|Description of this GroupDescription of this Group|
Scope of the Group
This group includes the records of individual agencies concerned with the provision of:
surgical and medical advice, assessment, aid, treatment and care and psychiatric services.
counselling, referral, rehabilitation and domiciliary care services.
residential care for children, the aged, the destitute and people with intellectual, physical or sensory disabilities.
The group includes:
psychiatric and mental hospitals
community health centres and services
community mental health clinics
community care centres
bush nursing centres
specialist clinics, rehabilitation centres and units
nursing and convalescent homes
children's homes and orphanages
hospitals, hostels and homes for the aged
institutions for maternal and infant welfare
institutions for physically, intellectually and sensorily disabled people
special accommodation homes and houses.
For records relating to central government administration of these services see,
VRG 26 Chief Secretary 1856-1944
VRG 39 Health 1890-ct
VRG 60 Community Welfare Services 1970-1985
VRG 80 Community Services 1985-ct
VRG 23 Treasurer c1895-1944
HOSPITALS, CHARITIES AND WELFARE INSTITUTIONS
Early Government Hospitals
Temporary arrangements were made for a Government Surgeon until the appointment of Patrick Cussen as Assistant Colonial Surgeon for Port Phillip in September 1837. Until 1842 the only hospital in the District was attached to the prisoners' barracks and catered primarily for prisoners, Government personnel and the military. (See also Historical Records of Victoria, Volume 3) Non-Government patients were also admitted to this hospital if they could not obtain medical assistance elsewhere, however, formal applications for admission had to be first made to the Superintendent. In 1842 a temporary public hospital was established by a committee of citizens for emergency cases. This hospital closed in 1848 when the Melbourne Hospital, with accommodation for 10 patients, opened to the public with the assistance of Government and funds.
By 1852 the Medical Department had expanded to include the Colonial Surgeon, a Health Officer who was primarily concerned with quarantine, a Dispenser, a Surgeon to Police and Watchhouses and six Assistant Colonial Surgeons, three of whom were based in Melbourne and three of whom worked in Geelong, Williamstown and Ovens. By 1854 the civil establishment included a Chief Medical Officer and District Surgeons at Williamstown, Geelong, Portland, Belfast, Castlemaine, Sandhurst, Ballarat, Avoca, Beechworth, Kyneton and Kilmore. Additional medical staff were based at the hospitals that had been established on the goldfields at Castlemaine, Sandhurst and Ballarat.
In his report for the half year ending 30 June 1854, the Chief Medical Officer reported on the health of those in the care of the medical officers. In Melbourne the officers were responsible for "the immigrants from the time of their landing until they leave the Immigration Depot and are in some way provided for" and for "the police and officers and prisoners in the gaols and stockades". (see Papers Presented to Parliament, Session 1854-5, Volume 2 p.89). The immigrants were attended by the Chief Medical Officer and the more serious cases were taken to the Colonial Hospital at Batman's Hill.
By 1852 a Sanitary Station for the care of people who had been quarantined had been established at Ticonderoga Bay, Point Nepean.
Establishment of the Central Board of Health 1855
The Central Board of Health was established under the provisions of the Public Health Act 18 Vic., No.13 (1854) and, together with the local boards of health, was responsible for the prevention, containment and treatment of infectious and contagious diseases. No new hospitals for the reception of patients suffering from a contagious or infectious disease were to be opened without the approval of the Central Board and the appropriate local board. The Central Board, which was located in the Chief Secretary's Department (VA 475), could authorise the dispensing of medicines and the provision of medical aid to persons afflicted by or threatened by an epidemic disease.
From 1876 under sections 18 and 19 of the Public Health Amendment Act (No.524) which were re-enactments of an 1875 Imperial Act 38 and 39 Vic., c55, local boards of health were empowered to provide hospitals for the reception of the sick. The boards could establish the hospitals alone or combine with other boards to do so. Alternatively they could contract the use of an existing hospital or enter into an agreement with the management of an existing hospital to provide the required services. Managers of hospitals receiving aid from the State could be required by the Central Board of Health to enter into such an agreement.
The Public Health Act 1889 (No.1044) enabled the Chairman of the Board of Health, at the direction of the Board, to establish hospitals where local authorities failed to do so and the Board was empowered to recover its costs from the local councils. The Act further provided that Councils which established district hospitals could seek reimbursement of fifty percent of their costs from consolidated revenue.
