Australian classics

Here we salute the contributions of Australian researchers to the field of care and protection. Our first salute goes to the historian, Professor Shurlee Swain. Professor Swain has meticulously documented the plight of Australian children and their families who have found themselves enmeshed in child protection, both charitable and state-based. Her books include:

Apologies and the Legacy of Abuse of Children in 'Care' International Perspectives,  Johanna Sköld and Shurlee Swain (Eds), 2015.







The Market in Babies: Stories of Australian Adoption, Marian Quartly, Shurlee Swain and Denise Cuthbert, 2013. 

Launched by Professor The Honourable Nahum Mushin on 28 November 2013 at RMIT University. Read Professor Mushin's launch speech here

The Market in Babies: Stories of Australian Adoption tells the history of adoption in Australia from its beginnings in the nineteenth century to its decline at the beginning of the twenty-first. The authors find that a market in babies has long existed. In the early years supply outstripped demand; needy babies were hard to place. Mid-twentieth century demand and supply grew together with adoption presented as the perfect solution to two social problems: infertility and illegitimacy. Supply declined in the 1970s and demand turned to new global markets. Now these markets are closing, but technology provides new opportunities and Australians are acquiring babies through the surrogacy markets of India and the United States.

As the rate of adoptions in Australia falls to a historic low, and parliaments across the country are apologising to parents and babies for the pain caused by past practices, this book identifies an historical continuum between the past and the present and challenges the view that the best interests of the child can ever be protected in an environment where the market for babies is allowed to flourish.

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Born in Hope: A History of the Early Years of the Family Court of Australia, Shurlee Swain, 2013.

The Family Law Act of 1975 and the establishment of the Family Court of Australia the following year aimed to revolutionise the settlement of marital disputes in this country. Gone was the notion of divorce as a spectator sport, salacious media reports of unfaithful spouses and private investigators enlisted to stalk suspicious partners. But the court quickly became the focus of hostility, and many saw it as a failed experiment. Drawing on interviews with judges, lawyers and counsellors, this book challenges that notion of failure. It captures the complexity of the early years as the Family Court grappled with increasing media criticism and acts of violence never before seen in the Australian legal system. This intriguing oral history provides a deeper understanding of the legal institution which arguably impacts on a larger proportion of Australians than any other.

Child, Nation, Race and Empire: Child Rescue Discourse, England, Canada and Australia, 1850-1915, Shurlee Swain and Margot Hillel, 2010. 

Child, Nation, Race and Empire is an innovative, inter-disciplinary, cross cultural study that contributes to understandings of both contemporary child welfare practices and the complex dynamics of empire. It analyses the construction and transmission of nineteenth-century British child rescue ideology. Locating the origins of contemporary practice in the publications of the prominent English child rescuers, Dr Barnardo, Thomas Bowman Stephenson, Benjamin Waugh, Edward de Montjoie Rudolf and their colonial disciples and literature written for children, it shows how the vulnerable body of the child at risk came to be reconstituted as central to the survival of nation, race and empire. Yet, as the shocking testimony before the many official enquiries into the past treatment of children in out-of-home 'care' held in Britain, Ireland, Australia and Canada make clear, there was no guarantee that the rescued child would be protected from further harm.

Single Mothers and their Children: Disposal, Punishment and Survival in Australia, Shurlee Swain, Renate Howe, 1996.

This 1996 book is a comprehensive history of single motherhood in Australia. Shurlee Swain and Renate Howe tell the powerful, if painful and often moving, story of these women and their children and the lives they constructed. Starting in the 1850s when abandonment and infanticide were not uncommon, the book's main focus ends in 1975 when the legal status of illegitimacy was abolished. The book covers issues of baby farming, infanticide, abortion, sex education, birth control, adoption and marriage, in effect becoming a history of sexual practice in Australia. While tracing profound changes from a time when single mothers were locked in gaol for discarding their babies to the establishment of state benefits, the authors find a good deal of continuity over the period. This book makes an important contribution to social, welfare and women's history in Australia.

international classics


Adams, Paul & Chandler, Susan (2004) Responsive Regulation in Child Welfare: Systemic Challenges to Mainstreaming the Family Group Conference. Journal of Sociology and Social Welfare, XXXI,1, 93-116. Reproduced and accessible as part of Scholarworks, Western Michigan University.

Pennell, Joan, & Burford, Gale (2000) Family Group Decision Making: Protecting Children and Women.  Child Welfare, 79(2), 131-158.


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Pennell, Joan, & Anderson, Gary (Eds) (2005) Widening the Circle: The Practice and Evaluation of Family Group Conferencing with Children, Youths, and their Families. Washington, DC: NASW Press.


Burford, Gale & Hudson, Joe (2000) Family Group Conferencing: New Directions in Community-Centred Child and Family Practice. New Jersey: Transaction Publishers.


Hudson, Joe, Morris, Allison, Maxwell, Gabrielle and Galaway, Burt (1996) Family Group Conferences:  Perspectives on Policy and Practice. Annandale: The Federation Press.