Victorian Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children history in brief
In 1896, Lady Sybil de Vere Brassy, the wife of the then Governor of Victoria founded the Victorian Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (VSPCC) as a voluntary independent organisation.
From the 1920s to 1980s, the society provided services across metropolitan Melbourne and rural Victoria, governed by a central committee and a range of rural committees.
The non-government service enforced the laws for protection of children from all forms of abuse and neglect, and the society determined preventive care, defined care and protection, and provided referrals to courts and police where necessary.
Under the Community Welfare Services Act 1970, the society’s officers were the only people (apart from the police) who were authorised by the Minister for Community Welfare Services to deal with child maltreatment cases.
In 1971, the VPSPCC changed its name to the Children's Protection Society (CPS). The society investigated reports of child abuse and neglect, and provided temporary emergency care for children in small residential units. These units were based in Fitzroy, Heidelberg, Sale and Hamilton.
In 1979, CPS was authorised as a child protection agency. By 1982 CPS had 10 child protection units, seven in the city and three in the country.
A case would be referred to the society, and the society would investigate the claim through contact with the child’s parents or guardians. If the claim was substantiated, and support measures failed, the society instigated care and protection applications. Substantiated cases of child abuse went to court.
In 1985, CPS formally ceased operation and the Department of Community Services Victoria took over its role and function.
In 1992–93, Victoria Police involvement in protective services was phased out, creating the ‘single-track’ service current today.
Enquiries about the possibility of access to the Children’s Protection Society records:
Children’s Protection Society records from 1896 to 1985, including client case files, have been lodged with the State Library of Victoria. DHHS also holds CPS records from 1970 to 1985.
To access records from:
- 1896 – 1969: Request permission from CPS
- 1970–85: Request permission from CPS and DHHS
- 1986 onwards: Request permission from CPS
Requests in writing should be sent to:
The following information must be provided to process the request: Full name at the time of being a CPS client, date of birth, mother/father/carer’s name, address at the time (if known), photocopy of current driver’s licence and any further information that can assist with the request. In some cases, the information will only be released with counselling support.
Warning about distressing information
This guide contains information that some people may find distressing. If you experienced abuse as a child or young person in an institution mentioned in this guide, it may be a difficult reading experience. Guides may also contain references to previous views, policies and practices that are regrettable and do not reflect the current views, policies or practices of the department or the State of Victoria. If you find this content distressing, please consult with a support person either from the Department of Health and Human Services or another agency.
Please note that the content of this administrative history is provided for general information only and does not purport to be comprehensive. The department does not guarantee the accuracy of this administrative history. For more information on the history of child welfare in Australia, see .
Archival Services agency history files.
List of records held by the department
For information relating to the central management of care leavers and wards of state, please consult the guide to Central department wardship and out-of-home care records. These collections date back to the 1860s and include ward registers, index cards and ward files.
Children's Protection Society unsubstantiated and substantiated case files (includes case documentation from Community Services Victor (1973-86)
Content: This collection consists of the substantiated and unsubstantiated case files of the of the Children’s Protection Society (CPS). The files include case documentation from the Department of Community Services Victoria which took over the child protection role and associated client files on 1 October 1985.
Some of the active cases were incorporated into the Community Services Victoria (CSV) caseload, but most of the files were kept in their separate CPS system.
The files were created by the regional CPS offices throughout metropolitan and country Victoria.
The regions were: Westernport, Grampians (Ballarat), North Eastern (Preston), Otways (Barwon), Outer Eastern, Southern and Western Metropolitan regions.
These files include children placed into temporary and ongoing residential care and those made wards of state.
Child abuse investigation returns (unsubstantiated cases) (1984-86)
Content: These records are Children’s Protection Society returns (in envelopes arranged according to regions), police investigation reports and CPS investigations which were discontinued (unsubstantiated cases).
The records comprise summary notification of incidents to Child Protection where the outcome of the preliminary assessment is a decision not to proceed with further investigation.