The Public Health Act 1889 empowered the Governor-in-Council to make regulations for the registration, inspection, drainage, good management and sanitary regulation of all hospitals and institutions which provided for the medical or surgical treatment and care of patients and which were not in receipt of aid from the State. The Board of Public Health and its officers were responsible for the enforcement of these regulations.
Infant Life Protection
With the proclamation of the Public Health Amendment Act 1883 (No.782), local boards of health became responsible for the registration of premises and persons other than parents, relatives or guardians who were responsible for the care of infants. The boards were required to maintain a register of premises and those responsible for the care of infants were to keep a register and to notify the coroner or a justice of the peace of the death of any child in their care. In 1890 under the provisions of the Infant Life Protection Act 1890 the Chief Commissioner of Police assumed responsibility for the registration of homes used for the purpose of nursing, maintaining and adopting infants. In 1907 a subsequent Infant Life Protection Act transferred responsibility for this function to the Chief Secretary (VRG 26) and the Department for Neglected Children, later known as the Children's Welfare Department (VA 1467) in the Chief Secretary's Department (VA 475).
In 1890 the Minister of Health (VRG 39) became responsible for the administration of the Public Health Acts.
Hospitals and Charitable Institutions
Whilst the Public Health Act and the Lunacy Acts provided for hospitals to be established by local boards of health and for the establishment of public asylums, receiving hospitals, lunacy wards and later inebriate retreats, many hospitals and charitable institutions were funded either entirely or in part by contributions.
Under the provisions of the Public Hospitals Act 11 Vic., No.59 (1847) and the subsequent Hospitals and Charitable Institutions Acts, these institutions were governed by trustees and committees or boards of management who were elected by contributors and from 1864 those institutions established for the cure of disease or for the relief of disease, or the care of aged, incurable or destitute persons were eligible to apply for incorporation. From 1884 these provisions were to apply to any institution, society or association established with the object of saving human life, promoting health, temperance or morality, preventing cruelty or vice or for other philanthropic or humane purposes.
Many of these institutions received financial assistance from the Government and by 1882 an Inspector of Industrial and Reformatory Schools and Public Charities had been appointed within the Chief Secretary's Department (VA 475). In 1895 the Inspector of Charities was transferred to the Department of the Treasurer (VA 865).
Charities Board of Victoria
The Chief Secretary (VRG 26) continued to be responsible for the administration of the Hospitals and Charitable Institutions Acts until 1923 when, following the proclamation of the Hospitals and Charities Act 1922 (No.3260), the Treasurer assumed responsibility.
Under the provisions of this Act, the Charities Board of Victoria (VA 2707) was to be responsible for the administration of benevolent societies and institutions which were supported in whole or in part by voluntary contributions and which had as one of their objects the provision of "charitable relief to diseased, infirm, incurable, poor or destitute persons (including children and convalescent patients)".
Many institutions, including those wholly maintained by the State; institutions established under the provisions of the Lunacy Acts, Mental Treatment Act 1915 and Inebriates Act 1915; hospitals i.e. those receiving no aid from the State; municipal hospitals and institutions; institutions established by the Commonwealth Government; the Queen's Memorial Infectious Diseases Hospital at Fairfield and the Sanatorium at Heatherton for patients suffering from tuberculosis were to be exempt from the provisions of the Act.
The Board was responsible for determining what charitable relief was required to meet the needs of diseased, infirm, incurable, poor or destitute persons resident in Victoria and which institutions or benevolent societies should be subsidized and for the allocation of funds from the Hospitals and Charities Fund which was to be established and kept in the Treasury in accordance with section 42 of the Act. The Board could recommend to the Minister that subsidized institutions be closed or amalgamated and that subsidized benevolent societies cease to exist if they believed them to be mismanaged or to be failing to effectively provide the services for which they were responsible. The Board could also recommend for what purposes a subsidized institution should be used.
From the commencement of the Act no institution or benevolent society could be established without the prior consent of the Board and all existing institutions and societies were to apply to be registered with the Board. Unregistered institutions and societies were not eligible to receive funds from the Hospitals and Charities Fund, consolidated revenue or municipalities and were prevented from making appeals for voluntary contributions. The Board was empowered to refuse or cancel the registration of an institution.
