|Description of this GroupDescription of this Group|
In 1839 Charles Joseph La Trobe was appointed Superintendent of the Port Phillip District with responsibility for the general administration of government in the District. In 1841 a Solicitor was appointed to provide legal advice to the Superintendent and to conduct legal proceedings for the Crown.
Joint Ministerial Responsibility
Following separation from New South Wales and the establishment of the Crown Colony of Victoria, responsibility for the management of the colony's legal system including the administration of the courts was shared by two colonial officers, the Attorney General and the Solicitor General, both of whom were members of the Legislative Council. The Attorney General was also a member of the Executive Council. The practice of joint ministerial responsibility was continued after the achievement of responsible government in 1855 until 1951 when, under the provisions of the Solicitor General Act 1951 (No.5604) the office of the Solicitor General became non-ministerial and the Attorney General assumed responsibility for those functions previously administered by the Solicitor General. Between 1985 and 1992 the Premier (VRG 50) was responsible for the Solicitor General. In some ministries during the period 1861 to 1891, the Solicitor General was known as the Minister of Justice.
Allocation of Ministerial Responsibilities
Although the division of ministerial responsibilities was not constant for the entire period 1851 to 1951, the Attorney General was usually responsible for the administration of the Supreme Court and its officers and their staff who were employed within the Law Department. The Officers of the Supreme Court included the Master in Equity (also known as the Master in Equity and Lunacy 1867-1923) (VA 2624), the Master of the Supreme Court (VA 2613), the Registrar of Probates (VA 2620), the Sheriff and the Prothonotary. The Attorney General was responsible for Judges' Associates who attended the Judges, empanelled juries and kept records of verdicts and the Judges' notes.
For further information about the records and operation of the Supreme Court (VA 2549) and its officers, see VRG 4 Courts and the Inventory of Series entries for the individual agencies.
The Attorney General was also responsible for the administration of the Law Department (VA 2825) and the Crown Law Offices including the Crown Solicitor (VA 667), the Parliamentary Draftsman, later the Chief Parliamentary Counsel, the Office of the Public Solicitor (VA 2282), the Crown Prosecutors and the Court Reporting Branch. The Attorney General was responsible for the Public Trustee (VA 719) previously the Curator of estates of deceased persons and those agencies responsible for the registration of births, deaths and marriages, land titles, patents, trade marks and copyright and companies. These included the Registrar General's Department (VA 2889) later the Office of the Registrar General and the Office of Titles (VA 862), the Office of the Commissioner of Titles (VA 2926) and the Office of Titles (VA 2888) and the Commissioner of Patents.
The Solicitor General/Minister of Justice were traditionally responsible for the staff and administration of the County Courts, Courts of General Sessions, Courts of Requests, Courts of Petty Sessions, Courts of Mines, Licensing Courts, Coroners Courts and Children's Courts and were thus responsible for Police (later Stipendiary) Magistrates, Wardens, Clerks of Court and Coroners.
For further information about the records and operation of the Courts see VRG 4 Courts.
Functions associated with the Attorney General's Portfolio
The primary responsibility of the Attorney General has been the administration of the legal system and the management of the Courts system. As indicated above this has included responsibility for the officers and staff of the various courts, the Crown Law Offices, Victorian Government Solicitor (previously Crown Solicitor), Director of Public Prosecutions (previously Criminal Law Branch of Crown Solicitors Office) and the State Trustees (previously the Public Trustee).
The Attorney General is responsible for providing legal advice to Government; for the provision of legal services including conveyancing to the Government and its agencies and for the conduct of summary prosecutions, civil litigation and criminal proceedings on behalf of the Government and its agencies and for the drafting of legislation which is the responsibility of the Chief Parliamentary Counsel. The Attorney General is further responsible for the provision of legal aid and for the implementation of law reform and equal opportunity legislation through the Legal Aid Commission (VA 877), the Law Reform Commission and the Equal Opportunity Board (VA 1417).
The Attorney General is responsible for the Crimes Compensation Tribunal (VA 1082) which hears applications for compensation from victims of crime; for the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (VA 2659) which hears appeals against administrative decisions including decisions in respect of Freedom of Information requests and planning matters and for the Estate Agents Board (VA 1078) which registers estate agents and the State Classification of Publications Board (VA 1085). Since 1986 the Attorney General has been responsible for the Public Advocate (VA 2804) and the Guardianship and Administration Board both of which are concerned with protecting the rights and interests of disabled people.
A further major responsibility of the Attorney General is the Corporate Affairs Office (VA 679) which is responsible for the registration and regulation of companies and the regulation of the securities industry in Victoria and which acts as the delegate of the National Companies and Securities Commission (N.C.S.C.).
As the Minister for Women's Affairs (VRG 121) since 1992, the Attorney-General also has responsibility for women's affairs through the Department of Justice (VA 3085).
