|Description of this FunctionDescription of this Function|
In consequence of the increase in unemployment during 1929 and the early part of 1930 Parliament considered measures for the provision of moneys for the relief of unemployment and in May 1930 two Acts were passed - the Unemployment Relief Act 1930 (No.3866) and the Stamps (Unemployment Relief) Act 1930 (No.3868) - authorising the raising of a certain amount of moneys by way of tax on incomes, and stamp duty on wages, for the purpose of providing relief. The increase in unemployment continued and, in December 1930, the Unemployment Relief Amendment Act 1930 (No.3948) was passed providing for the raising of additional moneys. Payments to Departments and Public Authorities for the carrying out of unemployment relief works and payments of sustenance to individual unemployed persons were able to be made from the Unemployment Relief Fund established under these Acts.
An Unemployment Relief Works Board was constituted on 13 January 1931 with power to approve certain allocations of moneys from the Unemployment Relief Fund for unemployment relief works. The Unemployment Relief (Amendment) Act 1932 (No.4023) provided for the establishment of the Employment Council of Victoria to consider and recommend methods for the prevention and relief of unemployment. The Council superseded the Unemployment Relief Works Board. It appears that these statutory bodies reported to the Treasurer (VRG 23) throughout.
Administration of the allocations of sustenance was the responsibility of the Minister of Labour. Agency responsibility was exercised by a central Sustenance Branch, established within the Department of Labour I and voluntary Public Assistance Committees established within Municipalities (VRG 12). Sustenance included money and the provision of babies' food, meals for school children, clothing and footwear, firewood and rental assistance.
Under the provisions of the Unemployment Relief (Administration) Act 1932 (No.4079) every man who received sustenance was required to perform work (the type of work was prescribed by the Employment Council of Victoria) for the municipality within whose municipal district sustenance was received. On the recommendation of the Employment Council of Victoria a scheme was brought into operation on 3 July 1933 under which genuine unemployed men would be provided with some work each week. Sustenance was provided at the same rates throughout Victoria and was distributed through Public Assistance Committees appointed by municipal councils. The Act also made it a duty of the person receiving sustenance and their relatives to contribute towards the recouping of the Unemployment Relief Fund. Another provision in the Act required persons collecting money for the unemployed, through sales of tokens or admissions to entertainment, to be licensed. Licences were issued either by municipalities or by the Charities Board of Victoria, if the proceeds were to aid relief in more than one municipality.
Details relating to the establishment and exact role of the Sustenance Branch are unclear. The Sustenance Branch appears to have been established circa 1930. The Public Service Lists include the Sustenance Branch, within the Department of Labour, from 1938. The Victorian Year Book's history of the Department of Labour indicates it was formed in 1932. It is mentioned in the Annual Report of the Public Service Commissioner for 1930, that surplus officers of the Railway Department were temporarily transferred to the public service to assist in branches "on account of pressure of work in connection with unemployment". In the Commissioner's Annual Report for 1938 it is reported that certain Railway Officers were transferred to the public service on 4 April 1938. It further notes that the 1930 arrangement whereby Railways Officers were temporarily employed in the Service occurred "at that time when the setting up of a new organisation in the form of a Sustenance Branch" was necessary because of a period of financial stress. This explains why the Sustenance Branch appears for the first time in the Public Service Lists in 1938.
By 1942 the staffing of the Branch was greatly reduced. This reflected a significant reduction in the amount of sustenance payments being made, largely due to the reduction in unemployment as a result of the war. It was noted in the 1943 Auditor-Generals' report that the persons still receiving sustenance were mainly citizens incapable of sustained work and yet were ineligible for Commonwealth Old Age or Invalid Pensions.
Commonwealth legislation providing for the payment of unemployment, sickness and special benefits came into operation on 1 July 1945. The Sustenance Branch appears to have continued until at least 1948 with a much reduced staff. Final payments of sustenance from the Unemployment Relief Fund were made in the 1952-53 financial year.