The Act further provided for the incorporation and government of hospitals and philanthropic institutions other than those run by religious denominations; the regulation of fund raising; the liability of patients for the cost of their care and treatment; the resumption of land for the benefit of institutions and the making and publication of regulations. The second and third schedules to the Act listed the names of existing incorporated institutions and separate institutions (i.e. those established by religious denominations).
In 1944, under the provisions of the Ministry of Health Act 1943 (No.4988), the Minister of Health became responsible for the administration of the Hospitals and Charities Acts.
Establishment of the Hospitals and Charities Commission 1948
The Hospitals and Charities Commission (VA 693) was established in 1948 under the provisions of the Hospitals and Charities Act 1948 (No.5300) and replaced the Charities Board of Victoria (VA 2707). The Commission consisted of three full time members appointed by the Governor-in-Council, of whom one was to be a person qualified in hospital administration. The Commission, like its predecessor, was responsible for determining what charitable relief was required to meet the needs of persons resident in Victoria and which institutions and benevolent societies should be subsidized. The Commission was also responsible for the financial administration of the Hospitals and Charities Fund and for the allocation of funds for salaries and expenses of the Commission and its officers and employees, for the establishment and maintenance of subsidized institutions and benevolent societies and for capital works and the purchase of equipment.
The Commission was responsible for the registration and inspection of hospitals and unsubsidized institutions and the administration and financial management of all subsidized institutions and benevolent societies. Under certain conditions the Commission could recommend the closure or amalgamation of subsidized institutions other than those run by religious denominations.
The Act required that institutions and benevolent societies other than those exempt from the provisions of the Act (see section 4) be registered with the Commission which was empowered to cancel or amend the registration of an institution. Unregistered institutions were not eligible to receive government funding and were prohibited from seeking voluntary contributions and no institution could be established without the prior consent of the Commission.
One of the major functions of the Commission was the co-ordination and rationalisation of hospital and institutional activities and it was empowered to make recommendations regarding the amendment of existing legislation and proposals for "the improvement of and prevention of overlapping in the administration of institutions and benevolent societies" (section 18). The Commission exercised control over the allocation of funds and institutions were required to submit their budgets for approval. The Commission also exercised control over capital works and could determine the location and extent of all new buildings, the accommodation to be provided and the allocation of beds between , intermediate and public wards.
The Commission was empowered to establish a bureau to assist in the admission of patients to hospitals and to furnish information in relation to nursing and hospital matters; to authorise or require the committee of management of any hospital to establish facilities for the care of convalescent or incurable persons and for persons suffering a chronic illness and to require hospitals to establish and maintain district nursing services and ambulance services. All ambulance services were to be registered and were subject to the supervision of the Commission.
The Commission, at the request of the Commission of Public Health (VA 694), could also arrange for the supervision of units established for the care of persons suffering from tuberculosis but the admission and treatment of patients remained the responsibility of the Commission of Public Health.
The Commission was required to promote and arrange for the collective buying of standard equipment, furnishings and supplies and it maintained an Equipment Section which assessed and made recommendations as to the purchase of major items of furniture and equipment. The collective purchasing of standard equipment was arranged through the Victorian Hospitals' Association, a non profit company in which the hospitals were shareholders. The Commission was to establish a system of training for hospital administrators and in consultation with the Nurses Board to make provision for the training of nurses.
The Hospitals and Charities Act 1948 also provided for the incorporation and government of hospitals and philanthropic institutions, the liability of patients, the resumption of land for the benefit of an institution and the compensation of the owners of the land, and the regulation of fund raising activities.
In 1978, with the proclamation of the Health Commission Act 1977 (No.9023), the powers and responsibilities of the Hospitals and Charities Commission were assumed by the Health Commission of Victoria (VA 652). In 1985 the powers and responsibilities of the Health Commission and its Chairman were vested in the Department of Health II (VA 2695) and its Chief General Manager.
Transfer of Health and Welfare Agencies to the Minister of Community Services
In 1985 following a review of the provision of health services many services which had been traditionally regarded as health services were redefined as community services and responsibility for these functions was transferred to the Minister for Community Services.
