|Description of this AgencyDescription of this Agency|
The Mental Hygiene Branch, Department of Health I was established in 1944 following the proclamation of the Ministry of Health Act 1943 (No.4988). This Act provided for a major reorganisation and amalgamation of the administration of health services in Victoria. Responsibility for the administration of the Mental Hygiene Acts and the Mental Deficiency Act 1939 (No.4703) was transferred from the Chief Secretary (VRG 26) to the Minister of Health (VRG 39) and the Mental Hygiene Branch was established as a division of the newly established Department of Health I (VA 695).
The Mental Hygiene Branch assumed responsibility for those functions previously administered by the Department of Mental Hygiene (VA 2865) which had been located within the Chief Secretary's Department (VA 475). The Branch thus became responsible for the development and direction of policy governing the treatment of the mentally ill, the care of the mentally retarded and the care and treatment of alcoholics and drug dependent persons and for the establishment and administration of institutions for their care. The establishment of the Branch also represented a continuing change in community attitudes towards mental illness and intellectual disability and led to a significant expansion of services for these people.
The Branch appears to have functioned quite autonomously within the Department of Health I (VA 695). The Director of Mental Hygiene, as principal officer, formulated mental health policy and was responsible for the administration of all functions provided for by the Mental Hygiene Acts. However, for the purposes of the Public Service Act the Secretary of the Department of Health I (VA 695) was ultimately responsible for the Branch. This was not to deprive the Director of the Branch of direct access to the Minister for the purpose of making representations on matters affecting the Mental Hygiene Branch (S.6(4)). Thus the Director reported directly to the Minister (see Annual Reports 1944-1949) but the officers of the Branch and the staff of all government mental institutions were subject to the authority of the Public Service Board (VA 886). Approval for any construction, maintenance or repair work undertaken by the Branch had to be obtained from the Public Works Department (VA 669).
In 1947 the Government established the Mental Hospitals Inquiry Committee, whose terms of reference included a review of the control of the Branch. Subsequently in 1952, under the provisions of the Mental Hygiene Authority Act 1950 (No.5519) the Director of Mental Hygiene was replaced by the Mental Hygiene Authority (VA 2838).
This Authority was reconstituted as the Mental Health Authority (VA 692) in 1962 under the provisions of the Mental Health Act 1959 (No.6605). The Authority was responsible for policy relating to mental health and control of the Mental Hygiene Branch. Between 1944 and 1978 the Mental Hygiene Branch greatly increased its services to patients and the public with the establishment of several clinics and childrens' facilities. It adopted a policy of regionalisation of facilities for the retarded and mentally ill, providing local accommodation in a less institutionalised environment.
The Chief Medical Officer of the Branch was given the statutory powers of the Director of Mental Hygiene in relation to admission, transfer, trial leave and discharge of patients and was also responsible for the physical well being of patients generally. The Chief Clinical Officer of the Branch was responsible for the treatment of mental disorders, research and staff training in the Branch.
Activities of the Branch between 1944 and 1978 included:
(a) provision of adult, child and adolescent psychiatric services through a comprehensive range of programmes including:
* psychiatric hospitals for short term acute patients
* mental hospitals for long term patients
* out patient consultations at hospitals and clinics
* day hospital facilities at hospitals and clinics
* Personal Emergency Advisory Service
* community psychiatric services.
(b) provision of adult and child forensic services
(c) programmes relating to undergraduate and post graduate training in psychiatry, the training of psychiatric nurses and other professional staff and mental health research based at the Mental Health Research Institute.
The Health Commission Act 1977 (No.9023) abolished the Mental Hygiene Branch and the Mental Health Authority and responsibility for the functions of both agencies was transferred to the newly constituted Health Commission of Victoria (VA 652) in which a Mental Health Division (VA 696) was established.
For an account of the administration of mental health in Victoria from 1836 to 1989, see VRG 39 Health.
Location of Records
Researchers are advised to consult VRG 39 Health for agencies which created records relating to the central administration of mental health and VRG 8 Health and Welfare Agencies for institutions administered by the Mental Hygiene Branch, Department of Health I (VA 2866).
Researchers should also consult the following sections of the List of Holdings 2nd edition, 1985: 3.11.2. (Mental Hygiene Branch), 3.11.3. (Department of Health), and 8.0.0. (Health and Welfare Agencies).