The Children’s Court Act 1956 (No. 6053) resulted from new thinking in regard to the problem of ‘juvenile delinquency’, and made some important changes to sentencing and to the numbers of offenders who also became wards. It commenced on 1 January 1957, and repealed the Children’s Court Act 1928 (No.3653). The Children’s Court Act 1958 (Vic) ( No. 6218), repealed this Act on 1 April 1959.
In Victoria, the first Children’s Court was established in 1906. Before this date, children were dealt with in the same courts as adults.
With the passage of Children’s Court Act 1956, the sentence of whipping was finally abolished.
Offenders under the age of 15 could not be sentenced to detention but could become state wards, where it was the usual practice for them to be detained initially. Those aged over 14 could be sentenced to detention and were only to be admitted to state wardship in future on the basis of a care and protection application, not on the basis of their offending. Offenders over the age of 15 could be committed to a juvenile school for up to 2 years and could be placed in the Department’s custody for the same period. Offenders over the age of 16 could still, if there was no other effective alternative, be sentenced to imprisonment.
The Children’s Court Act 1956 also established a Children’s Court Clinic which provided the court with expert psychiatric and psychological assessments, as well as physical assessments, in line with contemporary thinking that juvenile delinquency was best understood as a psychiatric syndrome.