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.
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 from the aforementioned publication. Unless otherwise acknowledged, images are from the CPS collection.