Speciation: A Cento Evolution of New South Wales child removal laws, from inception to present iteration

By Anne Casey.

  1. 1866-1901


Every child whose age

shall not exceed sixteen years

found lodging, living, residing

or wandering about in company


with reputed thieves or persons

who have no visible lawful means

of support, or with common prostitutes—


whether such reputed thieves, persons

or prostitutes be the parents or guardians

of such child or not—or who shall have

no fixed place of abode or who shall be


found begging about any street, highway,

court, passage or other public place

or who shall be found habitually

wandering or loitering about the streets


highways or public places in no ostensible

lawful occupation, or who shall be found

sleeping in the open air, may be apprehended

and sent to any Public Industrial School.


It shall be lawful for the superintendent

of any Public Industrial School to punish

any child above ten years who may leave

the school without permission


by placing such child

in close confinement

for any period not exceeding

fourteen days.

  1. 1901-1905


Any offender in any reformatory school

who absconds therefrom, or neglects

or refuses to conform to the rules

may be taken to gaol for any period


not exceeding three months,

such period of imprisonment

to be passed as far as practicable

in strict separation.


The superintendent or manager

of any Industrial School may punish

any child above the age of ten years,

who leaves school without permission,


by placing such child

in close confinement

for any period not exceeding

fourteen days.

iii. 1905-1923


Any child apprehended as a neglected

or uncontrollable child, or juvenile offender

shall be taken to a shelter and there detained

pending the determination of a court

to commit the child to an institution.


  1. 1923-1939


Any child who, in the opinion of the court,

is under incompetent or improper

guardianship, is authorised

to admit such child to State control.


  1. 1939-1987


All children committed to an institution

shall remain under the control

of the Superintendent of the institution

until they attain the age of eighteen


or are discharged, transferred, apprenticed

or placed-out. The superintendent

of any institution shall investigate complaints

of misconduct by any inmate:


disobedience, assaults, insulting, profane words;

irreverent behaviour at or during divine service

or prayer; idleness or negligence in work,

lying or petty thieving; any inmate found guilty—


the superintendent may order punishment:

alteration of meals for a period not exceeding

two days, isolated detention from other inmates

in a room constructed for the purpose,


corporal punishment, not exceeding

three strokes on each hand—inflicted

only with a cane of a form, and kind,

approved by the Minister.


  1. 1987-2010


Children, for the full

and harmonious development

of their personalities,

need love


and understanding

and, towards that end,

should, wherever possible,

grow up


in the care

and under the responsibility

of their parents,

but if that is not possible,


in an environment

of affection and moral

and material security and,

in the case of children of tender


years, should not,

except in exceptional circumstances,

be separated

from their parents;


a child is in need

of care if adequate

provision is not

being made,


or is likely

not to be made,

for the child’s care;

the child is being,


or is likely to be, abused;

or there is a substantial

and presently irretrievable

breakdown in the relationship


between the child and one

or more of the child’s parents.

Offences under the Act: child abuse,

neglect to provide adequate and proper


food, nursing, clothing, medical aid

or lodging for a child,

unauthorised removal

of children from care


or custody,

tattooing of children,

leaving children unsupervised

in motor vehicles.


vii. 1998 to present


The primary means of providing

for the safety, welfare and well-being

of children and young is long-term,

safe, nurturing, stable and secure



of violence and exploitation—

that foster their health,

developmental needs,



self-respect and dignity.

In all actions and decisions

that significantly affect a child


or young person,

account must be taken

of the culture, disability,

language, religion and sexuality


of the child or young person

and, if relevant, those

with parental responsibility

for the child or young person.



Note: This cento is derived from the full text of the following statutes (sourced from Find & Connect, www.findandconnect.gov.au):


  • 1866 to 1901: Destitute Children (Industrial Schools) Act 1866;
  • 1901 to 1905: Reformatory and Industrial Schools Act 1901;
  • 1905 to 1923: Neglected Children and Juvenile Offenders Act 1905;
  • 1923 to 1939: Child Welfare Act 1923;
  • 1939 to 1987: Child Welfare Act 1939;
  • 1987 to 2010: Children (Care and Protection) Act 1987;
  • 1998 to the present: Children and Young Persons (Care and Protection) Act 1998