The Attorney General has also been responsible for:
Registration of Births, Deaths and Marriages 1869-1893
Census and Statistics 1869-1874
Land Titles Registration 1864-1985
Registration of Building and Co-operative Societies from 1986
Registration of Friendly Societies from 1987
Registration of Inquests 1869-1985 and from 1988
Registration of Patents 1869-1904
Registration of Trademarks and Copyright 1869-1905
Administration of Gaols, a joint responsibility of
the Sheriff and the Chief Secretary's Department to 1871
Prisons and Adult Correctional Services 1985-1987
Childrens Court Probation Services to 1960
Fair Rents Determination 1948-1981
Price Control Branch 1948-1954
Consumer Protection 1965-1968
Raffles and Bingo Permits Board 1979-1983
State Electricity Commission including brown
coal mining 1917-1927
Discharged Servicemen's Employment Board 1950-1985.
For brief periods in several ministries between 1874 and 1919, the Attorney General was also head of government or Premier.
More detail about the Attorney General's role as head of government and the diverse functional responsibilities of the portfolio is provided below under the following headings:
Structure of Government and the Attorney General as Head of Government
Chief Parliamentary Counsel
Director of Public Prosecutions
Victorian Government Solicitor
Corporate Affairs including registration of Companies, Building Co-operatives and Friendly Societies
Consumer protection, Price Control and Fair Rents Determination
Legal Aid and Criminal Injuries Compensation
Registration functions (including births, deaths and marriages, census and statistics, land titles, inquests, patents, trademarks and copyright)
Prisons and Correctional Services
State Trustees, Guardianship Administration Board and Public Advocate
Associated Statutory Authorities including:
- Administrative Appeals Tribunal
- Estate Agents Board
- State Classification of Publications Board
- State Electricity Commission
. Discharged Servicemen's Employment
Structure of Government and the Attorney General as Head of Government
Structure of Government 1836-1855
The Port Phillip District was established as part of the Colony of New South Wales in 1836 and Captain William Lonsdale became its Police Magistrate with responsibility for the District's general superintendence (see VRG 7). In 1939 Charles Joseph La Trobe was appointed Superintendent of the Port Phillip District.
The Superintendent effectively held the powers of a Lieutenant Governor and reported directly to the Governor of the Colony of New South Wales. The Superintendent assumed responsibility for the general administration of government in the District and fulfilled the role of head of the civil service establishment.
During the period 1839 to 1851 the population of the District grew from 5,000 to 77,000 and Government administrative arrangements reflected this growth and development. In 1841 a Solicitor was appointed to provide legal advice to the Superintendent and to conduct criminal and legal proceedings for the Crown.
The Crown Colony of Victoria came formally into existence on 13 January 1851 under the provisions of an 1850 Act of the British Parliament which was passed in response to growing discontent in the District and pressure for separation from the New South Wales administration. The Lieutenant Governor (later Governor) remained head of government until the proclamation of the new constitution conferring full responsible government in November 1855 (see VRG 17 Executive for further information).
Functional and Agency Groupings 1851-1855
During the period 1851 to 1855 chief executive authority rested with the Governor advised by the Executive Council. The main departments of government were those of the Colonial Secretary (VRG 16) and the principal colonial officials or principal officers of government, including the Treasurer, Auditor-General, Surveyor-General, Collector of Customs (later the Commissioner of Trade and Customs) and, Postmaster-General. The Colonial Secretary was the Chief Official and all other colonial officials communicated with the Lieutenant-Governor (later Governor) via his Office.
A number of Ministerial Groups covering the responsibilities of the principal colonial officials have been dated from 1851. They are:
GROUP RESPONSIBILITIES 1851
VRG 18 Lands Survey and Mapping
VRG 19 Law Crown-Solicitor's Services
VRG 21 Postmaster-General Post Offices
VRG 22 Trade and Customs Trade, Customs, Ports and Harbours
VRG 23 Treasurer Finance and Revenue Collection
All other functions - census and statistics, health, immigration, police and prison administration, the "protection" of Aborigines, education, goldfields administration, public works and buildings, roads and bridges, and the management and sale of Crown lands (until 1853) - and the responsible agencies have been included in the Colonial Secretary's Group (VRG 16), unless an agency clearly belongs to one of the categories covered by the Non-Ministerial Groups - VRG 3 Armed Forces, VRG 4 Courts, VRG 5 Cemeteries, VRG 8 Health and Welfare Agencies, VRG 9 Prisons and Youth Training Centres, VRG 10 Police, VRG 12 Municipalities, VRG 24 Educational Institutions, and VRG 27 District Land Offices. The Auditor General's Group (VRG 15) has also been dated from 1851. As the entire business of the colony was conducted either directly or indirectly through the Colonial Secretary, the Colonial Secretary's records reflect not only the function of the Colonial Secretary but also of other Colonial Officials.
