Infant Life Protection Act

INFANT LIFE PROTECTION ACT 1890

Information compiled by Helen D. Harris OAM, 2004-12.

This Act was passed in Victoria in 1890 to protect the lives of new-born children who were given by their mothers to other women to nurse from birth to the age of two years.  Further details of the Act are given on the Harriland Press web site, in an article I wrote for the March 2005 of The Genealogist and in Provenance Issue No. 9 of  2010, the online journal of the Public Record Office of Victoria .

In 1893, as a result of the finding of the bodies of some babies who had been placed with a baby farmer, the Chief Commissioner of Police ordered the department to inspect and report on the homes of every nurse registered under this Act, and the babies under their care.  Each police district was thus required to provide a report on the nurses within their area.  Some of the reports were very scant, others gave a good deal of information.  In a great many cases the (mostly illegitimate) children themselves were not named, but the nurse’s residence may be a clue.  These details are the earliest surviving records of people who were registered under this Act, and are now included in this web page.

In 1894 the Department of Neglected Children arranged for ‘Lady Visitors’ to inspect the nurses’ homes and children.  Some correspondence regarding this has also been included in this web page.

The police department took over the entire maintenance of the Act in 1898, but surviving indexes and registers to the correspondence are only extant from 1901.  I have indexed all names appearing in the police correspondence indexes and registers from 1901 to February 1908, when police handed control of the Act to the Neglected Children’s Department, and these microfiche indexes are available for sale via the Harriland Press web site.  While working through the correspondence files themselves for other purposes, I have come across Infant Life Protection Act material for the period 1893-1908, and reproduce the basic details here.  This is by no means a complete listing of the material, merely those files I have come across.

As well as correspondence about various women and children, there are monthly returns from local police about the nurses and their children in the area, scattered throughout the correspondence.  These monthly returns list the name and address of each nurse, the name of each child they have in their care, the mother or next of kin of each child, the state of the child’s clothing and feeding bottles etc.  They also have a column ‘Remarks’ where additional information is sometimes recorded.  Note that these entries are usually of one line only.  I have included in the listing below some of the details taken from just a few pages of these monthly returns, those of March and August 1898, January, February, April, May, June, July, August 1899, February and May 1900, March 1901, January and December 1902, October 1903, January and February 1904 , January 1905, January and October 1906 , for part of the Melbourne and suburban area only.  In November 2012 I added the complete list of names of nurses and children in their care from the available February 1907 Monthly Returns; this list contains the names of over 200 nurses and over 300 children.

If the people you are seeking are not listed here, (and these are only a small percentage) consider looking at the various Infant Life Protection Act indexes I have created for the period 1901-1908, details of which are on the Harriland Press web page.

IF YOU FIND SOMEONE OF INTEREST ON THIS WEBPAGE, YOU CAN ORDER A COPY OF THE FILE BY FOLLOWING THE STEPS BELOW:

ARRANGING PHOTOCOPIES OF THE FILES. 

Note the names, date and detail of the file, including the number of pages involved.

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  6. There is also the option of obtaining a digital copy of the file, as the PRO now have a digital camera available for researchers; my fee for arranging a digital copy, burning it to a CD and posting off is $50 for up to 20 pages.  An additional fee would be payable for bigger files. I am also willing to provide the reference so that a researcher can visit the PRO and view the material themselves, but do ask the minimum fee of $40 to provide this reference, as I’ve spent hundreds of hours compiling the information.

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