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Immigration (Guardianship of Children) Act

In 1946, the Australian Government passed legislation making the Minister the guardian of some immigrant children. Parliament has made a number of changes to this legislation, however today the Minister remains the guardian of certain children who arrive and intend to live in Australia without a parent or close relative to care for them. Most of these children arrive on a permanent visa granted as part of Australia's Humanitarian Programme or seek Australia's protection  after they arrive in Australia.

The legislation clarifies that as guardian, the Minister has the same rights, powers, duties, obligations and liabilities as a parent, until the child turns 18 or leaves Australia permanently. While the Minister ultimately remains the child's guardian, he has delegated powers to act as guardian to public servants in State/Territory Government Child Welfare Agencies, along with officers performing specific roles within the Department of Home Affairs.

The legislation also allows the Minister to appoint custodians to care for children under the Act. While not the child's guardian, custodians are required to ensure the day to day welfare of the children and they are empowered to make some decisions for the child such as enrolling them in school. The Minister usually seeks the assistance of State/Territory Child Welfare Agencies to support custodians and/or engages not for profit organisations to act as custodians. The Minister provides support to many of the children he is guardian of, through the Unaccompanied Humanitarian Minors Programme .

There are a number of criteria in the Act that must be met for a child to become a ward of the Minister. Departmental staff members who suspect a child's circumstances might make them a ward of the Minister may seek a determination of the child's status under the Immigration (Guardianship of Children) Act 1946 (IGOC Act).​​​​​