The Children’s Protection Society is one of the oldest independent child welfare organisations in Victoria and holds a unique place in the history of Australian child protection.
CPS was founded at a meeting at Government House on March 21st 1896 by then Governor of Victoria’s wife, Lady Sybil de Vere Brassy as the Victorian Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (VSPCC). Its aims were to protect children from cruelty and neglect, to advance the claims of neglected, abandoned and orphaned children to the general public, to cooperate with existing societies for this purpose and to enforce the laws for the protection of neglected children and juvenile offenders. It was one of the few secular non-government agencies in the child welfare field.
From the 1920’s to 1980’s the Society provided services across metropolitan Melbourne and rural Victoria, governed by central and rural committees. The work of the society was to investigate reports of child abuse and neglect and also provide temporary emergency care for children in small residential units. These units were based in Fitzroy, Heidelberg, Sale and Hamilton.
In 1971 the Society changed its name to the Children’s Protection Society and in 1979 the Victorian State Government authorised CPS as a child protection agency under the Social Welfare Act 1970. By 1982 CPS had ten child protection units; seven in the city and three in the country.
The State Government initiated a review of the Social Welfare Act and practice in 1983 and also a review of the Society’s operation. The Carney Report was released in 1984 and recommended that CPS not be re-authorised as a child protection agency and that this responsibility be provided by the State. Whilst CPS formally relinquished its role in 1985 to the Victorian Department of Community Services, today’s child protection system in Victoria owes much to the work of CPS. Reforms to welfare legislation and policy meant a change in CPS’ operations but not its mission to reduce child abuse and neglect.
Over the past 120 years, as political, social and economic times changed, so too did the needs of the community. CPS has responded to those changes and provided innovative and targeted services including: family support, sexual abuse counselling and treatment services, support services tailored for mothers, fathers and other carers such as grandparents, early education expertise, child and family centres, ChildFIRST and Services Connect referral services.
Today CPS is a dynamic and diverse independent and voluntary child and family services organisation with no political or religious affiliations, governed by a Board of community members, servicing vulnerable children, young people and families.
1896 – 2016: Celebrating 120 Years
To mark CPS’s 120th anniversary a historical account of the agency was commissioned. The book – A Journey of Hope and Resilience : safeguarding children for 120 years– was written by Lucy Bracey and Fiona Poulton of Way Back When Historians. Divided into several eras, the publication marks the stories and continued evolution of this remarkable organisation;
Images in this video courtesy State Library Victoria, Melbourne Library Service, Monash Health Archives and Yarra Plenty Regional Library.
These images are taken fromthe aforementioned publication. Unless otherwise acknowledged, images are from the CPS collection.
Lady de Brassey, founder of the Society
VSPCC inspector William Noble with Leslie in 1897. This photograph became a useful tool for
publicising the work of the Society.
The early VSPCC executive committee comprised some of Melbourne’s most influential citizens. (State Library Victoria)
Two mothers in Carlton c1935 (F Oswald Barnett Collection, State Library Victoria)
Dame Mabel Brookes was president of the VSPCCin the early 1930s, leading the initiative to open atemporary shop in Collins Street in 1933 to raisemoney for the Society. She was an active supporter of Melbourne’s charities and community organisations. (Monash Health Archives)
The VSPCC inspectors were familiar faces at Camp Pell, a military barracks in Royal Park, Melbourne that was used to provide emergency housing foraround 3,000 people after World War II. (Melbourne Library Service)
Peg Sitlington became the society’s first welfare officer
in 1965 and remained in the role for eighteen years.
From 1962 the Society operated from a property at
14-16 Gertrude Street, Fitzroy
Anne Clemens was president of the Society for 16 years from 1964. She followed in thefootsteps of her mother, Emily Turnbull, who waspresident from 1937 to 1948. (courtesy Charlotte Clemens)
The Society’s first social worker, Di O’Neil, who
was employed in 1971.
CPS president Shirley Campbell and welfare officer
Bev Borley at the Second Australian Child Abuse Conference in Brisbane, 1981.
CPS secretary Margaret Williams and president
Shirley Campbell in the early 1980s.
Senior social worker Dorothy Ford and president of the Northern Region Committee Wilma Paine in 1982.
Executive committee members Neil Westaway,
Shirley Campbell, Phillip Zass, Diane Alley and
Martin Fuggle in 1983.
Minister for Community Services, Caroline Hogg
(left) and Diane Alley, who took up the role of CPS president in 1985. The year was a turning point for
the Society when it relinquished its role as Victoria’s
child protection authority.
The First National Conference on Child Sexual
Abuse, organised by CPS and held in 1994,
attracted strong media coverage.
The committee responsible for organising the First
National Conference on Child Sexual Abuse in 1994.
President Lorraine D’Agostino and director Michael Tizard accepting a cheque from Michael John, Minister for Community Services in 1994.
The playroom and playground of the Alys Key
Family Centre at 70 Altona Street, West Heidelberg.
CPS staff outside the Society’s new office in Reservoir, 1998
Celebrating Child Protection Week, 1998.
Marion Stanway & Rosie Lever (CEO) began in 2000 pictured with Elaine Marriner
In January 2002, the Alys Key Family Care Centre was raised by an arson attack
Northern Auxiliary members outside the CPS Op Shop in Rosanna
The annual Lunchtime Rumours Feast fundraiser
The Child & Family Centre aims to create a nurturing and supportive environment for vulnerable children
The Society expanded into the Whittlesea region, opening its Thomastown site in 2014.
CPS staff at a smoking ceremony in 2015.
The Society’s past and ongoing achievements owes much to its volunteers
CPS Op Shop volunteers Roma, 90, and Ingrid, 15 in 2015
North East Services Connect team, 2015
CPS staff marching in the Walk Against Family Violence, Nov 2015