|Description of this AgencyDescription of this Agency|
In 1890 when responsibility for public health was transferred to the Minister of Health, the Chief Secretary (VRG 26) remained responsible for the administration of mental health and hospitals and charities. The latter became the responsibility of the Treasurer (VRG 23) in 1923. In 1944, with the proclamation of the Ministry of Health Act 1943 (No.1988), there was a major reorganisation of the administration of health functions. Responsibility for all health services was transferred to the Minister of Health and a Department of Health (VA 695) was established.
Functions for which the Department of Health (I) was responsible
the control and prevention of infectious and contagious diseases
establishing and enforcing standards of proper sanitation including waste disposal and collection and prevention of pollution
regulation of offensive and dangerous trades
establishing and enforcing standards for public buildings and dwelling houses and for the prevention of fires
registration and control of boarding houses and other accommodation venues and of premises where food is consumed
regulation of the preparation and sale of foods, poisons and narcotic substances, including packaging and labelling standards
supervision of abattoirs and milk production
infant welfare and the vaccination, later immunisation, of children
administration of district hospitals
registration of hospitals
care and treatment of patients suffering from tuberculosis, epilepsy or cancer
registration of hairdressers, masseurs, tattooists and chiropodists, cinematograph operators, plumbers and gasfitters
registration of health care professionals such as doctors, dentists, pharmacists, opticians, optometrists and dietitians
Maternal and Child Welfare
pre-schools and child care programs
early childhood development
infant welfare and pre-natal health services
visiting child health nurses
medical treatment of children, infants or wards in the care of the Children's Welfare Department
school medical and dental services
Children's Court Clinic
Child Psychiatric Clinic.
Many of these functions were administered jointly with municipalities (see VRG 12).
The major responsibilities associated with this function were:
care and treatment of psychiatrically ill patients
registration, supervision and administration of institutions providing psychiatric care
care of intellectually disabled people
registration and supervision of institutions caring for the intellectually disabled
care and treatment of alcoholics and drug dependent persons.
For further information about the administration of Mental Health between 1944 and 1978 see VRG 39 Health and the Inventory of Series entries for the Mental Hygiene Authority (VA 2838), Mental Health Authority (VA 692) and the Mental Hygiene Branch of the Department of Health I (VA 2866).
Establishment of the Department of Health I
Under the provisions of section 3 of the Ministry of Health Act 1943 (No.4988) the Department of Health was to consist of the Minister of Health, a Secretary to the Department, a Chief Health Officer and a Director of Mental Hygiene and such other officers as were deemed necessary. The Secretary was to be the permanent head of the department for the purposes of the Public Service Act; the Chief Health Officer was to be a medical practitioner and an expert in sanitary science and to have control of the General Health Branch and the Director of Mental Hygiene was to be a medical practitioner and an expert in psychiatry and to have control of the Mental Hygiene Branch. The Chief Health Officer and the Director of Mental Hygiene retained their right of direct access to the Minister on matters affecting the branches for which they were responsible.
Under the provisions of section 5 of the Act, the Minister was to be responsible for the "effective carrying out and co-ordination of measures conducive to the health of the people, including measures for:
(a) the prevention and cure of diseases and the avoidance of fraud in connexion with alleged remedies therefor;
(b) the treatment of physical defects and mental diseases and disorders;
(c) the training of persons for health services;
(d) the control, care and treatment of mental defectives and of epileptics; and
(e) the initiation and direction of research and the collection, preparation, publication and dissemination of information and statistics..."
On the recommendation of the Public Service Board, officers and employees of other departments previously responsible for functions to be transferred to the Department of Health, were transferred to corresponding offices and positions within that Department.
The Minister of Health became immediately responsible for the administration of the following legislation: Health Acts, Cemeteries Acts, Part V of the Goods Act 1928 (in so far as it related to goods being, or used in the preparation of, food, drink, medicine or medicinal preparations for human consumption), Infectious Diseases Hospital Acts, Masseurs Acts, Midwives Act 1928, Nurses Acts, Venereal Diseases Act 1928, Heatherton Sanatorium Act 1916, Births Notification Acts, Hairdressers Registration Acts, Anti-Cancer Council Act 1936, and the Dietitians Registration Act 1942.