In May 1985 the Minister for Community Services became responsible for pre-school centres, child minding centres and services for the care of pre-school children.
On 1 October 1985, the Minister for Community Services became responsible for the administration of the office of Intellectual Disability Services and thus for the administration of programmes and institutions providing services to intellectually disabled adults and children. These services had previously been provided by the Mental Retardation Division of the Health Commission (VA 2577) and briefly by the Department of Health II (VA 2695).
On 1 October 1985, the Minister for Community Services also became responsible for the provision of support for organisations which provide services for physically, sensorily and intellectually disabled persons and domiciliary care services, including day centres and senior citizens centres. The Minister is now responsible for the administration of a number of benevolent societies and institutions listed in Schedule Two of Administrative Arrangements Order (No.37) 1985. The institutions and organisations listed provide services to children, families, the aged and people with physical and sensory disabilities.
INSTITUTIONS FOR THE INTELLECTUALLY DISABLED, MENTALLY ILL AND ALCOHOLICS
This group includes the records of individual institutions which have provided some form of care and/or control of the psychiatrically ill and the intellectually disabled. Over time these have also included the senile aged and alcoholics. The administration and management of these institutions has developed from an early concern with detention and containment to the present day emphasis on prevention and community support.
To assist researchers to locate the records they require it is necessary that the historical terms for psychiatric illness and intellectual disability be used in this account of the administration of mental health in Victoria. It is acknowledged that this decision has resulted in the inclusion of terms which today are considered most offensive.
From 1851 the Colonial Surgeon, later the Chief Medical Officer, was responsible for lunatic asylums and in 1855 the administration of lunatic asylums became the responsibility of the Chief Secretary's Department (VA 475). Following the proclamation of the Lunacy Statute 1867 (No.309) an Inspector of Lunatic Asylums and Licensed Houses was appointed and a Hospitals for the Insane Branch (VA 2863) was established within the Chief Secretary's Department where it operated with a fair degree of autonomy.
In 1905, with the proclamation of the Lunacy Act 1903 (No.1873) responsibility for asylum staff was vested in the newly appointed Inspector General of the Insane and the Lunacy Department (VA 2864) was established.
In 1934 with the proclamation of the Mental Hygiene Act 1933 (No.4157), responsibility for institutions was assumed by the Director of Mental Hygiene and the Department of Mental Hygiene (VA 2865). In 1944 responsibility for the mental hygiene function was transferred to the significantly expanded Health portfolio (see VRG 39) and a Mental Hygiene Branch (VA 2866) was established within the Department of Health I (VA 695).
Responsibility for mental health institutions subsequently passed to the Mental Hygiene Authority 1952-1962 (VA 2838), the Mental Health Authority 1962-1978 (VA 692), and the Health Commission 1978-1985 (VA 652) and since 1985 has been shared by Department of Health II (VA 2695) and Community Services Victoria (VA 2633).
Ministerial responsibility for these institutions has been exercised by the Chief Secretary (VRG 26) for the period 1855-1944 and the Minister for Health (VRG 39) since 1944. Responsibility for institutions for the intellectually disabled has been exercised by the Minister for Community Services (VRG 80) since 1985 and the Minister for Education (previously the Minister for Special Education) (VRG 35) since 1976.
For further information concerning the administration of mental health institutions and the location of records documenting this administration see VRG 39, Health.
NOTE: The administration and management of institutions for the psychiatrically ill and the intellectually disabled and the treatment of these people has always been largely determined by prevailing medical and social attitudes. What follows is an attempt to track the development of those institutions and services which have been provided by government. Further research is required in most areas.
Asylums to Psychiatric Hospitals
Prior to 1848 lunatics were detained in the gaols of the Port Phillip District or transported to the Tarban Creek Lunatic Asylum in New South Wales under the provisions of An Act to make provision for the safe custody of, and prevention of offences by, persons dangerously insane; and for the care and maintenance of persons of unsound mind 7 Victoria, No.14 (1843).
This Act empowered two Justices of the Peace, with the certification of two medical practitioners, to commit by warrant "dangerous lunatics and dangerous idiots" to a gaol, house of correction or public hospital until such time as they were discharged by authority of two justices or were removed to some public colonial lunatic asylum by order of the Governor".