The executive arm of government was not during this period subject to parliamentary control. The principal officers of government were appointed by the Lieutenant-Governor (later Governor) and were responsible through him to the British administration. Government nominees to the Legislative Council and Executive Councillors were appointed from their ranks, but their executive positions as colonial officials were not dependent on their retaining their seats in Parliament (then the Legislative Council only), as was the case after 1855. The Attorney-General and Solicitor-General were members of the Legislative Council (VA 471) between 1851 and 1855 and the Attorney-General of the Executive Council (VA 2903) in the same period.
Ministerial appointees after 1855 were for a time also effectively heads of their Departments and it was not until the 1880's that public service structures as we know them today began to emerge. However after 1855 the chief colonial officials or principal officers of government can be considered to have achieved Ministerial status and their executive positions (as Ministers and Executive Councillors) were dependent on their retaining their seat in Parliament and the support of the majority in the lower House.
The Attorney General as Head of Government
The Attorney General was head of government or Premier in several ministries between 1874 and 1919.
Prior to December 1936, the Chief Minister was not commissioned as Premier and there was no separate Premier's portfolio. Until 1874 the head of government or Chief Minister was invariably the Minister commissioned as Chief Secretary who exercised the responsibilities of that portfolio as well as those of the head of government. However from 1874 to 1936 the role of the Chief Minister of Premier (as the role was titled from 1874) was separated from the portfolio of Chief Secretary and was held by Ministers variously commissioned as
1855-1874: Chief Secretary (VRG 26)
1874-1875: Attorney-General (VRG 19)
1875-1877: Treasurer (VRG 23)
1877-1880: Chief Secretary
1880- : Treasurer
1880-1881: Chief Secretary and Treasurer ?????
1881-1883: Attorney-General and Treasurer ?????
1893-1894: Chief Secretary
1899-1900: Chief Secretary
1909-1912: Chief Secretary
1917-1918: Chief Secretary
1920 : Solicitor-General (VRG 19)
1921-1924: Minister of Water Supply (VRG 36)
1924 : Treasurer
1924-1927: Minister of Water Supply
On 23 December 1936 the head of government in Victoria was for the first time separately commissioned as Premier with separate portfolio responsibilities, although the Premier also held the portfolio of Treasurer from 1936 to 1982.
The main functions associated with this role have been:
leadership of the Ministry/Cabinet and chief spokesperson for the Government
liaison with the Governor, other Governments and the Commonwealth
provision of advice to the monarch on behalf of the Victorian Government.
For further information about the history and function of head of government in Victoria, see VRG 50 Premier.
Administrative Support for Head of Government Role
Administrative support for the head of government function was initially provided by the Chief Secretary's Office within the Chief Secretary's Department (VA 475). By 1883, in view of the fact that the head of government was no longer always the Chief Secretary, separate administrative arrangements were made and a Premier's Department or Office (VA 672) was established.
From 1884 to 1890 this Office functioned as a sub-department within the Department of the Treasurer (VA 865); between 1890 and 1894 as a separate Department of State; from 1894 to 1928 as a sub-department within the Chief Secretary's Department (VA 475); and between 1928 and 1936 a sub-department within the Department of the Treasurer (VA 865).
From December 1936, the Department of the Premier (VA 2717) and from 1982 the Department of the Premier and Cabinet (VA 1039) assisted the Premier in his/her head of government functions and the co-ordination of government policies and programs.
Chief Parliamentary Counsel
The Office of the Chief Parliamentary Counsel (VA 629) previously known as the Parliamentary Draftsman, is responsible for the preparation of Bills for introduction in Parliament. The Office also gives assistance to the Judges of the Supreme Court and to the Magistrates in the preparation of Rules of Court.
The Subordinate Legislation (Review and Revocation) Act 1984 (No.10169) conferred responsibility on the Chief Parliamentary Counsel to review statutory rules and advise on clarity, validity and compliance with guidelines before submission of the rule to the Governor in Council. For further information about subordinate legislation see VRG 20 Parliament.
Director of Public Prosecutions
This Office was established in 1983 with the proclamation of the Director of Public Prosecutions Act 1982 (No.9848) and assumed responsibility for those functions previously administered by the Criminal Law Branch of the Crown Solicitors Office. The Director of Public Prosecutions (VA 2550) is responsible for the preparation, institution and conduct of criminal proceedings on behalf of the Crown in the Victorian Supreme Court (VA 2549) and County Court (VA 686) and where relevant, in the High Court of Australia. The Director of Public Prosecutions may also conduct prosecutions for summary offences and assist coroners in the conduct of an Inquest.
Victorian Government Solicitor
The Office of the Crown Solicitor (VA 667) was established in 1841 with the appointment of James Montgomery as Crown Solicitor. The Crown Solicitor was responsible for the conduct of criminal proceedings and civil litigation on behalf of the Government until 1983 when responsibility for the conduct of criminal proceedings, particularly those in the higher courts was transferred to the Director of Public Prosecutions (VA 2550).
