Joan Groves

Date of Award


Document Type

Thesis - ECU Access Only


Edith Cowan University

Degree Name

Master of Arts


Faculty of Education and Arts

First Supervisor

Professor Peggy Brock

Second Supervisor

Dr Lekkie Hopkins


This thesis takes inspiration from a submission by a Western Australian seventeen year old single relinquishing mother to the 2004 Senate Inquiry into the institutionalisation of children, Forgotten Australians. It researches various aspects of life for young women and teenage girls in Perth in 1957, that contrast with the idealised youthful femininity promoted by women’s magazines such as The Australian Women’s Weekly. It discusses status offences in the context of child welfare legislation and the criminalisation of youthful sexual activity as well as the ostracism of unmarried mothers by both the community and the state. Specifically confined to the Perth locale the thesis also examines the culture of two long-standing Perth institutions for allegedly errant young women. I contend that the “tolerance, fair play and compassion for those in need” touted by then Prime Minister John Howard in 2006 as inherent Australian values did not exist in the period researched and that many young women suffered under harsh and repressive attitudes. I conclude that the promotion of a conservative political ideology promoting a mythic classless society, which was nevertheless based on middle-class values, saw the collusion of some parents in this harsh treatment of young women. I also conclude that the numbers of young women involved in “moral delinquency” were, in contrast to public perception and the concern of women police, quite small, but nevertheless served a scapegoat purpose in a time when social anxiety existed within increasing prosperity.

LCSH Subject Headings

Edith Cowan University. Faculty of Education and Arts -- Dissertations

Young women -- Western Australia -- Perth -- Social conditions

Teenage girls -- Western Australia -- Perth -- Social conditions

Unmarried mothers -- Services for -- Western Australia -- History

Adoption -- Western Australia -- History



Paper Location