Definition of terms

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This website contains information that some people may find distressing. If you experienced abuse as a child or young person in an institution mentioned in this website, 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. 

Definitions of terms

This document provides definitions of the terms that appear in the finding guides, histories and associated documents on this website. The finding guides opt for plain language over professional jargon, except when referring to specific legal provisions underlying any development. For example, in relation to the destruction of temporary records under Public Record Office Victoria’s retention and disposal authorities, the department quotes sections from the relevant publication to explain the rationale for destroying that particular class of records.

The following list may include terms that are not in the guides you consult, but were referenced in the ward records plan report, and may appear in other and future guides:

  • Accession

    A group of records transferred from a single source into the department’s custody. 
  • Appraisal

    The process of evaluating business activities to determine which records need to be captured and how long the records need to be kept to meet business needs, the requirements of organisational accountability and community expectations.
  • Care leaver

    A child or adult who at one stage in their life resided in institutional or out-of-home care, but has subsequently left the custody of the department. This includes any person who was temporarily remanded in a government institution or facility prior to a court appearance.
  • Child

    The word ‘child’ is used in the guides to distinguish between children under 14 years of age who were placed in a youth justice institution called a reception centre, and older young people aged 14 to 21 years who were placed in a youth training centre. 
    Section 55(l) of the Social Welfare Act 1960 distinguishes between a child under 14 years, and a child aged 14 years or older. 
    This legislation establishes the official term ‘trainee’ in section 41(1) to describe ‘… any young person detained in any youth training centre (hereinafter called a 'trainee') …’, but there is no specific term used to refer to the babies and young children placed in reception centres.
  • Client

    A client is defined as a child or adult who is case managed by the Department of Health and Human Services or its predecessor departments.
    The person does not have to have been residing in a government institution or in the long-term custody of the department. The person could have been remanded temporarily in an institution prior to a court appearance, or even have attended a government-run clinic or counselling service.

    The word ‘client’ is a late-20th century term that is now widely used in many service-based professions. The finding guides will generally use the terms in use at the time the records were created, rather than the term ‘client’. 

    The original terms given to the people case managed by the department were often linked to the particular circumstances of their case, for example a teenager placed on a custodial order in a youth training centre was called a ‘trainee’ (see explanation below). 

    This is especially relevant to former wards or care leavers seeking access to institutional records that document their time in the custody of the department. 

    The term ‘client’ or ‘patient’ may be used to replace some terms now considered offensive.
  • Community service organisation

    A non-government agency funded by the State Government of Victoria to provide services.
  • Department

    This term refers to the Department of Health and Human Services. At the time of the development of the ward records plan, the department was known as the Department of Human Services.
  • Departmental records

    Records kept by the Department of Health and Human Services and its predecessors.
  • Digitisation

    A method of converting physical records into digital records (that is, from a paper file to a digital image).
  • Institutional records

    The administrative records of children's homes, reception centres, and other institutions providing out-of-home care to children. 
  • Out-of-home care

    This term refers to the residential arrangements for people who lived (either short- or long-term) in Victorian Government or other residential facilities or institutions.
  • Patient

    This term refers to people who were case managed by the department within a mental health service, in the following capacity: a long-term inpatient within a facility (including the early asylums); a short-term patient within a treatment hospital; a patient of an out-patient clinic for patients who have undergone inpatient treatment; and a patient of a day clinic for general referral cases to psychiatrists and psychologists.
  • Permanent record

    A public record which has been appraised by the Keeper of Public Records as required to be kept as part of Victoria’s state archives. Permanent records are specified in Retention and Disposal Authorities issued by the Keeper (see explanation below).
  • PROV

    An abbreviation for the Public Record Office Victoria, the official state archives for Victoria.
  • Provenance

    The ‘office of origin’ of records, being the agency, office or person that created, received or accumulated and used the records in the conduct of its business. 
  • Public record

    A public record is defined under the Public Records Act, and includes any record made or received by a public officer in the course of his or her duties.
  • Public Records Act

    This legislation is the Public Records Act 1973, which established the Public Record Office Victoria, and provided the first legislative framework to set standards for the efficient management and preservation of public records in Victoria.
  • Retention and Disposal Authorities (RDAs)

    These are published standards issued by the Keeper of Public Records under section 12 of the Public Records Act 1973. They define the minimum retention periods and consequent disposal actions authorised for classes of records described in the standards.

    RDAs provide continuing authorisation for the disposal of these classes of records. RDAs may be specific to an agency or applicable to more than one agency.
  • Series

    A group of records which are recorded or maintained by the same agency (or agencies) and that: 
    - are in the same numerical, alphabetical, chronological or another identifiable sequence; and/or 
    - result from the same accumulation or filing process, and perform the same function.  
  • Trainee

    Under the Social Welfare Act 1960, juvenile schools such as Turana or Winlaton were redefined as a youth training centres. The children and young people held under custodial orders were called ‘trainees’. The definition of this term in the 1960 Act is in section 41(1): ‘… any young person detained in any youth training centre (hereinafter called a “trainee ") …’ The term trainee was in use until the 1990s until the implementation of the Children and Young Persons Act 1989. The new legislation separated the provision of services for children and young people on protective orders who were placed in community based care, and young offenders held under custodial orders in a juvenile justice centre (replacing the term youth training centre).

    The old terminology of the Social Welfare Act 1960 was eventually phased out, with the word ‘client’ replacing the term ‘trainee’. 
  • Temporary record 

    A public record which has been appraised by the Keeper of Public Records as being required to be kept for a specific period of time for legislative or other requirements, before it can be destroyed. Destruction must be in accordance with standards issued under section 12 of the Public Records Act 1973. Temporary records are specified in RDAs issued by the Keeper.
  • Wards of state (state wards)

    Children removed from their families and placed either in the direct care of the State of Victoria or placed by the state in private institutions pursuant to the Neglected Children's Act 1887 or the Social Welfare Act 1970

    The definition of ‘ward’ from the Community Welfare Services Act 1970, section 3, was repealed in the Children and Young Persons Act 1989. Sentenced youth and young adult offenders given custodial orders to be detained in youth justice centres are now called ‘clients’, as are young people placed in community-based care on protective orders.


Please note that this list is provided for general information only and does not purport to be comprehensive. The department does not guarantee the accuracy of this list.

Reviewed 31 August 2016

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