[Collection destroyed since 18 February 2008.]
Inner Urban Region child case file index cards (1973-86)
Content: These client index cards give date of birth, parents, client number, foster parents and case status. Cards are arranged in alphabetical order by family name. Most cards have stickers representing substantiated, unsubstantiated or consulted cases and are numbered by CPS (for example 83/IUR/051).
The cards are for family names A to L, with one isolated card for ‘Young’.
Substantiated child case file index cards (1971-85)
Content: This collection comprises case file index cards (contents 1971–85) created and maintained by the Children's Protection Society (1896 - current) for substantiated cases of child maltreatment.
These client index cards were transferred from CPS to the Department of Community Services (also known as Community Services Victoria, 1985–92) in 1985.
Arranged in alphabetical order by client surname, these index cards are the control records to CPS client files, and provide a summary history for each child, including family name, given name/s, date of birth, address, parents’ and siblings’ names, who referred by, and CPS file reference number.
The CPS files were originally maintained on a regional basis and when CPS transferred the files to CSV, the corresponding CSV region received the files.
Many regions amalgamated the CPS files with CSV Statutory Client Information System (SCIS) files but other regions kept them as a separate system (for example, Geelong and Ringwood).
The index cards were held by Client Registry but as they were never referred to, they were sent to the Child Protection Division. When this division found it did not use or require the cards they were transferred for secondary storage.
Southern Region unsubstantiated case files (1970-92)
Content: This collection comprises child protection client files held by the Southern Metropolitan Region Cheltenham Office of Protective Services, Department of Community Services (also known as Community Services Victoria, 1985–92).
These manila folder files were regarded as inactive due to client cases being unsubstantiated or not requiring further action for more than 12 months.
As unsubstantiated client cases, it is believed that these files are not duplicated on the CSV Statutory Client Information System (SCIS) database. Arranged in client birth date order from 1966–92, these files contain case worker file notes, correspondence regarding the client's case, consultation notes, details of referral and initial contact, minutes of conferences with parents, court action papers and case closure summaries.
These client files from the Protective Services Unit and Child Protection Services sections of CSV were transferred to Archives mixed with Children's Protection Society files due to the merging of Cheltenham (Southern), Frankston and Dandenong (Westernport) regional offices and CSV. Children's Protection Society files were originally maintained on a regional basis.
When CPS transferred the files to CSV in 1985, the corresponding CSV region received the files. Many regions amalgamated the CPS files with SCIS files but other regions kept them as a separate system.
Ringwood Office children case file index cards, c. 1988–93 [DOB c. 1976–93, includes substantiated and unsubstantiated cases and Children's Protection Society closed cases 1984–85] (1984-93)
File ; Unappraised
Content: This collection comprises Child Protection Case File Index Cards (contents c.1988–93) and Children's Protection Society (CPS) closed cases index cards 1984–85 maintained by the Eastern Metropolitan Region (EMR) Ringwood Office of Protective Services, Department of Community Services (also known as Community Services Victoria, 1985–92).
These case file index cards provide a summary record of interactions of an individual child or young person with the department. Arranged in alphabetical order by client surname, these cards include: name of child or young person, notification or intake number and/or client number, date of birth, names of parents and contact details if known, names and relationship of other family members, case status dates (for example, consultation, accepted and substantiated), other agencies involved, and where file transferred.
Closed cases index cards 1984–85 created and maintained by the Children's Protection Society (1896–current) for substantiated cases of child maltreatment were transferred from CPS to the Department of Community Services (also known as Community Services Victoria, 1985–92) in 1985.
Arranged in alphabetical order by client surname and interfiled with the case file index cards c.1988–93, these index cards are the control records to CPS client files, and provide a summary history for each child including family name, given name/s, date of birth, address, parents’ and siblings’ names, by who referred, and CPS file reference number.