In 1987 following an amendment to the Schedule Two of the Public Service Act, the Crown Solicitor became known as the Victorian Government Solicitor. This Officer acts as solicitor to the Executive Government, Ministers, Government departments and instrumentalities and the Office provides legal services which range from the provision of legal advice, drafting and conveyancing services to the conduct of summary prosecutions and civil litigation.
Corporate Affairs including Registration of Companies, Building Co-operatives and Friendly Societies
Prior to the appointment of a Registrar of Companies under the provisions of the Companies Act 1958 (No.6455) the Registrar General had been responsible for the registration of companies. In 1959 a Companies Registration Office (subsequently the Companies Office) was established (VA 2725). The Office was initially a branch of the Office of the Registrar General and Office of Titles (VA 862) but subsequently became a separate division of the Law Department (VA 864).
The Attorney General was responsible for the administration of the Companies Act including the registration and regulation of companies and the registration of business names and for ensuring compliance with the provisions regarding matters such as company take-overs, the responsibilities of company directors, the registration of share holdings and the audit and publication of accounts. The Minister was also responsible for the operation of the Companies Auditors Board which was responsible for the registration and discipline of company auditors and liquidators.
Establishment of Corporate Affairs Office (VA 679)
In 1974 in accordance with the provisions of the Interstate Corporate Affairs Agreement, the governments of Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria agreed to establish an Interstate Corporate Affairs Commission, the members of which were nominated by the States' Attorneys-General. The Agreement sought to achieve greater uniformity in the law relating to companies and the regulation of the securities industry and to establish reciprocal arrangements and common standards and procedures with regard to such matters as the incorporation of companies; regulation of the securities industry and trading in securities; registration of prospectuses; approval of trust deeds; requirements relating to accounts and audit, proclamation of companies as investment companies and class and individual exemption powers relating to fund raising and to take overs.
Under the provisions of the Companies (Interstate Corporate Affairs Commission) Act 1974 (No.8565) the powers of the Registrar of Companies were transferred to the Commissioner for Corporate Affairs and the Companies Office was renamed the Corporate Affairs Office.
Establishment of National Companies and Securities Commission (N.C.S.C.)
The National Companies and Securities Commission (N.C.S.C.) was established by the Commonwealth Government with the agreement of the States. The N.C.S.C. formally assumed responsibility for laws relating to the securities industry and company take-overs on 1 July 1981 and a Uniform Companies Code came into operation on 1 July 1982. The N.C.S.C. is responsible for the overall administration of the Co-operative Companies and Securities Scheme and the Corporate Affairs Office acts as its delegate in Victoria.
Co-operative and Friendly Societies
In 1986 the Attorney General assumed responsibility for legislation relating to Building Societies and Co-operative Societies from the Minister for Housing (VRG 53) and in 1987 the Minister assumed responsibility for the registration of Friendly Societies from the Treasurer (VRG 23).
Consumer Protection, Price Control, Fair Rents Determination
Fair Rent Determination
In 1981 responsibility for the determination of fair rents of prescribed premises passed from the Attorney General to the Minister for Consumer Affairs (see VRG 63). Prior to 1981 this function had been carried out by Fair Rents Boards under procedures set out in the Landlord and Tenant Act 1948 (No.5264).
Under this Act the level of rent of all rented premises (referred to as "prescribed premises") was frozen and any variation to the level of rent had to be determined by a Fair Rents Board upon the application of either the landlord or tenant.
Fair Rents Boards consisted of one stipendiary magistrate and were constituted by the Governor-in-Council at various locations in Victoria.
From the mid 1950's until 1981, successive changes to legislation reduced the number of circumstances in which a rented premise was prescribed. (See for example Acts No.5760, 5884, 8208.) Consequently the scale of operations of the Boards diminished until, by the late 1970's, only a small number of premises were subject to rent determination. Most of those remaining were leased to "protected persons" who had greater rights to the occupation of rented premises and hence remained in prescribed premises for a longer period of time.
The transfer of responsibility for this function to the Minister for Consumer Affairs in 1981 coincided with the establishment of the Residential Tenancies Tribunal which replaced the Fair Rents Boards as the agency responsible for rent determination of prescribed premises.
The Rental Investigation Bureau which was associated with the Metropolitan Fair Rents Board, investigated complaints of excessive rentals for premises not under rental control with a view to determining a fair rent by negotiation. The resolution of disputes between landlords and tenants subsequently became a matter for the Residential Tenancies Tribunal.
A more detailed description of the operations of the Fair Rents Boards may be found in the Inventory of Series entry for that agency, see VA 2586.
The Consumers Protection Council (VA 2734) was established in 1965 under the provisions of the Consumers Protection Act 1964 (No.7237). The Council was responsible for investigating matters affecting the interests of consumers and for making recommendations regarding consumer protection. The Council was also required to consult with manufacturers, retailers and advertisers on matters affecting the interest of consumers which were defined as any practices used in the advertising, marketing, packaging and labelling of goods and any other matter relating to their fitness for sale.
