Full description Background

Society's attitudes to and understanding of psychiatric illness has changed significantly since the 1840's and these changes have been reflected in the nature of the institutions established and in the policies and structure of the central administration.

What follows is an account of some of these developments. It is an outline only and further research is required.

To assist researchers to locate the records they require it is necessary that the historical terms for psychiatric illness 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.

Detention of Lunatics

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 1843 (7 Vic., No.14) persons certified as "dangerous lunatics" or "dangerous idiots" could be committed by warrant to a gaol, house of correction or public hospital until discharged on the authority of two Justices of the Peace or until, on the order of the Governor, they were removed to a colonial lunatic asylum. Prior to 1848 lunatics were either detained in gaols or transferred to the Tarban Creek Lunatic Asylum in New South Wales.

In 1848 the first permanent institution for the detention of lunatics within the Port Phillip District was established as a ward of the Tarban Creek Lunatic Asylum. Despite the establishment of this institution at Yarra Bend, the authorities continued to place lunatics in gaols.

Following the establishment of Victoria as a separate colony in 1851, the Colonial Secretary (VRG 16) became responsible for the Yarra Bend Lunatic Asylum (VA 2839). The Civil Establishments for 1851 and 1852 show John Sullivan as holding the posts of Colonial Surgeon, Medical Officer to the Lunatic Asylum and Surgeon to the Gaol. In 1853 Robert Bowie was appointed as Surgeon Superintendent of the Lunatic Asylum and William McCrea became Colonial Surgeon, later Chief Medical Officer. There is evidence in the Civil Establishment lists to suggest that the Chief Medical Officer had responsibility for the Asylum until at least 1856 and Appendix 14 of the Report of the Committee of Inquiry into Hospital and Health Services in Victoria (1975) suggests that this relationship continued until 1861 from which time the Superintendent of the Asylum was directly responsible to the Chief Secretary (VRG 26). From 1856 the Civil Establishment shows the staff of the lunatic asylums as part of the Chief Secretary's Department (VA 475).

Lunacy Statute 1867

In 1867, with the passing of the Lunacy Statute (No.309), the law relating to the treatment of lunatics was consolidated and significantly amended. The 1867 Act regulated the admission, detention and treatment of patients and established standards for the management of public asylums and institutions. The Lunacy Statute provided for the proclamation of public asylums which were institutions for the reception of lunatics and their detention at public cost. A distinction was apparently made between an "asylum" and a "receiving hospital", the latter being intended for the reception of patients prior to diagnosis and long term committal to an asylum. The Act also provided for the establishment of lunacy wards within public hospitals. These wards were intended to be reception centres for the short term treatment of those suffering from transient insanity, that is, those who might reasonably be expected to recover within a matter of days or weeks.The Act also provided for the licensing of institutions for the reception of lunatics and these were to be known as licensed houses. Licensed houses were required to meet standards of management and patient care and to maintain records comparable with those required of public asylums.

The Yarra Bend Asylum (VA 2839), the Collingwood Receiving Hospital (VA 2851) the Royal Park temporary Lunatic Asylum (all previously existing institutions) and the newly established Ararat Asylum (VA 2841) and Beechworth Asylum (VA 2842) were proclaimed as public asylums on 1 October 1867.

The Lunacy Statute also provided for the appointment of an Inspector of Lunatic Asylums and Licensed Houses and for the appointment of Official Visitors. The Inspector of Lunatic Asylums and Licensed Houses was required to visit every institution at least once in every three months. The Official Visitors were empowered to visit and report on the condition of the asylums and on the treatment of patients. These authorities were required to inspect the buildings; to see every patient and to inquire whether any patient was held under restraint; to inspect the orders and certificates authorising the reception of all patients admitted since their last visit and to prepare a report of their findings. They were also required "to inquire as to the care, treatment and mental and bodily health of the patients" and as to "the arrangements for their maintenance and comfort, ... what occupations or amusements are provided, ... whether there has been adopted any system of coercion or noncoercion ... and also as to the classification and the dietary of the patients". (See Lunacy Act 1867.)
Every institution was required to keep an Inspector's Book and a Patients Book in which the authorities were to record their observations and recommendations. The Inspector was also empowered to authorise visits to patients by relatives and medical personnel and to authorise the transfer of patients, their absence from an institution or their placement in the care of a relative or friend. However only the Chief Secretary could authorise the transfer of a patient from one institution to another. The Inspector could also recommend the discharge of a patient but all discharges required the consent of the Chief Secretary and were usually arranged by the person who signed the original admission order.

The Chief Secretary (VRG 26) was responsible for the administration of the granting of licences to licensed houses.

