• Organisation

Social Welfare Department, State Government of Victoria


The Social Welfare Department was established under the provisions of the Social Welfare Act 1970 (No.8089). The Department came into being in 1971, assuming responsibility for all functions previously administered by the Social Welfare Branch. In 1978, it became the Department of Community Welfare Services.

The Social Welfare Department’s charter was to develop and coordinate a statewide network of children’s and family welfare services. It commenced a regionalisation program in 1972. During this period there was a policy of ‘maximum feasible regionalisation’, to transform the Department from a centralised organisation to one in which most face-to-face activities, and decision-making, would be carried out in regional centres.

With the establishment of new Regions, the Central Office was to be responsible for administrative, personnel and accounting functions, as well as policy and planning.

The new rural regions were: Mallee, Wimmera, Loddon-Campaspe, Goulburn, Upper Murray, East Gippsland, Central Gippsland, Barwon, Glenelg, Central Highlands.

The Family Welfare Division was the administrative section within the Department responsible for reception centres and children’s homes. The Division supervised wards of the state living in private foster care placements or approved children’s Homes conducted by the various voluntary agencies.

The Department introduced a new system for funding ‘approved’ [i.e., non-government] children’s Homes in 1976. Under this method, the Department met 90% of staff salaries and the ‘per capita’ rate paid to children’s Homes by the state was increased.

In the annual report for 1975-76, the Director-General of Social Welfare stated that the new funding arrangements acknowledged the major role played by ‘approved non-departmental organisations’ in Victoria’s out of home care system.

The new arrangement was borne out of a crisis in the voluntary child care sector in 1974, when organisations faced critical financial pressure to meet their rising staffing costs and provide new models of ‘care’.

Another response to the financial panic of the voluntary agencies was the establishment in late 1974 of the Committee of the Enquiry into Child Care Services in Victoria.

The Enquiry (whose ‘Norgard Report’ was released in 1976) led to further changes within the Department. From 1976, a new Family Support Unit was funded, within the Family Welfare Division. The new Family Support Unit was an initiative arising from the ‘Alternatives to Residential Care Subcommittee’.

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