Yarra Bend (VA 2839) was the first permanent institution devoted to the treatment of the mentally ill to be established in Victoria. It opened in 1848 as a ward of the Asylum at Tarban Creek in N.S.W. It was not officially called Yarra Bend Asylum until July 1851 when the Port Phillip District separated from the Colony of New South Wales.
Due to lack of space and overcrowding the authorities continued to make use of the gaols for the internment of lunatics. In 1864 in response to the pressing need for space, the building known as the Powder Magazine in the Royal Park was proclaimed a gaol and came to be known as the Royal Park Temporary Lunatic Asylum. It seems likely that this asylum only existed for a maximum of five years.
The Lunacy Statute 1867 (No.309) provided the framework upon which the government was to establish the colony's system for the care and control of lunatics. The Act not only regulated the admission and treatment of patients but also established standards for the management of public asylums.
Under the provisions of s.18 of the Act an asylum was any public building proclaimed by the Governor-in-Council in the Government Gazette as a place for the reception of lunatics. An asylum could also provide wards for the temporary reception of patients as well as wards for the treatment of long term patients. A distinction was made between an "asylum" and a "receiving hospital", the latter being intended for the reception of patients prior to diagnosis and long-term commitment to an asylum. (see VA 2851 and VA 2845)
The Lunacy Act 1903 (No.1873) changed the title of all asylums to hospitals for the insane. This change of title was intended to reflect changing community attitudes to mental illness and to change the emphasis from institutions as places of detention to institutions as places for the treatment and cure of patients. However, despite the change in designation the function and structure of the agencies remained largely unchanged. The Mental Hygiene Act 1933 (No.4157) altered the title of these institutions to mental hospitals.
The Lunacy Statute 1867 (No.309) also provided for the establishment of lunacy wards for the temporary reception of lunatics at the various general district hospitals. These wards were ostensibly for the care of cases of "transient insanity" and for the early diagnosis of lunacy prior to long-term commitment. By 1890 there were at least four of these wards in the colony. (see VA 2862)
In 1905 receiving hospitals and lunacy wards became receiving houses and receiving wards under the provisions of the 1903 Lunacy Statute (No.1873) (sections 40 and 42). The Mental Health Act of 1959 (No.6605) proclaimed receiving houses to be psychiatric hospitals (s.24) and receiving wards became psychiatric treatment centres (s.40). (see VA 2845, VA 2846)
The 1986 Mental Health Act (No.59/1986) proclaimed psychiatric hospitals to be institutions for the provision of short-term diagnosis and treatment of acute psychiatric illness. Admission may be voluntary or by medical recommendation. Mental hospitals provide for the longer term treatment or indefinite hospitalisation of patients who may be admitted voluntarily or by medical recommendation or who may be transferred from a psychiatric hospital.
Licensed Houses to Institutions
Part three of the Lunacy Statute 1867 (No.309) authorised the Chief Secretary to administer the granting of licences for houses to operate as asylums for the reception of lunatics. These were termed licensed houses.
Under the provisions of the Lunacy Statute 1903 (No.1873) a licensed house was defined as a institution which held a licence granted by the Chief Secretary to house one or more insane persons. To obtain a licence it was necessary for the applicant to pay an annual fee and to meet conditions prescribed by the Governor-in-Council. Licensed houses were subject to much the same requirements in terms of patient care and record keeping as public institutions for the care of the insane.
The Mental Hygiene Act of 1933 (No.4157) renamed licensed houses mental homes. The Mental Health Act 1959 (No.6605) continued the licensing of institutions, which were known as mental hospitals and training centres. The Minister had the authority to grant or revoke the licences. In the 1970's institutions became known as after-care accommodation or "guest houses".
Idiot Asylums to Training Centres
By the mid 1870's the authorities saw the need to distinguish between patients termed "lunatics" and those termed "imbeciles" and "idiots" (intellectually disabled).
In 1877 the Ballarat Asylum (VA 2844) was established "for use as an asylum for idiot children and harmless adult idiots". (See Annual Report 1877). However this institution was closed due to lack of funds two years later and imbecile patients were transferred to Sunbury Asylum (VA 2843). These patients were certified and admitted under the Lunacy Statute 1867 (No.309)
In 1887 an Idiot Ward in the form of detached cottages was established at the Kew Asylum (VA 2840) for idiot and imbecile children. This institution was known as the Kew Idiot Asylum until around 1925 when it was listed as the Childrens Cottages, Kew and until 1929 it was also known as the Mental Defectives Colony (VA 2852).
