What do I need to know?

You need to know the name of the child and the approximate date they were in custody close custody Definition Responsibility for the care of records and archives, usually based on their physical possession. Custody does not necessarily include legal ownership.   of the State.

How do I search?

You can search by name up until 1894. Records from 1894-1915 must be identified by date range.

About these records

These ward registers (1864-1966) list children (aged up to 17) committed to the care of the State, either because they had been convicted of a crime or deemed ‘neglected’ by a court.  The registers are a central record of where each child was placed.

Records are closed after 1917 under Section 9 of the Public Records Act. Seek access close access Definition Refers either to the process of providing records for researchers to use in PROV reading rooms, or to the process of determining if records should or should not be withheld from researchers for a period of time. under Freedom Of Information.  Visit the Human Services website for more information.

Who created these records?

These records were created by the Department for Neglected Children, which was set up as part of the Chief Secretary’s Department (VA 475) to support the Neglected and Criminal Children's Act 1864.  From 1924 to 1961 the agency close agency Definition Any department, agency or office of the Government of Victoria was known as the Children’s Welfare Department (VA 1475).

Next Steps

Once you have found records of interest to you, order close order Definition Physical records can be ordered for viewing in PROV’s reading rooms.  When a user orders a record, it is reserved solely for their use. them online and then view in our Reading Room.

What are in these records?

The ward registers might record:

  • name
  • sex
  • date of birth
  • birth place religion
  • ability to read or write
  • date of commitment (to State custody)
  • committing bench (which court ordered the custody)
  • date of admission (to the institution)
  • term (in the case of criminal convictions, children were ‘sentenced’ to live in reformatory schools)
  • cause of commitment (convicted or neglected)
  • whether parents are living
  • vaccination details
  • where stationed (‘neglected’ children were sent to children’s homes, placed with families or apprenticed to trades)
  • licensing out details (children were ‘licensed’ to work)
  • details of discharge


The Neglected and Criminal Children's Act 1864 resulted in the formation of several Industrial and Reformatory schools.  In the records, a Government school is marked with the letter ‘R’, while ‘C I S’ or ‘C R S’ means a privately-run Christian (or Catholic) Industrial (or Reformatory) School.  In the early twentieth century children were increasingly apprenticed out, and a formal adoption regime was put in place with the Adoption of Children Act 1928.

If you are a former State Ward, you can contact various organisations for advice and help in your research.