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Tasmania - Organisation

Mental Deficiency Board (1922 - 1964)

Government Agency

The Mental Deficiency Board was established in 1922 by the 1920 Mental Deficiency Act. It oversaw the classification and management of children and adults deemed to have an intellectual disability. The Board supervised a number of state wards in conjunction with the Children of the State, and later, the Social Services Departments. The Guardianship Board replaced the Mental Deficiency Board in 1963.


The Mental Deficiency Board worked closely with the State Psychological Clinic. It diagnosed the children and adults who came under the Board's control.

After the establishment of the Mental Deficiency Board, more state wards, especially those at the Boys' Training School in Deloraine, were diagnosed with a mild intellectual disability known as feeble-mindedness. The stigma made it difficult for these boys to be found apprenticeships as farm hands with reasonable conditions and wages. Employees at the Children of the State Department expressed concerns about this but continued to cooperate with the Board in other matters.

A significant number of state wards came under the Board's control. This means that they had case files with the Board and the Department.


 1922 - 1964 Mental Deficiency Board
       1963 - c. 1995 Guardianship Board
             1995 - Guardianship and Administration Board

Related Concepts

  • Delinquent (c. 1910 - c. 1990)

    Children considered to be delinquent might be jointly managed by the Children of the State Department, or its successor, the Social Welfare Department, and the Mental Deficiency Board.

Related Events

Related Glossary Terms

Related Organisations


Journal Articles

  • Evans, Caroline and Parry, Naomi, 'Vessels of Progressivism? Tasmanian State Girls and Eugenics, 1900-1940', Australian Historical Studies, vol. 32, no. 117, University of Melbourne, Melbourne, 2001, pp. 322-333. Details
  • Rodwell, Grant, ''If the feeble-minded are to be preserved': special education and eugenics in Tasmania, 1900-1930', Issues in educational research, vol. 8, no. 2, 1998, pp. 131-156. Also available at Details


  • 'The mental deficiency bill, 1920:' report of Select Committee with minutes of proceedings and evidence, House of Assembly, 1920. Details

Online Resources

Prepared by: Caroline Evans