The Consumers Protection Council reported to the Attorney General until 1968 when the Minister of Labour and Industry (VRG 42) assumed responsibility.
Following a referendum in 1948, the Commonwealth Government relinquished responsibility for price control and from September 1948, the State Government assumed responsibility for price control in Victoria. A Prices Decontrol Commissioner, subsequently a Prices Commissioner, was appointed under the provisions of the Prices Regulation Acts 1948 and 1951 and a Prices Control Branch, also known as the Victorian Prices Branch, was established within the Law Department (VA 2825).
The Commissioner was responsible for ensuring the prevention of undue increases in prices and rates for goods, services and land, particularly for food, clothing and housing during the period of post-war readjustment; the regulation of prices and rates for essential goods and services and the progressive removal of price control. Price control ceased in Victoria on 31 December 1954.
Although a Minister in Charge of Prices was appointed in 1950, the Prices Control Branch remained within the Law Department.
The State Coroner's Office (VA 2807) was established in 1986 under the provisions of the Coroners Act 1985 (No.10257). One of the primary purposes of the Act was to establish a new coronial system in Victoria. Prior to the passing of the Act regional magistrates had sat as coroners when required but there had been no central co-ordination of their activities. For information about the Coroners Courts see Inventory of Series entry for VA 2263.
The State Coroner's Office was established to assist the State Coroner who is responsible for ensuring the efficient administration of the state coronial system including the co-ordination of coronial services and ensuring that all reportable deaths are investigated and that inquests are held when required. The Act provides that stipendiary magistrates and barristers and solicitors may be appointed to act as coroners. The Act further provided for the establishment of the Victorian Institute of Forensic Pathology.
The Office of the Registrar General (VA 862) was responsible for the registration of inquests until 1988 when the State Coroner's Office assumed responsibility for all coronial records.
The Attorney General is responsible for the Office of the Commissioner for Equal Opportunity (VA 1830) and for the Equal Opportunity Board (VA 1417) which were established under the provisions of the Equal Opportunity Act 1977 (No.9025).
The Commissioner deals with complaints under the Equal Opportunity Act through the process of negotiation and conciliation and refers unresolved complaints to the Equal Opportunity Board. The Board acts as a tribunal to hear and determine unconciliated complaints and hears applications for exemptions from the provisions of the Equal Opportunity Act 1984 (No.10095). The Act makes it unlawful to discriminate on the grounds of sex (including sexual harassment), race, marital status, impairment, political or religious beliefs in the areas of employment, education, accommodation, the provision of goods and services and in clubs and sports which receive a Government subsidy.
The Attorney General assumed responsibility for the hearing racial discrimination complaints from the Minister for Ethnic Affairs (VRG 76) in 1984 and for the Equal Opportunity Commission from the Premier (VRG 50) in 1985.
Legal Aid and Criminal Injuries Compensation
Prior to the establishment of the Office of the Public Solicitor (VA 2282) in 1928 under the provisions of the Poor Persons Legal Assistance Act 1927 (No.3548), legal assistance in civil and matrimonial cases was granted in accordance with the rules of the Supreme Court and legal assistance to persons committed for trial for an indictable offence was granted by the Attorney General after consideration of an application for legal aid made by the accused to a judge of the Supreme Court, a chairman of a court of general sessions or to a police magistrate. (See also the Poor Persons Defence Act 1916 (No.2831) and the Crimes Act 1915 (No.2637 pt.v.)
The Office of the Public Solicitor (VA 2282) was responsible for the provision of legal assistance in certain criminal and civil proceedings to persons who satisfied a stringent means test. Legal aid was not available for proceedings in the courts of petty sessions.
Following representations from the Council of the Law Institute and the Victorian Bar Council, the Legal Aid Committee was established in 1963 under the provisions of the Legal Aid Act 1961 (No.6805). Initially the Committee was responsible for a scheme whereby solicitors in practice provided representation for people who required assistance, but who failed the means test and for people involved in proceedings in the courts of petty sessions. Solicitors were reimbursed for part of their legal costs from the Legal Aid Fund and the Government met the administrative costs of the scheme. Gradually the Legal Aid Committee assumed responsibility for a higher proportion of civil cases and in 1970, under the provisions of the Legal Aid Act 1969 (No.7919) responsibility for the provision of legal aid in civil and matrimonial cases was transferred from the Office of the Public Solicitor to the Legal Aid Committee.
In 1981, under the provisions of the Legal Aid Commission Act 1978 (No.9245) the Legal Aid Commission (VA 877) was established. Its establishment represented a significant redefinition and extension of the concept of legal aid to include the provision of education, advice and information about the law, legal services, duty lawyer services and legal advice. The Legal Aid Commission inherited responsibility for the provision of legal services from the Legal Aid Committee and the Office of the Public Solicitor and assumed responsibility for the provision of legal advice from the Australian Legal Aid Office. The Commission is responsible to the Attorney General and receives funding from the Commonwealth and Victorian Governments and from interest earned on the investment of solicitors trust funds, contributions made by persons receiving legal assistance and legal costs awarded by the courts to assisted persons.
