The Public Health Act 1903 also known by the full title 'An Act to consolidate and amend the Law relating to Public Health' (Act no. 3 Edw. VII No.37), enacted in response to the recent Launceston smallpox epidemic, established the Public Health Department, repealed the Contagious Diseases Acts (Act no.42 Vict. No.36), and provided for the protection of 'illegitimate' babies. This legislation was repealed and replaced by The Public Health Act 1935 (Act no. 26 Geo. V No.43) in 1935.
The Public Health Act 1903 attempted to protect illegitimate babies by stipulating that anyone, who was not the mother, caring for more than one baby under two years, or two babies, if twins, for more than twenty-four hours, must be registered with the local authority. Carers had to be of 'good character' and able to 'properly maintain' the child. Authorities had to be informed of a child's death within twenty-four hours.
The Act did almost nothing to assist illegitimate babies because local authorities did little or nothing to implement it. The Infant Life Protection Act 1907 (Act no.7 Edw. VII No.51), took responsibility for registering foster mothers from the local authorities and gave it to the Police Department.
1885 - 1904 The Public Health Act 1885
1904 - 1935 The Public Health Act 1903
Sources used to compile this entry: Evans, Caroline, Protecting the Innocent: Tasmania's Neglected Children, Their Parents and State Care, 1890-1918, University of Tasmania, Hobart, 1999, 251 pp, http://eprints.utas.edu.au/14453/; 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 and Elizabeth Daniels
Created: 8 December 2011, Last modified: 26 May 2015