The Mental Health Act 1963 with the full title 'An Act to repeal the Mental Hospitals Act 1858, the Mental Deficiency Act 1920, and certain other enactments relating to persons suffering from mental disorder, and to make fresh provision with respect to the treatment and care of persons so suffering, and with respect to their property and affairs' (Act no.63/1963) replaced all previous Tasmanian acts pertaining to mental health, including the Mental Deficiency Act 1920 (Act no.11 Geo. V No.50). It established the Guardianship Board for people deemed to be unable to manage their own affairs. The Act was relevant to state wards diagnosed with a mental health disorder or an intellectual disability. This act was repealed by the Mental Health Act 1996 (No.31/1996) on 1 November 1999.
The Mental Health Act 1963 was based on British legislation.
By avoiding offensive terms (such as mental deficiency or mentally defective) in the language of the Act, its framers hoped to change public attitudes towards people with intellectual disabilities and mental illness.
The Mental Deficiency Act 1920 had a category of moral deficiency for which people could be brought under the guardianship of the Mental Deficiency Board. In the case of girls and women this category often meant defying contemporary attitudes towards sexual behaviour. The Mental Health Act 1963 specifically stated that 'promiscuity' was not an indication of a 'mental disorder'.
Sources used to compile this entry: Ombudsman Tasmania, Listen to the children: Review of claims of abuse from adults in state care as children, Office of the Ombudsman, Tasmania, Hobart, November 2004. Also available at https://nla.gov.au/nla.obj-1382077009/view. p.54.; Wettenhall, RL, A Guide to Tasmanian Government Administration, Platypus Publications, Hobart, 1968, 206 pp; Law Research Service, Melbourne Law School, Law Library, The University of Melbourne. 'Find and Connect Project - Tasmanian Legislation', 20 January 2014, held in the project files at the University of Melbourne eScholarship Research Centre.
Prepared by: Caroline Evans
Created: 12 January 2011, Last modified: 24 October 2017