Transfer of functions to the Minister of Health/Department of Health
Upon its establishment in 1944, the Department of Health (I) assumed responsibility for all functions previously administered by the Department of Public Health (VA 2904).
The Ministry of Health Act 1943 provided for the transfer of functions and responsibilities from a number of other departments and ministers to the Minister of Health and the Department of Health.
Responsibility for the following functions was transferred from the Chief Secretary (VRG 26), the Chief Secretary's Department (VA 475) and the Department of Mental Hygiene (VA 2865) (located in the Chief Secretary's Department):
Mental Health, including the care and treatment of the mentally ill, the mentally deficient and alcoholics and the administration of public and mental institutions under the provisions of the Mental Hygiene Acts, the Mental Deficiency Act 1939 and the Inebriates Acts.
Government Medical Services including medical treatment of infants, children and wards of the Children's Welfare Department and the Department of Reformatory Schools and medical treatment of prisoners and members of the Police Force under the provisions of the Children's Welfare Acts, Crimes Acts, Gaols Act 1928 and the Police Regulation Acts.
Regulation and registration of health care professionals such as doctors, dentists, pharmacists and opticians under the provisions of the Medical Acts, Opticians Registration Act 1935 and the Workers Compensation Acts so far as the latter Acts related to certifying medical practitioners and medical referees.
Regulation of the preparation, sale and use of poisons and narcotic substances under the provisions of the Poisons Acts.
Responsibility for the provision of school medical and dental services under the provisions of the Education Act 1928 was transferred from the Education Department (VA 714).
The Minister of Health also assumed responsibility for the administration of the Hospital and Charities Acts which had previously been administered by the Treasurer (VRG 23). For information about this function see VRG 39 Health and the Inventory of Series entries for the Charities Board of Victoria (VA 2707) (19231948) and the Hospitals and Charities Commission (VA 693) (1948-1978).
Establishment of Maternal and Child Hygiene Branch
In June 1984, the Maternal and Child Hygiene Branch of the Department of Health was established. The Branch was to be responsible for pre-natal hygiene, pre-school children, the medical treatment of children, infants and wards of the Children's Welfare Department, school medical and dental services and the Children's Court Clinic. Responsibility for infant welfare was transferred from the General Health Branch of the Department and responsibility for the Child Psychiatric Clinic was transferred from the Mental Hygiene Branch (see Order-in-Council, Government Gazette, 28 June 1944, p.1604).
In 1971 responsibility for the funding of Children's Homes was assumed by the Social Welfare Department (VA 946) and in 1976 the Minister of Special Education (VRG 35) and the Education Department (VA 714) became responsible for day training centres which provided for the non residential care and education of children with severe intellectual disabilities.
Throughout the period 1944 to 1978, several statutory authorities continued to be responsible for the development of policy and the administration and provision of health services in conjunction with the Minister of Health and the Department of Health. These were the:
Commission of Public Health (VA 694) 1920-1978
Mental Hygiene Authority (VA 2838) 1952-1962
Mental Health Authority (VA 692) 1962-1978
Charities Board of Victoria (VA 2707) and the 1922-1948
Hospitals and Charities Commission (VA 693) 1948-1978.
Establishment of the Health Commission
In 1978, following the proclamation of the Health Commission Act 1977 (No.9023), the Health Commission of Victoria (VA 652) was established in accordance with the recommendations of the Committee of Inquiry into Hospital and Health Services in Victoria whose report had been presented to the Minister of Health in July 1975.
The Health Commission was responsible for the co-ordination of all health services in Victoria and inherited responsibility for all functions previously administered by the Department of Health I, the Mental Health Authority, the Commission of Public Health and the Hospitals and Charities Commission.
NOTE: For further information about the administration of health services in Victoria, see VRG 39 Health.
Location of Records
The Public Record Office holdings of records of the Department of Health I are very far from complete. Researchers are advised to consult the list below and the List of Holdings, 2nd edition, 1985 sections 3.11.2 and 3.11.3. As municipal councils had a significant role in the administration of public health see also VRG 12 Municipalities and the List of Holdings section 10.0.0. For records of individual health and welfare agencies see VRG 8 and the List of Holdings section 8.0.0.