Administrative history note:
The Board of Health, consisting of six members, a was appointed, under the provisions of the Infectious Diseases Supervision Act, 1881 (Act No. 25 of 1881), as a "Board of Advice to assist in preventing the spread of small pox." (1) On 6 January, 1882 a proclamation in the NSW Government Gazette notified the appointment of nine members of the re-named Board of Health. The Board consisted of The Mayor of Sydney, The Under-Secretary for Finance and Trade, The Inspector-General of Police, the Health Officer and five medical practitioners. (2) In August 1883 C.K. Mackellar became the first President of the Board (3) combining that office with the position of Health Officer for Port Jackson to which he had been appointed in July 1882. (4)
Under the Noxious Trades and the Slaughtering of Cattle Act, 1894 (57 Vic. Act No. 21) the Board of Health acquired responsibility for inspecting registers of persons carrying out noxious trades; receiving reports from local authorities relating to Noxious Traders, if necessary entering and inspecting premises where noxious trades were carried out; (5) and controlling of abattoirs (6)
The Board was restructured under An Act to Promote the Public Health, 1896 (60 Vic. Act No. 38) which set the membership of the board at between seven and ten at least four of whom should be medical practitioners. (7) The responsibilities of the Board were as follows:
. exercising responsibilities under the Noxious Trades and Cattle Slaughtering Act, 1894 (8)
. exercising the powers conferred upon local authorities by the Dairies Supervision Act (9)
. exercising responsibilities conferred upon local authorities under An Act to Promote Public Health, 1896 (10)
. authorising any inquiry into any matter concerning public health (11)
. inspection of water supply and sewerage works and making recommendations to the Secretary for Public Works (12)
Local Authorities were required to make available all relevant records to the Board (13) The Board was to make regulations for its own procedures and to assign responsibilities to its members. (14)
The Board of Health was incorporated by The Public Health Act, 1902 (Act No. 30, 1902). (15) In addition to the responsibilities incurred upon it by the Public Health Act, 1897 the Board assumed responsibility for authorising isolation under the Quarantine Act, 1897 (16) and recommending the creation of new medical districts or alteration to boundaries of existing ones. (17) The Act required local authorities to submit a quarterly report to the Board covering all public health issues and the administration of the Public Health Act within their district. (18) Frank Tidswell, Principal Assistant Medical Officer also filled the role of Microbiologist from 1 January, 1898 until 1 July 1908 when the Bureau of Microbiology was established. (19)
In February 1904 the whole of the public health organisation was brought under the control of the Colonial Secretary's Department, the Board of Health and the Health Officer of Port Jackson having been previously under the control of the Colonial Treasurer. Following the consolidation of the department of the Board of Health and the Chief Medical Officer to the Government, as the Medical Adviser was by then known, a Department of Public Health was established in April 1904, with the President of the Board of Health being classed as the Permanent Head. (20)
Under the Pure Foods Act, 1908 ( Act No 31, 1908) the Board was authorised to require an analysis of any food, drug or appliance being advertised and could recommend the publication in the Gazette of the report prepared. These recommendations were made by the Advisory Committee for the Purposes of the Pure Food Act of which the President of the Board of Health was the ex-officio Chairman. (21) The board could also advise that any product be withdrawn from sale or that advertising cease if it "is injurious to life or health, or which by reason of its inactivity or inefficiency is useless for the advertised purposes or cure" (22) The Act also provided for the Board to require adequate labelling of disinfectants, germicides, antiseptics and preservatives (23) and could require councils to submit representative samples of food and drugs for testing. (24)
