2005 when the Act came into effect.
The State Children Act 1907 (s.11) required the Secretary, or head of, the department responsible for child welfare to 'keep records of all moneys received and paid, and so far as known of the names, ages, dates of reception, near relatives, nationality, sex, religion and dates of departure of all State Children, and of all dispositions of and dealings with such children'. Sections106-107 required records to be kept by licensed foster-mothers, and the Governor (s.132h) could make regulations for record-keeping by institutions and licensees. This requirement for record-keeping was continued by the Child Welfare Act 1947 (s.11) for children who were wards of the State and (s.149) for all institutions and licensees; foster-mothers' record-keeping requirements (s.117) included not only children who were wards, but 'every other child received by her'. The Child Welfare Act Amendment Act (No.2) 1976 (s.104) amended s.117 of the Child Welfare Act 1947 to require not only a register of children to be kept, but a broader requirement for 'facilities and centres' to keep 'other particulars and records' as determined by the department from time to time. All these records were to be made available for inspection by departmental officers and information from them was to be sent to the department upon request. The Children and Community Services Act 2004 (s.128) requires the head of the department to ensure that 'records are kept in respect of every child who is or has been' in the care of the department since the Act came into force. Section 7 includes records made 'on and after commencement' of the Child Welfare Act 1947 (s.11). This means that every child or young person who has been in the care of the department from 2004 onwards should always have records retained for them to access when they are ready to do so, and that those records made after 1947 and which were in existence in 2004 are to be kept forever. Section 238 defines a 'departmental record' and outlines how it can be used in legal proceedings. A departmental record is 'a document in the records of the Department that relates to a child, a child's parent or a child's carer'.
Prepared by: Debra Rosser
Created: 16 December 2016