Appeal Costs Board
The Appeal Costs Board (VA 1081) was established under section 4 of the Appeals Costs Fund Act 1964 (No.7117). The Board administers a fund designed to assist a party to legal proceedings to pay legal costs incurred as the result of circumstances beyond the control of such party such as a re-trial following a disagreement by the jury, a court error on a question of law or where there has been some irregularity in court proceedings.
Criminal Injuries Compensation
The Attorney General is responsible for the Crimes Compensation Tribunal (VA 1082). The Tribunal was established in 1973 under the provisions of the Criminal Injuries Compensation Act 1972 (No.8359) and is responsible for hearing applications from those claiming to have suffered physical or mental injury arising from a criminal act or omission or from their dependents in cases where death has occurred. The Tribunal may grant compensation for financial loss, pain and suffering and legal costs. Unsuccessful applicants may appeal to the County Court. Until 1979 the Chief Secretary (VRG 26) was responsible for the Crimes Compensation Tribunal.
Births, Deaths and Marriages Registration
Compulsory registration was first introduced in 1853 under the Act 16 Vic., No.26. The administration of the function had been the responsibility of the following Groups and Agencies:
1853-1873 VA 2889 Registrar-General's VRG 16 Colonial Secretary Department (to 1855)
VRG 26 Chief Secretary
1873-1893 VA 862 Office of the VRG 19 Law
Registrar-General and (to 1893)
The Office of Titles
1893-1983 VA 989 Office of VRG 26 Chief Secretary
Government Statist (to 1979)
1983-ct VA 983 Registry of Births, VRG 69 Property and Services
Deaths and Marriages (from 1979)
Registration of Births,
Deaths and Marriages)
Census and Statistics
Originally the responsibility of the Statistics Branch within the Colonial Secretary's Office (VA 856), collection of statistics and periodic census-taking became the responsibility of the Registrar-General's Department (VA 2889) in 1854, was transferred to the Office of the Registrar-General and the Office of Titles (VA 862) in 1873 and then to the newly-formed Office of the Government Statist and Actuary (VA 989) in 1874. Ministerial responsibility for this agency has been exercised by the Colonial Secretary (VRG 16) to 1855, the Chief Secretary (VRG 26) 1855-1869, the Attorney-General (VRG 19) 1869-1874, the Chief Secretary (VRG 26) 1874-1979, the Minister for Property and Services (VRG 69) 1979-1983, and the Treasurer (VRG 23) since 1983. The functional responsibilities of the agency in relation to census and statistics have since federation largely been taken over by the Commonwealth, later Australian Bureau of Census and Statistics.
From 1893 until 1983 the Office was also responsible for the registration of births, deaths and marriages.
Land Titles Registration
The transfer and registration of land titles under the newly introduced Torrens system was, from 1862, the responsibility of the following Groups and Agencies:
1863-1864 VA 2889 Registrar-General's VRG 26 Chief Secretary
1864-1866 VA 2926 Commissioner of VRG 19 Law
1866-1873 VA 2888 Office of Titles VRG 19 Law
1873-ct VA 862 Office of the VRG 19 Law
Registrar-General and (to 1983)
the Office of Titles VRG 69 Property and Services
For more information about the Torrens system, see VA 862.
Registration of Inquests
The registration of inquest findings was the responsibility of the Registrar-General's Department (VA 2889) from 1853 to 1873 and the Office of the Registrar-General and the Office of Titles (VA 862) until 1988 when this function was taken over by the State Coroner's Office (VA 2807). Ministerial responsibility was exercised by the Chief Secretary (VRG 26) to 1869, the Attorney-General (VRG 19) to 1985, the Minister of Property and Services (VRG 69) to 1988 and the Attorney-General (VRG 19) from 1988.
Registration of Inquest Depositions 1856-1988
Under the provisions of an Imperial Act for improving the Administration of Criminal Justice in England 7 Geo. IV, c64, 1826 (section 4) which was applicable within New South Wales and later Victoria, coroners were required to put in writing the evidence given to the jury at an inquiry and to forward the record to an officer of the Court in which a trial was to be held in those cases where persons had been indicted for manslaughter or murder. The Justices of the Peace Act 14 Vic., No.43 (1850) (section 2) required justices to forward all depositions to the Attorney General or Solicitor General in New South Wales and to the Crown Prosecutor in Port Phillip.
Under the provisions of An Act to Consolidate the Law relating to Coroners 28 Vic., No.253, (1865) (section 9) coroners were required to forward depositions to a "law officer" while the Justices of the Peace Act 28 Vic., No.267 (1865) (section 84) required that depositions be forwarded to the Crown Solicitor or a clerk of the peace.
