Website Review

Decisions of the Superior Courts of New South Wales, 1788-1899

Decisions of the Superior Courts of New South Wales, 1788-1899 was created to publish records of the superior courts of New South Wales with the goal of recovering the records of colonial law. At present it concentrates on the decisions of the Supreme Courts and other courts of unlimited jurisdiction between 1788 and 1841.

This archival site is challenging to use, but worth the effort. There are several ways to locate information relevant to children. Searches using keywords such as "boy," "girl," "child," "children," and "family," produce a few hits; this should improve as more materials become accessible in digital form.

Interesting material on children is available, though, by browsing the subject index. A range of relevant topics emerge, including "child, failure to support," "children, defendants," and "children, evidence by." Other subjects include Aboriginal affairs, family law, infancy, infanticide, marriage of infants, children and oaths, Orphan School, and schools (and education laws).

"Other features" presents cases and groups of documents, such as Justice Burton's collected documents concerning Aborigines 1797-1840. This includes the key law that resulted in the "Stolen Generation," Original Document 5, "Proclamations &c Black Natives Establishment of Institution for Children Government and General Orders Government House Sydney: 10th December 1814." This law provided for the "civilizing" of the Aboriginal people by placing their children into state-run schools.

Photographs, recollections, legal records and commentary tell this harrowing story. Records document the school/orphanages that housed and educated Aboriginal children, warehousing them in military-style schools where they often lost touch with their identities and families. The schools trained boys for low-skilled work and girls for domestic service. An especially interesting feature is Dawn Magazine, "An introduction to the public face of the Aborigines Welfare Board (1952–1969) and the photos it reproduced."

Two factors about the public use of the site are noteworthy. First, many of the archives on Aboriginal communities are closed for 100 years due to sensitivity about the treatment of indigenous peoples of Australia who were deprived of their rights over their culture, lands, bodies, and children. The site also offers a finding aid for genealogical searches. New South Wales was the staging ground for the settlement of Australia by convicts brought from overcrowded British prisons. Many contemporary Aussies may be able to trace their genealogy back to those original settlers through the site.

This is a site that will increase in usefulness on children and other topics as the archive becomes more complete. In the meantime, dedicated searching will reveal significant material on the laws and implementation of those laws affecting many aspects of the lives of children.

How to Cite This Source

"Decisions of the Superior Courts of New South Wales, 1788-1899 ," in Children and Youth in History, Item #451, http://chnm.gmu.edu/cyh/items/show/451 (accessed April 20, 2014).

Interesting material on children is available, though, by browsing the subject index. A range of relevant topics emerge, including "child, failure to support," "children, defendants," and "children, evidence by." Other subjects include Aboriginal affairs, family law, infancy, infanticide, marriage of infants, children and oaths, Orphan School, and schools (and education laws).