Prior to 1989, a child or young person who was under the guardianship of the state was referred to as a 'ward of the state’ or ‘state ward'. When they left care they were referred to as a 'former ward of the state’ or ‘former state ward'.
Most former wards of the state were brought up in institutions or homes operated by the state government or church-based organisations. Former wards of the state may have had limited or no contact with their families and may have been moved several times while in care.
There is also another significant group of children who did not become wards of the state but were placed in non-government children’s homes.
People who were in out-of-home care during the period from 1920 and prior to 1990 may also refer to themselves as ‘Forgotten Australians’ or ‘care leavers’.
Former wards of the state or their relatives may make contact with the department if:
- they are seeking information about their time in care
- they are looking for family members or
- their children are currently in care.
Where a former ward’s wardship expired prior to 1986, these people should be referred to the department’s Family Information Networks and Discovery (FIND) service (see below).
There are several support and advocacy groups for care leavers/Forgotten Australians.
Open Place: provides a range of support services to all Victorian Forgotten Australians who, as children, were placed in care prior to 1990 regardless of where they currently reside in Australia. Services available include counselling, support to access records and assistance in connecting with family members, social and support groups and co-ordinated support to access health and other community services.
Contact: Free call: 1800 779 379
Care Leavers Australia Network (CLAN): a national support and advocacy organisation run by care leavers/Forgotten Australians.
Contact: Free call: 1800 008 774
Former wards of the state of Victoria have the right to access their files. Under the Freedom of Information Act 1982, a person has the right to apply for a copy of departmental files that contain information about them. Departmental records can be provided either by the FIND program or CIIRu. Detailed information on these services and what they provide can be found on the DHHS web site.
Family Information and Networks Discovery (FIND)
FIND is part of the Department of Health and Human Services and assists former wards of the State of Victoria (whose wardship expired prior to 1986) and their families in a number of ways, including:
- access to records about time in children's homes and orphanages
- assistance to locate records held by non-government agencies
- support when accessing files or making contact with family members.
FIND does not charge fees for former wards of the State of Victoria to obtain their records or support in making contact with their families. Neither are family members who need assistance to find former wards charged a fee.
FIND are located at: Level 20, 570 Bourke Street, Melbourne VIC 3000
Tel: 1300 769 926 (local call cost) 1800 130 225 (national free call)
Corporate Integrity Information and Resolution Unit (CIIRu)
CIIRu is located within the Department of Health and Human Services. Former wards or care leavers whose wardship expired after 1986 who want to seek access to their records can contact CIIRu on 9096 8449.