From 1853, following the proclamation of An Act for Registering Births, Deaths and Marriages in the Colony of Victoria 16 Vic., No.26, coroners were required to inform the Chief Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages of the particulars of the deaths and of the finding of the jury or the opinion of the magistrate as to the cause of death in those cases where an Inquest or Magisterial Enquiry was held. Coroners were also empowered to authorize burial prior to the registration of the death.
In 1856 following correspondence between the Chief Registrar and the Attorney General concerning the obligations of coroners to provide information concerning deaths, the Attorney General in a letter dated 2 August 1856, advised that "depositions in cases of Inquests, shall in future be forwarded to you so soon as it has been ascertained that they are not required for the purposes of the Administration of Justice and that an abstract of those detained for such purpose shall be sent from time to time" (see correspondence in register of legal opinions in the custody of the Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages (VA 983) as at November 1989).
The practice of forwarding inquest depositions to the Registrar General continued until 1988 when the State Coroner's Office (VA 2807) assumed responsibility for all coronial records.
Registration of Patents
Until 1865 the registration of patents was a function of the Chief Secretary's Department (VA 475), thereafter of the Registrar-General's Department (VA 2889) and from 1873 to 1889 of the Office of the Registrar General and Office of Titles (VA 862). In 1889 the Commissioner of Patents within the Law Department (VA 864) assumed responsibility for this function until it was taken over in 1904 by the Commonwealth (VRG 87). Ministerial responsibility was exercised by the Chief Secretary (VRG 26) to 1869 and the Attorney General (VRG 19) to 1904.
Trademarks and Copyright
These functions were also administered by the Registrar-General (VA 2889 and VA 862) until 1905 when the Commonwealth (VRG 87) assumed responsibility.
Prisons and Correctional Services
In 1985, following a review of Victoria's prison system and non-custodial correctional services in 1983, the Attorney General became responsible for the Office of Corrections (VA 1063) which is responsible for all adult correctional programs and facilities in Victoria. The transfer of this responsibility from the Minister for Community Welfare Services (VRG 60) also reflected an earlier Government decision to separate the administration of programs and facilities for adult and juvenile offenders. When the Office of Corrections was established in 1983, the Director General of Community Welfare Services retained direct responsibility for juvenile correctional programs and facilities.
The Office of Corrections is responsible for the administration of prisons and a range of non custodial services such as attendance centre orders, probation orders and community service orders. The Office is also responsible for post-custodial, pre-release and parole programs and for the provision of pre-trial and pre-sentence advice to courts.
In 1987 the Minister responsible for Corrections assumed responsibility for the administration of adult correctional programs and facilities.
For further information about the administration of prisons see VRG 93 Corrections and VRG 9 Prisons and Youth Training Centres.
State Trustees, Guardianship Administration Board and Public Advocate
The Attorney General is responsible for the State Trustees, previously the Office of the Public Trustee (VA 719).
In 1931 responsibility for the Curator of estates of deceased persons was transferred to the Attorney General from the Treasurer. Under the provisions of the Public Trustee Act 1939 (No.4654), the Office of the Curator of the estates of deceased persons was abolished and the Public Trustee (VA 719) became responsible for the administration of the estates of deceased persons. The Public Trustee also assumed responsibility for administration of the estates of patients being persons detained in mental institutions and infirm persons being persons who by reason of senility, disease, illness or physical or mental infirmity were incapable of managing their own affairs. The Master in Equity (VA 2624) had been responsible for the administration of the estates of patients in mental institutions. For a brief period between 1945 and 1949 the Treasurer (VRG 23) was responsible for the Public Trustee.
The Public Trustee was responsible for managing the estates of mental patients and other persons incapable of managing their own affairs and, on the order of a judge of the Supreme Court would deal with property where the owner was unknown or could not be found. The Public Trustee could also act as the appointed executor of a will and could elect to administer the estate of a person who had died intestate. In such cases the Public Trustee managed the estate and distributed the assets amongst the beneficiaries.
In 1987, under the provisions of the State Trust Corporation of Victoria Act 1987, the State Trustees replaced the Office of the Public Trustee
The Guardianship and Administration Board was established under the provisions of the Guardianship and Administration Board Act 58/1986 and is responsible for protecting the rights of persons with disabilities. The Board acts as a Tribunal to appoint where necessary, a guardian or administrator to manage the affairs of disabled persons in a manner which is in their best interests and least restrictive of their freedom. The Board may also make decisions with respect to major medical procedures which may be carried out on a represented person.
It is the responsibility of the Public Advocate (VA 2804) to advocate, promote and support the rights and interests of disabled persons.
Associated Statutory Authorities
Administrative Appeals Tribunal
The Attorney General is responsible for the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (VA 2659) which is empowered to hear appeals against administrative decisions including decisions in respect of Freedom of Information requests and state taxation and planning matters and decisions of the Crimes Compensation Tribunal, Transport Accidents Commission and the Estate Agents Board.