The Board was composed of medical practitioners, lay members and government officials, with, from 1913, the Director General of Public Health as President. (25)
The Public Health (Amendment) Act, 1915 (Act No. 7, 1915) strengthened the role of the Board to require Councils to maintain cleanliness and acceptable health standards in their areas of responsibility including for the sewerage and drainage, sanitation, public baths, abattoirs, cemeteries. (26) The Board was authorised to recommend changes to the regulations under the Factories and Shops Act, 1912 (27) , to inspect premises licensed under the Liquor Act, 1912 (28), to take a role in the diagnosis and isolation of tuberculosis patients (29) recommend regulations for containing infectious disease by regulating those employed in the food packaging industry (30) declaring infected areas to control smallpox, plague, cholera or similar diseases (31) and to identify premises unfit for human habitation. (32)
The Public Health (Amendment) Act, 1921 (Act No.18, 1921) authorised the Board to declare rat-infected premises a nuisance and authorised the Board to prepare regulations to assist in the control of rats and mice and the prevention of diseases caused by them. Regulations could include penalties for non-compliance. (33)
The Public Health Amendment Act, 1944 (Act No 16, 1944) altered the constitution of the Board bringing into legislation the convention that the Director General of Public Health is ex-officio the President of the Board of Health. (34) The Board's right of entry under the Dairies Supervision Act, 1901 was withdrawn, but it acquired similar rights under the Local Government Act, 1919 and subsequent acts. (35) The Board's discretion to authorise inquiries was expanded to allow the taking of samples for the purposes of analysis. (36) The Constitution was changed to reflect the fact that the Board's staff or other persons authorised by it may carry out some of its functions.
The Fluoridation of Public Water Supplies Act, 1957 (Act No 58, 1957) gave the Board the responsibility to authorise water supply authorities to add fluoride to water (37) and to make recommendations for regulations for the analysis of water and for the protection of employees involved in fluoridation. (38)
The Board of Health was abolished by the Health Commission Act, 1972 (Act No 63, 1972) on 30 April 1973. The Board last met on 11 April, 1973. (39) Its functions were taken over, in June 1973 by the Advisory Board of Health. (40)
(1) Infectious Diseases Supervision Act, 1881 (Act No. 25 of 1881) s.1.
(2) NSW Government Gazette, 6 January 1882, p.60.
(3) NSW Government Gazette, 21 August 1883, p.4995.
(4) NSW Government Gazette, 25 July 1882, p.3845.
(5) Noxious Trades and the Slaughtering of Cattle Act, 1894, ss.4-7.
(6) Ibid. s.16.
(7) An Act to promote the Public Health, 1896 s.3.
(9) Ibid. s.4.
(11) Ibid. s.7.
(12) Ibid. s.8.
(13) Ibid. s.5.
(14) Ibid. s.6.
(15) Public Health Act 1902 s.6.
(16) Ibid. s.15.
(17) Ibid. s.16.
(18) Ibid. s.23.
(19) Blue Book 1909, p.20; NSW Government Gazette, 16 July 1908, p.3900.
(20) NSW Government Gazette, 15 April 1904, p.3049.
(21) Pure Food Act, 1908, s.16.
(22) Ibid. s.17.
(23) Ibid. s.19.
(24) Ibid. s.26.
(25) Parliamentary Papers 1914/15, Volume 4, p.175 Director-General of Public Health, Annual Report for the Year ended 30 June, 1913, p.1.
(26) Public Health (Amendment Act) 1915 ss.3-6 and Schedule 1.
(27) Ibid s. 7 and Schedule II.
(28) Ibid. s.8.
(29) Ibid. s.10.
(30) Ibid. s.13.
(31) Ibid. s.15.
(32) Ibid. s.16.
(33) Public Health (Amendment) Act, 1921 s.4.
(34) Public Health Amendment Act, 1944 s.3 (a) (i).
(35) Ibid. s.3 (a) (ii) (b).
(36) Ibid. s3 (a) (ii) (d)
(37) Fluoridation of Public Water Supplies Act, 1957 s.6.
(38) Ibid. s.11.
(39) Advisory Board of Health Minute Book, 1973-1974 [6/4477] p.1; Health Commission Act, 1972 (Act No.63, 1972), s.16 (2); NSW Government Gazette No.53, 27 April 1973, p.1428.
(1) "Concise Guide", 2nd Edition. "A - Cl", "Board of Health" p.22.