By the 1930's it was realised that the two conditions required not only distinct care but also a separate administration. Consequently during 1936 a Mental Defectives Branch was established within the Department of Mental Hygiene (VA 2865). The Mental Deficiency Act 1939 (No.4704) established the mode by which defective adults and retarded children could be admitted and detained in special institutions set up under the Act (Sections 7 and 8).
The Act specified that "mental defectives" referred to adults who, depending on the degree and nature of their disability, were further classified as being "imbeciles", "feebleminded persons", or "moral defectives". Intellectually impaired children were no longer termed "idiots", but were designated under the Act as "retarded children". In line with these developments new state institutions catering specifically for the intellectually disabled were established under the provisions of sections 7 and 8 of the Act.
In 1932 a special school staffed by teachers seconded from the Education Department (VA 714) had been established at the Childrens Cottages, Kew (VA 2852) and in 1933 Travancore (VA 2861) was established. In 1937 Janefield (VA 2847) was opened as a residential institution for mentally retarded children, particularly for those who were severely retarded. The practice of seconding Education Department teachers to special schools established within residential institutions continued.
In 1962, following the proclamation of the Mental Health Act 1959 (No.6605), residential institutions for the care and education of intellectually disabled adults and children became known as training centres. The Act also provided for the establishment of non residential centres known as day training centres. These institutions subsequently became known as Special Developmental Schools and since 1976 have been the responsibility of the Minister of Education (VRG 35) (previously the Minister of Special Education).
In recent years the authorities have developed policies designed to allow intellectually disabled people to remain within the community and to provide the services necessary for them to do so. A number of community houses have been established.
In 1985 following a major reorganisation of health services responsibility for services to the intellectually disabled was transferred to the Minister for Community Services (VRG 80). This represented a significant change in the way services to the intellectually disabled were regarded by government. The responsibilities of the Mental Retardation Division (VA 2577) which had been established in 1981 were transferred to the newly established Office of Intellectual Disability Services, which is located within Community Services Victoria (VA 2633). This Office continues to run residential centres for intellectually disabled adults and children and these institutions include training centres, hostels and community centres.
Further research into the development of institutions for the care of intellectually disabled people is required. For information regarding records documenting the central administration of institutions and services for the intellectually disabled see VRG 26 Chief Secretary for the period 1855-1944, VRG 39 Health for the period 1944-1985 and VRG 80 Community Services for the period from 1985.
Inebriate Retreats to Alcohol and Drug Dependency Centres
From the time of their inception the State's lunatic asylums were used as places of containment for inebriates.
The Lunacy Statute 1867 (No.309) authorised the admission of inebriates to the State's asylums. Section 17 of the Act gave power to the Master-in-Lunacy to commit inebriates to an asylum for any period up to twelve months.
A Select Committee, set up to investigate the treatment of inebriates, presented its report in early 1872. As a result the Inebriate Act (No.449) came into operation in late 1872 and provided for the establishment of licensed retreats for the treatment and cure of habitual inebriates. Patients could admit themselves voluntarily or could be committed by judicial process for a period no greater than twelve months. The Northcote Inebriate Retreat (VA 2853) was established in 1873 under the provisions of this Act. However State lunatic asylums continued to be used as places of internment for inebriates.
The Zox Commission of 1884 - 1886 recommended the establishment of a properly appointed separate inebriate asylum to be established by the State. In 1888 an Act to Provide for the Establishment of Asylums for Inebriates (No.1009) was proclaimed. This repealed the earlier legislation allowing inebriate retreats. Section 2 of this new Act gave the Governor-in-Council the authority to proclaim any asylum or part of any asylum (within the meaning of the Lunacy Statute) to be an asylum for inebriates. Under this legislation two State inebriate institutions were established, Beaconsfield in 1889 and Northcote (VA 2853) in July 1890. The superintendents of these retreats reported to the Inspector of Lunatic Asylums (see Annual Reports 1890, 1891, 1892). By 1892 these institutions had been closed.
