AGY-11 | Department of Attorney General and of Justice (1901-1984) Attorney-General's Department [I] (1984-1991)

NSW State Archives Collection
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On 1st August, 1901, the Departments of Attorney General and Justice were formally amalgamated and were known as the Department of Attorney General and of Justice (1). On the same date the Registrar General's Department, Examiner of Patents, Registrar of Copyright and Registrar of Trademarks, which had formerly belonged to the Attorney General, were transferred to the Chief Secretary's Department, the Office of Weights and Measures moved to the Colonial Treasurer's Department, and cemetery administration was transferred to the Department of Lands. (2)

The new Department comprised the Attorney General's Ministerial Office, the Parliamentary Draftsman, Crown Solicitor's Office, Judge's Associates and Tipstaves, Equity Court, Prothonotary and Divorce Court, Bankruptcy Court, Sheriff, Probate and Intestate Estates Office, Districts, Coroners, Petty Sessions and Prisons. (3)

The Registrar General’s Department, Examiner of Patents and the Registrar of Trade Marks returned to the control of the Attorney General and Justice on 11 July 1906. (4)

On 1 April 1911 the Department of Attorney General and of Justice was divided into two branches - the Justice Branch and the Attorney General's Branch. Herbert Frederick Morris was appointed Officer-in-Charge of the Attorney General’s Branch (5) and Edward William Fegan, Senior Clerk of the Justice Branch (6)

The Justice Branch was responsible for the Equity Office; the Bankruptcy Office; Sheriff's Office; Probate and Interstate Estates Office; Registrar General's Office; Courts of Petty Sessions; Registrars of District Courts; Coroners; Gaol and Penal Establishments; matters relating to the commutation or remission of sentences, or of fines, forfeitures, and estreats; and control of the Court Houses (7)

The Attorney General's Branch was responsible for the Office of Chief Justice and to the Puisne Judges, the Industrial Court and District Courts; the Office of Chairman of Quarter Sessions; the appointment of sittings of the Supreme Court at Circuit towns and District Courts and Courts of Quarter Sessions; advising the Government on all legal questions; the offices of the Crown Solicitor, Parliamentary Draftsman, the Crown Prosecutors, the Clerk of the Peace; and statute law consolidation (8)

The functions and structure of the Department remained substantially unchanged for over sixty years.

Following reallocation of responsibilities within Government on 3 January 1975, the Department of the Attorney General and Justice assumed responsibility for the appointment of Justices of the Peace, and the Office of the Protective Commission, but the following offices were removed from the Department:
* the Corrective Services Department, Council of Auctioneers and Agents, Police Department and the Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages were transferred to the Minister for Police and Services;
* the State Superannuation Board, NSW Retirement Fund, Police Superannuation Fund and the Bureau of Government Superannuation Research moved to the Minister for Revenue and Assistant Treasurer;
* the Land Titles Office of the Registrar General's Department and all legislation relating to conveyancing of real property were transferred to the Minister for Lands and Forests;
* Landlord and tenant legislation, the Rent Control Office and the Strata Titles Commissioner transferred to the Minister for Housing and Co-Operative Societies. (9).

On 19 December 1984 the name of the "Department of the Attorney General" was changed to the "Attorney General's Department" (10)

The Attorney General's Department was abolished on 1 July 1991 when the Department was divided to form the Attorney General's Department [II] and the Department of Court Administration. (11).

(1) NSW Government Gazette, 1 August 1901, p. 5931
(2) NSW Government Gazette Loc. Cit.
(3) NSW Public Service Lists. 1902 p.56-97
(4) NSW Government Gazette 11 July 1906 p. 3957
(5) NSW Government Gazette 28 June 1911 p. 3555
(6) NSW Public Service List 1911 p. 44
(7) Official Yearbook NSW, 1911, pp 39.
(8) Ibid. p. 38
(9) Attorney General and Justice "Outline". 1975, p.5
(10) NSW Government Gazette 21 December 1984 p. 6444
(11) NSW Government Gazette 28 June 1991 p. 5335

(1) Public Service Lists, 1901 - 1960, Sydney, Government Printer, Public Service Lists, 1901 - 1960 .
(2) Kass, Terry A Brief history of the Attorney-General's Department. Sydney, Attorney General's Department, 1996
(3) 'Outline': journal of the Department of the Attorney-General and of Justice, 1968- 1978

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