Camberwell Region Child Protection index cards (1981-86)
Content: This collection comprises three bundles of index cards that contain a list of all children for whom a report was received by the department of alleged mistreatment or abuse. Notifications or reports were investigated and found to be substantiated and unsubstantiated.
This is indicated on the card by the word ‘unsubstantiated’ handwritten at the top of the card. There is an assumption that in the case of the cards that are not indicated as unsubstantiated, these notifications are substantiated. The unsubstantiated claims do not appear to have a corresponding client file.
These cards contain:
- surname and address of the parent or guardian
- child's name and date of birth
- age of the parent/guardian
- number of regional services file
- date [likely to be the date when the notification was received]
Some cards have case notes on the reverse side with any action taken: whether the case was closed and the caseworker's name.
Defunct Agency Adoption Records (Adoption Information Service) (1920-82)
File; Permanent VPRS Number 17943 / P0001
Content: The Adoption Act 1984 allowed approved agencies to arrange and negotiate the adoption of children. It also required that agencies keep certain records. If an agency’s approval or operations ceased, their records were to be forwarded to the Secretary of the Department.
The Act also required the Department to establish an adoption information service (AIS), with access to both records created by the Department and the records of the former approved agencies. The adoption records now held by the Department were created by as many as 30 different adoption agencies that were in operation at different times. After the AIS was formed, circa 1985, it gathered the records of the various former agencies, numbered the files sequentially with an “A” prefix and created a full index.
Other AIS unnumbered adoption files and card indexes were also transferred at a later date. The records management unit allocated these records different numbering systems to distinguish between the card indexes from the files. The categories of files were grouped by the adoption agency they related to and the function of the file. Some of the file sequences also hold an "A" prefix as adoption files. However, the numbering system is separate to the first collection transferred from the AIS.
Content of files will vary but may include:
- Application to Adopt form
- Documents and correspondence supporting the application.
- Consent to Adopt and correspondence.
- Legal documents
- Birth certificates
Files attributed to the Children’s Protection Society are numbered in the range A2614 to A2647.
There may be additional files relating to the Children’s Protection Society outside of this number range.
Voluntary children’s homes files (c.1930-85)
File; Permanent (VPRS Number 18069 / P0001)
The files essentially record interaction between the various voluntary homes and the government. This filing system was created in 1975 combining earlier correspondence and other records to create one system with VH prefixes.
The specific file(s) relating to the Victorian Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, later renamed Children’s Protection Society, (known as CPS) date from 1961–1984 and include:
- annual reports from 1961–62, 1968–69, 1975–76, 1976–77, 1977–78.
- inspectors’ reports, correspondence and client management information, 1962–71
- correspondence relating to registration and opening of homes, funding of homes and appeals, incidents at homes, funding of homes and appeals, incidents at homes, staffing issues, reorganisation of the sector, 1962–79
- case management statistics, including average weekly caseloads per CPS regional unit 20 October 1980 to 9 January 1981, numbers admitted to Alys Key House 1980–81
- undated document listing number of family group homes per region
newspaper cuttings including media comment regarding practices within homes, 1962–74.
Staffing Priorities Committee homes and hostels files (1976-83)
File ; Temporary
Content: This collection comprised files documenting the recommendations for staffing positions for homes and hostels, correspondence between the Minister of Community Welfare Services and senior officers, as well as funding information. The Staffing Priorities Committee made recommendations to the minister regarding priority of positions required.
Individual home and hostels are listed accompanied by comprehensive material concerning each home, family group home or hostel. There are also minutes from the approved children's homes and hostels meetings from 1978–80.
The specific file(s) relates to their facility, Currawong House in Hamilton in 1978.
Staffing Priorities Committee, Homes and Hostels, correspondence, guidelines for operation and minutes of meetings (1976-80)
File ; Unappraised
Content: The material includes ministerial correspondence, and Staffing Priority Committee minutes and list of members. The Staffing Priorities Committee made recommendations to the minister regarding priority of positions required.
Reviewed 10 August 2016