The Infant Protection Act 1904 contained the first statutory reference in New South Wales, Australia (NSW), to a “Children’s Court”, although it was not until the following year that further legislation, the Neglected Children and Juvenile Offenders Act 1905, defined the jurisdiction of the Children’s Court at that time.
Now, in 2009, there are six permanent Children’s Courts in NSW, but Children’s Magistrates conduct hearings in other areas, on circuit or as required. The Children’s Court is headed by a president, who is also chairperson of the Children’s Court Advisory Committee – a body responsible for providing advice on the rules, practice and procedure of the Court.
In relation to criminal matters, the Children’s Court deals with children and young people who are or were under the age of 18 at the time of the alleged offending.
The Court also hears cases relating to the care and protection of children under the Children and Young Persons (Care and Protection) Act 1998. Such cases are typically brought by the NSW Department of Human Services, the government agency charged with keeping children and young people safe from harm, and supporting the families of children and young people.
The Children’s Court, the Children’s Court Advisory Committee, and the Children’s Court Clinic (responsible for clinical assessments of at-risk children) are currently established by the Children’s Court Act 1987, which also defines the constitution and jurisdiction of the Court.