Limina: A Journal of Historical and Cultural Studies

Article: Blewer

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Robyn Blewer
Griffith University

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Commonsense tribunals for erring little folks’:
Children’s Courts Legislation in Australia - 1895 to 1907 [1]

Between 1895 and 1907 the majority of Australian states enacted legislation to create a children’s court within their respective criminal justice systems. The creation of a distinct space—both metaphorical and literal—for the administration of juvenile justice represented a significant reform of the criminal justice process. It is one that remains relatively unexplored by legal history scholars, particularly in the Australian scholarship. The objective of this article is to examine the specific legislation that created these courts in each state in Australia. How did states approach the task of drafting such legislation? What issues did they want to address? How did they draft the legislation in order to address these issues? The analysis of these statutes highlights the complexities associated with juvenile justice. The different approaches to this legislation demonstrate the complicated and conflicted attitudes towards children and juvenile justice that existed at the time.

Keywords: Courts, children, legislation, juvenile justice, reform, children's history, law

[1] This title is taken from ‘A Children’s Court’, National Advocate (Bathurst), 20 November 1891,, (accessed 3 July 2017), p. 2: 'The removal of even the erring little folks from this atmosphere of crime, to be dealt with by a commonsense tribunal, is a departure from ancient custom on which Adelaide is to be congratulated.'

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Updated 26 Jul 2017


Limina: A Journal of Historical and Cultural Studies

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