Infant Life Protection Act
INFANT LIFE PROTECTION ACT 1890
Information compiled by Helen D. Harris OAM, 2004-20.
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, to 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. I have also 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 microfiche indexes I have created for the period 1901-1908, details of which are on the Harriland Press web page.
SEARCH THE INFANT LIFE PROTECTION ACT INDEX
ARRANGING COPIES OF THE FILES:
Please note that I do not have this material in my possession; it is held at the Public Record Office. As the PRO are now phasing out photocopies, and have a digital camera available for researchers, I will only be offering digital copies. The various pricing options available for an individual file are:
$55 to copy up to 20 pages and deliver to you via a File Transfer system.
$60 to copy up to 20 pages, burn to a CD and post to an address in Australia.
$68 to copy up to 20 pages, copy to a USB stick and post to an address in Australia.
An additional fee would be payable for bigger files, and a discount is available for multiple file requests.
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 $45 to provide this information, as I’ve spent hundreds if not thousands of hours over many years compiling the information.
- Note the names, date and detail of the file, including the number of pages involved.
- Either send a cheque in Australian Dollars made out to Harriland Press to PO Box 92, Forest Hill, Victoria, Australia, 3131, or email me to obtain details for a direct credit to our account. Overseas orders are advised to use a service like Western Union, as it is far cheaper than a bank cheque.
- Remember to supply your own address, including if possible, an email address.
- You will be emailed when your letter arrives and again when the copies are sent. My email address is hdh1[at]ozemail.com.au (you will need to remove the ‘at’ and replace with @).
When someone requested a file I have kept a note of their details, and placed a CONNECTION FOUND next to the relevant entry. If in the future someone else requests the same file, I put the two researchers in touch with one another. As this webpage is now some 20 years old however, I have found that many of the older email addresses are no longer working, so have discarded those references, and the ‘Connection Found’ entry prior to 2016.