Agency VA 2838
Mental Hygiene Authority
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Date Range: 1952 - 1962
 
Description of this AgencyDescription of this Agency
The Mental Hygeine Authority was established under the provisions of the Mental Hygiene Authority Act 1950 (No.5519). The Act was not proclaimed until 31 January 1952 at which time the Authority became operative.

Establishment of Mental Hygeine Authority

In 1947 the Government appointed the Mental Hospitals Inquiry Committee, whose terms of reference included a review of the administration of Mental Hygiene.

The report of the Mental Hospitals Inquiry Committee, tendered on 9 March 1948, pointed out that the volume of work undertaken by the Director of the Branch was too great for one person. The Committee reported that many of the problems and inefficiencies encountered in the administration of mental hygiene stemmed from the fact that the Director had to rely on the Public Service Board for staff and the Public Works Department (VA 669) for any maintenance, repair or construction work. They concluded that "the well-being of the mentally sick...should not have to wait upon the pleasure of two Departments which are far removed from them, and are only remotely interested in their welfare".

The Committee recommended that the administration of the Mental Hygiene Acts and the Mental Deficiency Act, including authority for the Mental Hygiene Branch, should be vested in an independent board of three commissioners in whom would be vested responsibility for the complete control of buildings, equipment, staff and patients, and which would function as a self-contained unit.

The Committee also made recommendations as to the provision of improved hygienic conditions, diet and clothing, greater amenities for patients, increased inspection and improved staff conditions.

In 1950 the Kennedy Report on the Mental Health and Mental Hygiene Services in the state of Victoria was presented to the Minister of Health. Professor Kennedy had visited Victoria in 1949 and he recommended modifications and additions to the Mental Hygiene Bill; re-organisation of the Department; greater emphasis on early treatment and rehabilitation as opposed to custodial care; the provision of special services to mental defectives and improved training of personnel.

The new Authority of was established under the provisions of the Mental Hygiene Authority Act 1950 (No. 5519). The Act was not proclaimed under 31 January 1952 at which time the Authority became operative.

The Mental Hygiene Authority was responsible for the development and direction of policy relating to the provision of services to the mentally ill, for the administration of the Mental Hygiene Branch, Department of Health I (VA 2866) and for the administration of and public mental health institutions.

The Authority consisted of three members appointed by the Governor-in-Council: an expert in psychiatry as Chairman; a medical practitioner with some experience in psychiatry as Deputy-Chairman and a person with skill and experience in administration. The members of the Authority were not subject to the provisions of the Public Service Act. The Authority reported directly to the Minister for Health (VRG 39).


Powers of the Mental Hygiene Authority

It appears that only some of the recommendations of the Mental Hospitals Inquiry Committee were fully implemented. While the Chief Medical Officer, the Chief Clinical Officer and the Medical Superintendents of the institutions were also made exempt from the provisions of the Public Service Act, the staff of the Mental Hygiene Branch remained public servants within the Department of Health I (VA 695). As the 1953 Annual Report indicates, the Authority still had the problem of dealing with the Public Service Board for all staffing matters, except those relating to medical officers. Therefore technically the Secretary of the Department of Health I had control over the staff of the Mental Hygiene Branch.

However it appears likely that the Authority did have some effective control of the employees of the Mental Hygiene Branch (VA 2866) through the Secretary to the Authority, who was also to be the Secretary of the Branch (s.15 of the Act.) The Annual Reports of the Authority provide evidence of the Authority's high level of control and direction of staff.


The Authority was not empowered to purchase land and execute works as had been envisaged by the Mental Hospitals Inquiry Committee and section 10(h) of the establishing legislation makes it clear that the Authority was subject to the provisions of the Public Works Act 1928 (No.3758) when carrying out any maintenance or repair work on the institutions under its control.

Responsibilities of the Mental Hygiene Authority

The functions of the Authority were to formulate, control and direct general policy and administration relating to the Mental Hygiene Acts. The Mental Hygiene Branch (VA 2866), a division of the Department of Health (VA 695), implemented policy.

The Authority was required:

- to make provision for the improvement of the treatment and measures for the prevention of mental defect, disorder and disease

;- to provide for the carrying out of research and investigations in relation to the causation and treatment of mental defects, disorder and disease;

- to arrange for the inspection and control of institutions licensed as mental homes

;- to furnish recommendations and reports to the Minister upon matters affecting the accommodation, maintenance, treatment and welfare of persons suffering from any mental defect, disorder or disease

;- to provide the Minister with copies of reports required under the Act

;- to publish reports, information and advice concerning mental illness and, with the approval of the Minister to arrange for the provision of places for the accommodation, maintenance, treatment and welfare of persons suffering from mental illness

;- to arrange for the provision of special accommodation for the treatment of ex-service people suffering from mental illness

;- to establish or assist in the extension or establishment of: outpatient clinics for advice and treatment in relation to mental or emotional disorder; hostels for the welfare and rehabilitation of persons who are or who have been under the control of the Mental Hygiene Branch; and a preventative service, including clinics to deal with retarded, defective and problem children.

The Mental Hygiene Authority replaced the Director of Mental Hygiene and the Chief Medical Officer of the Mental Hygiene Branch (VA 2866) was given the statutory powers of the Director in relation to the admission, transfer, trial leave and discharge of patients. The Chief Medical Officer was also responsible for the physical well being of patients while the Chief Clinical Officer was responsible for the treatment of mental disorders, research and the training of staff.

Mental Health Act 1959 (No.6605)

In 1959 the law relating to mental health was consolidated and significantly amended. The Mental Health Act 1959 (No. 6605) came into operation in 1962 established the Mental Health Authority VA 692.


 
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Record series created by this AgencyRecord series created by this Agency
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Date Range Series Title Series Number Series Location Public Access
? 1952 - 1983 General Correspondence Files (Mental Health) VPRS 6344 North Melbourne Closed
1952 - 1974 Subject Index to Minutes (VPRS 18225) VPRS 18226 North Melbourne Open
1952 - 1978 Minute Book VPRS 18225 North Melbourne Open
1952 - 1978 Committee Minutes VPRS 18227 North Melbourne Open
1952 - 1983 Alphabetical Subject Index to General Correspondence Files (Mental Health) VPRS 8787 North Melbourne Open
Functions for which this Agency has or has had primary responsibilityFunctions for which this Agency has or has had primary responsibility
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Date of Responsibility Function Title Function Number
1952 - 1962 Health, mental VF 128
Functions for which this Agency has or has had secondary responsibilityFunctions for which this Agency has or has had secondary responsibility
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Superior AgenciesSuperior Agencies
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Subordinate AgenciesSubordinate Agencies
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1952 - 1962 Mental Hygiene Branch, Department of Health I VA 2866
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Date of Relationship Group Title Group Number
1952 - 1962 Health VRG 39