Central department records and institutional records


The Neglected and Criminal Children's Act 1864 was the first piece of Victorian legislation to define situations where children might be removed from their parents. Ever since, the Victorian government has compiled official records on children under state care.

To provide cohesion, and to avoid content duplication, the department separated its collections that record the central management of care-leavers and wards of state, from collections that document their experience in institutions. 

It is important that care leavers, former wards of state and people who were not raised by their parents, understand that when the department assessed individuals (or families), they created a central case management file, even when the children did not go to institutional care. 

Today, many of these people who stayed with their families, rather than being placed into institutional care or being made wards of state, might not be aware that their case was managed by the department. This includes individuals who were:

  • brought up by relatives, with custodial arrangements organised by the Children’s Court
  • placed in private foster care arrangements
  • adopted through a non-government agency
  • placed into a private children’s home.

For every child, youth and adult in institutional care, the central department’s case files reflect their initial assessment, admission and movement throughout the government custodial care system. These are central files, and they do not generally contain information on people’s day-to-day circumstances.

Some examples of records compiled by the central department are:

  • State Ward Index Cards, 1966–78
  • Ward Registers, also known as the Children’s Registers
  • Non ward and State Ward Case Files, 1961–66

By comparison, the institutional records created at, for example, Allambie Reception Centre, include:

  • Child Case History Files, c.1973–90
  • Admission and Discharge Registers, 1961–90
  • Historical Records: Photographs, Newspaper Cuttings and Ephemera, 1970–85

The institutional guides only include records that officially document each person’s experience within that institution. They capture the person’s case history, their participation in the institutions’ programs and activities, and their progression through the residential sections to eventual release or transfer. They detail the processes involved in the 24-hour monitoring of people in state care, and provide an assessment of each resident’s behaviour, as well as clinical notes on their physical and mental health. 

For information relating to the individual institutions, please search by the institution’s name for the relevant guide. It doesn’t matter if you use the institution’s old name or another – the right guide will still come up in the search. For example, if you enter ‘Carry On Club’, the guide will show that it was also called Hurlingham and/or Tracey Dutton House, and a search using any of these three names would have ‘found’ the same guide.

NOTE: Please be aware that there are separate guides for records relating to government-accredited private adoption agencies and the department’s adoption and foster care client records. It is worthwhile consulting the central departmental indexes and registers as there may be a reference to a ward’s adoption or fostering out, whereupon the specific adoption or child migration files will provide the detailed case management information. A separate guide covers the records relating to wards of state brought to Victoria during the child migration schemes.

Please consider consulting other guides to important departmental agencies that also hold wards of state and care leavers’ case management records, such as: 

  • Probation and Parole Division
  • Children’s Court Advisory Service (who kept their own system of registers of wards and care leavers)
  • Children’s Court Clinic.

Recordkeeping after the Children and Young Person’s Act 1989

This guide includes the central departmental records that relate to both care-leavers and former wards of state from the 1860s to the early 1990s. Up until the 1990s, the Children’s Court heard both the cases of sentenced children with custodial orders and the cases of children with protection orders. Its client documentation systems were combined. 

After the Children and Young Person’s Act 1989, different divisions were established in the Children’s Court to completely separate child protection matters from criminal/custodial matters. When this legislation was enacted in the early 1990s, the department’s legislative framework totally changed. The records reflect the separate management and administration of clients in custodial care from those in out-of-home care. 

This guide documents the central records for wardship and care-leavers up to the early 1990s when case documentation was separated. The overlapping and subsequent systems of client case files are discussed under the respective guide for each filing system.

For central departmental client files after the 1990s, please consult the following guides:

  • Statutory Client Information System (SCIS) Filing System (1986–92)
  • Client And Services Information System (CASIS) File System (1992–2007) 
  • Client Relationship Information System (CRIS) (2007–current)

Separate guides discuss the role of the Correctional Field Services Division prior to the 1989 Act, and the probation and parole records (including the Parole Board). That’s because, at the time, these functions used different filing systems from those that recorded central management of both child protection and youth justice cases.

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 Find & Connect.


  • Archivists from the Ward Records Plan project and the Department of Health and Human Services Records Management Unit 

Reviewed 02 May 2019