The Inebriates Act 1904 (No.1940) re-introduced the system of licensed inebriate institutions. Section 17 of the Act provided for the Governor-in-Council to establish or licence any house or premises as a place for the reception, control and treatment of inebriates and to make regulations concerning the treatment of patients and inspection of premises. Section 13 gave the Inspector General of the Insane responsibility for the inspection of all such licensed premises and the patients held within.
An inebriate was defined by the Inebriates Act 1904 as a person who habitually used alcoholic liquors or intoxicating or narcotic drugs to excess. An inebriate could be admitted to an inebriate institution on application to a judge, the Master in Lunacy or a police magistrate by one of the following persons:
an inebriate, or any person authorised in writing (while the inebriate is sober and fully understanding) to act on their behalf
husband or wife, parent, brother, sister, son or daughter of full age, or business partner
member of police force acting on a request in writing from a legally qualified medical practitioner or on a request in writing from a relative.
Patients could be admitted to an institution for a period not exceeding twelve months.
This system of licensed institutions for the care and control of alcoholics was continued by subsequent legislation. The Inebriates Act 1928 (No.3703) made the Inspector General of the Insane, the Inspector of Inebriate Institutions (s.15). The Director of Mental Hygiene assumed this responsibility in 1933 (Clause 3 of Part A of Schedule to Act No.4157) and the Mental Hygiene Authority inherited this responsibility in 1952 (Clause 1 of Part B of Schedule to Act No.5519).
While these institutions such as Brightside Inebriate Retreat (VA 2850) and Lara Inebriate Retreat (VA 2849), provided separate care and treatment for alcoholics, no major Government institution was established. In 1956 the Mental Hygiene Authority (VA 2838) reported that the number of patients whose illness was associated with the "intake of alcohol" continued to be very high and that there was nowhere inebriates could legally be sent. In the absence of any institutions, alcoholics were once again being treated in the State's mental hospitals and psychiatric units (see Annual Report, 1958). In 1959 the Authority reported that "a hospital for the long term rehabilitation of the ... alcoholic must be regarded as an urgent State need".
In 1960 the Authority established the Alexandra Parade Clinic whose primary function was the care of alcoholics. In 1968 a Bill to provide a comprehensive service for alcoholics and drug dependent persons was introduced into Parliament. The resultant legislation, the Alcoholics and Drug-dependent Persons Act 1968, authorised the Minister of Health to establish various types of residential centres for the assessment, treatment and rehabilitation of alcoholic and drug dependent persons and to support these centres with appropriate day hospitals, out-patient clinics, community services and hostels and also to provide suitable research and preventive facilities. The types of institutions/centres established included:
Assessment Centres - where the clients' problems or habits can be assessed;
Infirm Hospitals - hospital type residential centres where the physically ill (in association with alcohol and drug use problems) can be treated on an in-patient basis;
Rehabilitation Centres - accent is on social help and work rehabilitation designed to return the client to the community;
Detention Centres - special sections of gaols where persons convicted of offences and committed to a detention centre may receive treatment.
It was decided that a new Branch should be formed to administer these services and on 2 June 1970 the Governor-in-Council approved the establishment of the Alcoholics and Drug Dependent Persons Services Branch pursuant to Section 6 of the Health Act. Section 6 of the Health Act was amended to enable the Alcoholics and Drug Dependent Persons Services Branch to be controlled by the Mental Health Authority. In 1978 the Alcohol and Drug Dependent Persons Services Branch was transferred to the control of the newly established Health Commission (VA 652).
In 1985 the provision of services under the Alcoholics and Drug Dependent Persons Act 1968 (No.7772) became the responsibility of the Department of Health II (VA 2695).
For more information and records documenting the central administration of these institutions/centres see VRG 26 Chief Secretary for the period 1855 to 1944 and VRG 39 Health for 1944 to the present.
Location of Records
While the PRO has significant holdings of the records of institutions for the care of intellectually disabled and psychiatrically ill persons and alcoholics, particularly for the period prior to the 1950's, and some records from hospitals and charitable institutions, the holdings are very far from complete. Researchers are also advised to consult the List of Holdings 2nd edition 1985, section 8.0.0. (Health and Welfare Agencies).