Estate Agents Board (VA 1078)
The Board is responsible for the licensing of estate agents and sub agents and for the monitoring, audit and inspection of estate agency business. The Board also controls the Estate Agents Guarantee Fund which reimburses people who have been defrauded by an estate agent. The Chief Secretary (VRG 26) was responsible for the registration of estate agents until 1978.
State Classification of Publications Board
In 1979 responsibility for the State Classification of Publications Board was transferred from the Chief Secretary to the Attorney General. The Board reviews and classifies publications to determine whether they are suitable or unsuitable for persons under the age of eighteen years.
State Electricity Commission
The Attorney General was responsible for the State Electricity Commission (S.E.C.) (VA 1002) and its predecessor the Electricity Commissioners from 1919 until 1927, except for a period of six months in 1924 when the Treasurer was responsible. During this period the Attorney General was responsible for the administration of the Electric Light and Power Acts which had previously been the responsibility of the Commissioner of Public Works (VRG 28).
The Electric Light and Power Act regulated the conditions under which electricity could be supplied and its provisions led to the eventual rationalisation of the industry. Initially the Electricity Commissioners were to report on measures to be taken to ensure the eventual amalgamation and co-ordination of all electrical undertakings and on the standards of plant and equipment required to ensure an efficient supply. The Commissioners were also empowered to construct electrical undertakings and to supply electricity, though companies and municipalities continued to supply electricity.
In 1917 the government had appointed a Brown Coal Advisory Committee to investigate and report on the commercial utilization of brown coal with particular reference to the generation of electricity. In their annual report of 30 June 1920, the Commissioners reported that land had been acquired near Morwell and that progress had been made on the brown coal mining. By 1921 open cut mining operations had commenced and by 1924 electricity was being generated from the Yallourn power station, and supplied to Melbourne.
In 1927 responsibility for the State Electricity Commission was transferred to the newly appointed Minister in Charge of Electrical Undertakings (VRG 47).
Discharged Servicemen's Employment Board
Established by section 5 of the Discharged Servicemen's Preference Act 1943, the Discharged Servicemen's Employment Board (VA 1083) has three main functions:
to assist discharged servicemen to find employment and advise the Government on employment opportunities and unemployment among discharged servicemen
to examine and report on alleged contraventions of the 1943 Act by which employers are required to give preference in placement, re-instatement, and retention in employment of discharged servicemen who are suitable and competent for the particular position
to provide a free business advisory service for any person who has served in the Australian or Allied military forces and a free business investigation service for discharged servicemen.
The Board was transferred from the Premier's portfolio (VRG 50) in 1950 and passed from the Attorney-General to the Minister for Employment and Industrial Affairs (VRG 81) in 1985.
Community Council Against Violence
The Community Council Against Violence was established in 1989 to provide advice to Government about violence in the community. The Council was reconstituted and relaunched by the Attorney-General in 1993 with agreement from Cabinet. The Council currently includes three task forces: the Victims' Task Force; the Violence Against Women Task Force and the Community Safety Task Force.
Functions of the Community Council Against Violence include:
informing the Government about community concerns relating to violence
producing and disseminating accurate information about violence in the community
developing and supporting strategies which will foster a reduction in community violence.
From 1989 to 1991 the Council was responsible to the Minister for Police and Emergency Services (VRG 73). As part of machinery of government changes announced in January 1991 responsibility transferred to the Premier (VRG 50) until 1992 when the Attorney-General and Minister for Police and Emergency Services and Corrections assumed joint responsibility.
Location of Records
The holdings of records for this group are far from complete. There are some records for the period 1851 to 1904 but large portions are either still out of custody or lost. For subsequent years the holdings are either weak and patchy or virtually nonexistent.
For records of the Courts, researchers are advised to consult VRG 4 Courts and to see the List of Holdings 2nd edition 1985, section 2.0.0.
For records of the other agencies and functions for which the Attorney General has been responsible, see also List of Holdings sections:
3.4.1 Law Department
3.4.2 Criminal Law Branch
3.4.3 Chief Parliamentary Counsel
3.4.4 Public Solicitors Office
3.4.5 Legal Aid Committee
3.4.7 Correctional Services
3.4.8 Adult Parole Board
3.4.9 Public Trustee
3.4.10 Master in Equity
3.4.11 Appeal Costs Board
3.4.12 Corporate Affairs (registration of companies)
3.4.13 Estate Agents Board
3.7.4 Fair Rents Board
3.12.3 - 3.12.6 Building and Co-operative Societies
3.13.6 State Electricity Commission
3.18.1 Registrar General and Office of Titles (Inquests, Land Titles)
3.18.2 Registrar General (Births, Deaths and Marriages Registration; Statistical Information)
3.20.2 Raffles and Bingo Permits Board
3.22.4 Registrar of Friendly Societies.
Attorney General 1851-ct
Solicitor General 1851-1951
Minister of Justice 1861-1892