Frequently Asked Questions

1. What’s in the collection guides?

All the collection guides are different because all the many collections are different. Each guide might refer to several collections of records that have come from the institution, as well as those from the department/central administration. Each collection guide:

  • Starts with a brief history of the agency (or institution), wherever relevant information is available. 
  • Provides an overview of that collection’s content, organised by record types: ‘Client information’ and ‘Departmental administration’.
  • Shows when the records include lists of wards, inspectors' reports, or correspondence with the department, and the time periods they date from.
  • Might be very short (one page with no sub-sections) or very long (multiple pages and sections). For example, the collection guide for the Turana Youth Training Centre is further subdivided by its administrative sections. The guide for Mont Park Hospital has multiple sections with former patients’ records, as well as administrative files.

2. I tried to get my records before. What’s different now?

In 2012, the department received special funding to undertake a huge records management project, the Ward Records Plan. The funding was so we could sort and index the 88,000 boxes of records sent to the department by institutions as they closed, mostly during the 1980s and 1990s.In 2012, the department received special funding to undertake an extensive records management project, the Ward Records Plan. This funding allowed for the sorting and indexing 88,000 boxes of records sent to the department by institutions as they closed, mostly during the 1980s and 1990s.

3. Why was it so hard before?

  • Many records could not be found   
    Before the introduction of digital technologies, all records were paper-based. Until 1973, Victorian laws did not spell out what had to be recorded and saved. Each organisation decided what to record and some institutions culled or destroyed older files, especially those of people who had left. During the 1980 and 1990s, as institutions closed, they sent their remaining records to the department for safekeeping. At its peak, these boxes of historical records filled 31,000 shelves stretching row-by-row for 27.7 kilometres. Most had no content lists or apparent organisation systems. Departmental archivists responding to Freedom of Information requests were often unable to find people’s records.
  • Now
    More than one million historical paper-based care leavers’ records have been professionally archived and moved to the Public Records Office Victoria or to secure commercial storage. They are now much easier to search for and locate.  Since the advent of digital technologies, all new records are now created, stored and retrieved electronically. 

4. What are the terms used most?  

Please note: 
The collection guides reflect the language in use when the records were created. While some of the old terminology and labels used are regrettable, researchers and historians would agree that it is not our place to retrospectively amend them. Please view any offensive terms or labels as relics of a bygone era. 

Former ‘clients’ is now the preferred term of government departments, authorities or agencies for referring to those who were the subject of case files or who were in care.

The Social Welfare Act 1960 changed the term ‘Juvenile School’ to ‘Youth Training Centre’. After then, young people between 14 and 21 years old who were held in Youth Training Centres (such as Turana) were called ‘trainees’. 

Wards of the state
Between 1928 and 2003, more than 100,000 Victorian children were placed in institutional or foster care. More than half of these children were made ‘wards of the state’ (a child under the guardianship of a state child welfare authority). Not all wards of the state were housed in government facilities. Many were placed in non-government children’s homes or in voluntary or privately-run homes. Many other children were placed by a parent or family member without a court order and were not ever made wards of the state.

The Children and Young Person's Act 1989, Victoria abandoned the term 'ward' and used instead 'children in need of protection'. Remaining ‘wards’ were still referred to as 'wards' until their orders expired – the last in the mid-1990s. 

Reviewed 15 September 2016

Was this page helpful?