Legislation / Key Provisions

Neglected and Criminal Children's Act 1864

Established and regulated industrial and reformatory schools for 'neglected' children. Police may apprehend a child suspected of being neglected who must be brought immediately before two or more Justices. Justices may order child to be put out to service on conditions or detained in an industrial school for between one and seven years. Parents liable to contribute to support of inmates of schools. Amended by Neglected and Criminal Children's Amendment Act 1874 - children under 6 years may be detained in an industrial school; 'immoral or depraved' child may be sent to a reformatory school; neglected children may be detained up to the age of 16 years; child may be boarded out or apprenticed. Neglected and Criminal Children's Amendment Act 1878 - neglected children may be transferred from industrial to reformatory schools; a child may be detained until the age of 18 years. Repealed by Juvenile Offenders Act 1887.

Neglected Children's Act 1887

Maintained general provisions of 1864 Act regarding apprehension and committal of neglected children. Introduced system of guardianship for children committed to care on ground of neglect. Repealed by Neglected Children's Act 1890.

Neglected Children's Act 1890

Consolidation of 1887 Act.

Infant Life Protection Act 1890

Established a system of regulation of non-parental carers of young children. Repealed by Infant Life Protection Act 1915.

Children's Court Act 1906

Created a separate court system to deal with children under the age of 17 years charged with neglect. Repealed by Neglected Children's Act 1915.

Neglected Children's Act 1915

Consolidation of 1890 Act. Repealed by Child Welfare Act 1928.

Infant Life Protection Act 1915

Consolidation of 1890 Act. Repealed by Child Welfare Act 1928.

Children's Maintenance Act 1919

Prior to this Act mothers in this position would have to arrange for a court to declare their children to be 'neglected' and committed to the care of the Department. The Department would then 'board them back' with their mothers who would receive the boarding out allowance from the Department. Repealed by Children's Welfare Act 1928.

Children's Welfare Act 1928

Consolidation. Repealed by Children's Welfare Act 1954.

Adoption of Children Act 1928

Provided for legal adoption of children in Victoria for the first time. Repealed by Adoption of Children Act 1958.

Children's Welfare Amendment Act 1933

Definition of neglected altered to include a child living under conditions that means he/she is likely to lapse into a career of vice or crime; the child's guardian is unfit by reason of his conduct or habits, or (if female) is soliciting or behaving in an indecent manner; a child wandering about the streets at night without lawful cause after a member of the police force has warned the child to cease; or a child engaged in street trading'. Repealed by Children's Welfare Act 1954.

Children's Welfare Act 1954

Introduced a system of regulation for non-government children's institutions. Children's Court to determines whether a child or young person is in need of care. Police can arrest without warrant any child or young person suspected of being in need of care and bring the child before a Children's Court to be committed to the care of the department. Director can make a range of placements including institutions, private homes, employment or service etc. Non-government children's institutions must be registered with the department and are known as 'approved children's homes'. An agency may apply for a child in its custody to be admitted to State guardianship once agreed maintenance contributions fall into 6 months arrears. Repealed by Children's Welfare Act 1958.

After Aborigines Act 1957, the Board had no specific power in relation to Aboriginal children. Aboriginal children were removed under the Child Welfare Act 1954 and subsequent child welfare legislation.

Social Welfare Act 1960

The 'welfare of the child shall be the first and paramount consideration' in placing a child. Repealed by Social Welfare Act 1970.

Adoption of Children Act 1964

Replaced 1928 Act. Established a stricter procedure for selecting adoptive parents. Amended by Adoption of Children (Information) Act 1980 - Relates to access to records of public and private adoption agencies. Repealed by Adoption Act 1984.

Social Welfare Act 1970  [also known as Community Welfare Services Act 1970 and Community Services Act 1970].

Consolidation of Children's Welfare Act 1958, Social Welfare Act 1960 and amendments. Amended by Community Welfare Services (Amendment) Act 1979 - minor changes to definition of 'child in need of care' includes emotional abuse and being ill-treated, exposed or neglected. Not repealed but substantially amended by Children and Young Persons Act 1989.

Adoption Act 1984

Introduced Aboriginal Child Placement Principle. Placement of an Aboriginal child must be in accordance with the Principle. Consent to adoption may only be dispensed with in special cases such as where child has been seriously and persistently ill-treated.

Children (Guardianship & Custody) Act 1984

Concerns duties of guardians and disputes between them. Gives effect to the Family Law Act 1975 (Cth). Court shall not make a guardianship or custody order with respect to an Aboriginal child unless a report has been received from an Aboriginal Agency. Repealed by Children and Young Persons Act 1989.

Children and Young Persons Act 1989

Includes Aboriginal Child Placement Principle. Sets out procedures for removing a child 'in need of protection'.


Protectors' reports

The Aboriginal Protection Act 1869 was the first colonial law to establish a comprehensive system of control over the lives of Aboriginal people. The Aboriginal Protection Act 1886, known as the ‘half-caste’ Act, commenced a policy of forcibly removing Aboriginal people of mixed descent from Aboriginal stations and reserves in Victoria. This inhumane policy of separating families created widespread distress and dislocation, and led to the Aborigines Act 1910 which reversed some of these policies. For more information, click here

The Victorian government agencies responsible over time were:

These agencies kept detailed records which are held at the Public Record Office of Victoria (PROV) who have produced a guide to their holdings (HTML).

The policies and practices of these agencies controlled nearly all parts of Aboriginal people’s lives in Victoria, from the removal of children, rations, access to health, education, employment and housing of Aboriginal people on stations and reserves.

Annual reports were published from 1860 onwards, but the Board for the Protection of Aborigines failed to report with gaps from 1912-1922 and 1926 until 1957, when the Aborigines Welfare Board came into existence.

Central Board appointed to watch over the interests of the Aborigines in the Colony of Victoria:

The Board for the Protection of the Aborigines in the Colony of Victoria :

1956-57 - Report upon the operation of the Aborigines Act 1928 and the Regulations and orders made thereunder

Report of the Aborigines Welfare Board for the year ended 30th June:

Commissions, Committees

Victoria: Reports from Royal Commissions, Committees and Boards of Enquiry