Joseph Coles Kirby

Joseph Coles Kirby (1837-1924) was a leading Congregational minister who, in Adelaide from 1880, campaigned solidly for temperance, womenís rights and social reform. Although an Evangelical, he combined open-mindedness towards Darwinism and eugenics with theological conservatism. He held office in the Social Purity Society and campaigned for the age of consent to be raised from 13 to 16 years. Courtesy Australian Dictionary of Biography


1 January 1885

Age of consent

The Social Purity Society successfully lobbies for legal reforms aimed at the protection of children from sexual exploitation. Beginning in South Australia, the reforms are based on the British Criminal Law Consolidation Amendment Act 1885 passed after public revelations about juvenile prostitution and the trade in young girls to work in brothels. Congregational minister, Joseph Kirby, and suffragist, Mary Lee, are influential in achieving the reforms, including raising the age of sexual consent for girls from 13 to 16 years and regulating the legal age of young people working in brothels.


Reverend Joseph Coles Kirby, 1920.