On 1 October 1867 Edward Paley, Superintendent of the Yarra Bend Asylum, was appointed to the position of Inspector of Lunatic Asylums and Licensed Houses. With this appointment a Hospitals for the Insane Branch (VA 2863) was established within the Chief Secretary's Department (VA 475). From this time the Civil Establishment lists show staff of the individual lunatic asylums as part of the Hospitals for the Insane Branch and a separate division for this Branch is found within the Appropriation Acts. However it is not until 1884 that a separate reference to the Inspector's Office is found in the Civil Establishment lists and this may be because the incumbent continued to be a Medical Superintendent of one of the asylums.

As the Hospitals for the Insane Branch was located within the Chief Secretary's Department, the Under-Secretary of that Department, as its permanent head, had responsibility for those officers employed within the Civil and later the Public Service. However, the Inspector of Lunatic Asylums and Licensed Houses appears to have exercised effective authority in matters of policy and the operation of institutions and was required to report directly to the Chief Secretary and thence to Parliament. The Inspector also made recommendations regarding the appointment and supervision of personnel, though many decisions required the approval of the Public Service Commissioner.

Royal Commission on Asylums for the Insane and Inebriates 1884 - 1886

The Royal Commission on Asylums for the Insane and Inebriate was commissioned on 17 May 1884 and presented its report on 29 April 1886. (See Papers Presented to Parliament 1886, Vol.2, p.271.)

Frequently referred to as the Zox Commission, the Royal Commission was required to inquire into and report upon the state and condition of Asylums for the Insane and Inebriates, both public and . Its inquiries were extensive and the Commission produced two progress reports prior to its final report in 1886. The Commission was empowered to inquire into the mode and management (of institutions), remedial treatment and results, the classification of inmates, the policy of continuing large metropolitan institutions, the advisability of licensing patients to individuals, the due classification of the imbecile and the insane, the proper position of medical officers in relation to the system of management, special qualifications necessary for all officers and employees before appointment and their mode of appointment, the system of official visitors and inspection, the mode of obtaining supplies and any further matter that appeared important to the Commissioners.

The Royal Commission made some sixty five recommendations in its final report. A number of the Commission's recommendations were implemented prior to the presentation of its final report, others were implemented through the Lunacy Amendment Act 1888 and some recommendations were not implemented until proclamation of the Lunacy Act 1903 in 1905.

The Commission recommended that criminal patients be kept apart from other patients and that an asylum for criminal lunatics be erected at Sunbury. In December 1886 the old gaol at Ararat was proclaimed as "J Ward" of the Ararat Asylum (VA 2841). It was intended to cater for the admission of the criminally insane. Prior to their transfer to "J Ward", patients had to be certified as insane by two medical practitioners and the Chief Secretary was responsible for the issue of a warrant authorising their transfer to "J Ward". The asylum at Sunbury was not completed until 1893 by which time the authorities decided to retain Ararat Gaol as an asylum for male criminal lunatics and use the new Sunbury ward for the detention of female patients considered dangerous to themselves or others.

Lunacy Amendment Act 1888

Provision for the detention of the criminally insane was formally introduced with the Lunacy Amendment Act 1888 (No.986). The criminally insane were defined as those persons detained in a gaol, reformatory or industrial school who appeared to be insane and those persons who had been ordered to be kept in safe custody under the provisions of the Criminal Law and Practice Act i.e. those who were to be detained during the "Governor's pleasure". The 1888 Act authorised the transfer of insane prisoners to an asylum for the criminally insane.

The Act also provided for the proclamation of receiving houses which were to be any asylum or portion of an asylum which was intended for the short term detention of patients. Orders for the initial committal of patients were to be made for a period not exceeding 28 days and patients were to be placed first in a receiving house for a period of observation. Patients were to be immediately examined and if they were found to be insane they could be transferred to an asylum. However if they were found not to be insane they were to be discharged.

The Act also required the annual examination of patients unless they were being detained at the Queen's pleasure and medical practitioners were required to report to the Inspector of Lunatic Asylums and to forward a copy of the report to the Chief Secretary. If the Inspector concurred that a patient was not insane, the patient could be discharged and in the event of a difference of medical opinion, the Chief Secretary was to determine the outcome.

The Act also authorised the establishment of separate accommodation for paying patients and the boarding out of patien... truncated

Data time period: 1836 to 2013

141.000000,-34.000000 142.919336,-34.145604 144.582129,-35.659230 147.742627,-35.873175 150.024219,-37.529041 150.200000,-39.200000 141.000000,-39.200000 141.000000,-34.000000 141.000000,-34.000000


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