Ward of State by Claire Marshall

Ward of State is a dance film set in the 1930’ s-1940 about a young girl who was taken from her parents and put into care as a “ward of the state”.

Ward of State works in narrative form and follows the life of the girl as she moves in and out of convents and foster care over the course of a few years.

Ward of State is inspired from research and interviews of numerous girls and young women who were in state care.

– It examines why they were put into care, or taken (often stolen) from their parents.

– It details some of the conditions that girls had to endure during these times.

– It aims to present insight into what it was like for the mothers of the girls taken.

– It looks at the social stigma of girls put into care and how that impacted on living a ‘normal’ life afterwards.


In addition to drawing from this research, Ward of State draws from researching the direct maternal lineage of my family history: of my Nan (a ward of the state in Queensland in the 1930’s – 1940’s), her mother, and her mother (a ward of the state in Victoria in the 1860’s -1870’s). The work is a result of my quest to understand the “whys” of things that happened – in context to how different things were then.


Ward of State is also inspired from a visit to Abbotsford Convent in Victoria (examining the space), and draws heavily from subsequent reading and research into the lives of the women who worked (unpaid) in the laundries there.


Ward of State is a collaboration with filmmaker Sarah-Jane Woulahan and features a cast of highly skilled, sophisticated, and hand selected dancers – who do justice to this important work.