General Correspondence Files (General Health Branch ?1944-1978; Public Health Division 1978-1986)
||1944 - 1986
||Series in Custody
||1944 - 1986
||1838 - 2009
|Format of Records:
|Agency which created this SeriesAgency which created this Series|
|Agency currently responsible for this SeriesAgency currently responsible for this Series|
|Description of this SeriesDescription of this Series|
- How to use the Records
Consult the list/s of records in this series
Note: The card index to this series, i.e. VPRS 14837, is still in the custody of the Department of health and Human Services.
The file numbers detailed in the list/s of records for this series are typically located on the bottom of the file covers along with a bar code label.
- Function / Content
The records in this series were created to administer policies, procedures and correspondence relating to the public health function in Victoria. The record keeping system comprises inward and outward general correspondence and internally generated records of the General Health Branch (Public Health).
Prior to 1944, public health functions were overseen by a Central Board of Health, established in 1855, followed by the Board of Public Health established in 1890, and the Commission of Public Health from 1919.
In 1944, with the proclamation of the Ministry of Health Act 1943 (No.4988), there was a reorganisation of the administration of health functions in Victoria. Responsibility for all health services was transferred to the Minister of Health, and a Department of Health (VA 695) was established. The General Health Branch (known as Public Health prior to 1944) was established as the administrative arm of the Department of Health I (VA 695).
The Commission of Public Health answered directly to the Minister and Permanent Head of the Health Department and administered the Health Act of 1958, a consolidated Act outlining the legislative requirements for general health in the State of Victoria over such areas as clear air, sewerage, garbage, infectious disease control, and school hygiene.
In 1978 the Commission became a division of the Health Commission of Victoria (VA 652). The Health Commission assumed responsibility for all functions previously administered by the Department of Health I (VA 695), the Mental Health Authority (VA 692), the Commission of Public Health (VA 694) and the Hospitals and Charities Commission (VA 693). In 1986 it became a division of the Health Department, Victoria.
The records in this series comprise the entire central records of the public health function in Victoria. The series dates from 1944 to 1986 with the contents date range going back to 1840's, in the case of cemeteries records. It is apparent that when the series was established, the contents of some files were top numbered (i.e incorporated) into this series from one or more previous filing systems, the contents of which included documents made or received by the range of agencies historically responsible for these functions. These agencies include the:
- Central Board of Health, Chief Secretary's Department (VA 475)
- Department of Public Health (VA 2904)
- Board of Public Health, and
- Commission of Public Health (VA 694).
The subject of individual files range across many of the functions exercised by the Branch/Division. Included among the wide variety of files within the series are files containing:
- annual reports submitted by municipal health officers
- health by laws to be adopted by municipalities
- correspondence pertaining to health complaints received
- general information regarding specific diseases
- correspondence pertaining to the appointment of health inspectors
- correspondence between individual hospitals and the Branch/Division
- correspondence relating to the management of cemeteries
- reports of inspections under the Meat Supervision Regulations
- approvals for the construction of septic tanks, and
- reports of water quality inspections.
This series does not include files pertaining to the establishment of standards and approvals for the construction of public buildings. These were maintained in separate series (VPRS 7882).
Many of the files document the first instances of inspections and reporting for functions and activities relating to public health in Victoria, and illustrate the movement over time towards establishment of formalised regulations and regular programmed inspections of sites and practises relating to public health and food safety. Examples of files which document the origins of what are now routine and regular activities have been retained as evidence of the progress from recognition of the need to formalise a process, through to regulated and formalised practice and monitoring activities.
Many of the activities previously administered by the General Health Branch of the Department of Health are now managed by local government and other statutory or commercial organisations.
There appears to have been a partial audit of the collection in 1951, although it is not clear whether this audit covered the entire collection or only selected groupings based on the subject areas. A number of files contain a sheet of paper inside the back cover, dating from the year 1951, noting that no previous file exists.
- Recordkeeping System
Each file in this series was classified according to its contents. Up to thirty-seven separate subject headings have been identified, each representing an activity within the Branch or Division. The number of subject headings appears to have changed over time, reflecting changes in the activities of the General Health Branch and the Public Health Division.
The subject headings are supplemented by two general classifications:
- General Index, which appears to have been used for those files whose contents could not be classified according to the other specific headings, and
- Locality Index, which appears to have functioned in the same manner as the General Index except that the issues dealt with were seen to be confined within a specific locality or geographical area.
Most files within the series are numbered with an H prefix, followed by an alpha prefix initial or abbreviation of the file subject (e.g. GAR for Garbage Depot files, and ST for Septic Tank files), which proceeds a sequential file number. When classified, each file would be allocated the next sequential file number within that category. These numbers were allocated from a sequence of registers. The registers have not been located, with the exception of the register for septic tank files.
As an example, file number H.CPT. 14 represents the fourteenth file within the complaints category, and H.A.R.5 represents the fifth file within the annual reports category. It is presumed that the letter H was an indicator at the time of creation that the file belonged to the General Health Branch within the Department of Health, although no documentary evidence has been sighted to confirm this.
Files in the General Index sequence or subject classification were initially numbered only with a single H prefix, followed by the unique file number. A standardised alpha prefix of H.G.I was adopted later, and files within the General Index classification may be number either with an H or an HGI prefix, followed by the file number.
When a file became too large to be easily handled, a new part file retaining the original file number was created. Part files are identified by the addition of the part number. For example, a part two to one of the files identified above would be expressed in the following manner; H. Cpt. 14/2. A file cover sheet is attached to the front of each file. It records the allocated file number, the general subject category and the specific file title.
Files relating to cemeteries are numbered with an H.CEM. prefix, followed by a sequential number relating to a place name. Subsequent part files have sometimes been numbered with multiple suffixes to indicate parts. As an example, files relating to Fawkner Cemetery (New Melbourne General Cemetery), Fawkner Crematorium and Memorial Park, Fawkner Cemetery Extension, and a proposed Fawkner Cemetery Extension (Abandoned), were all allocated a single identifying number, H.CEM.333, followed by various part numbers, eg H.CEM.333/6, H.CEM.333/D, and five files covering different date ranges which are all numbered H.CEM.333/B2. In order to enable identification of individual file parts, the files have been numbered as H.CEM.333 and part files H.CEM.333-02 through to H.CEM.333-20. This model has been used for the files of other cemeteries which comprise a number of part files.
A card index (originally maintained in flat drawers within metal cabinets) was also created (VPRS 14837). A card was created for each file created which records the file number and file title allocated and details of file movements between officers of the Department. The cards are then arranged in alphabetical order by file title within each category. The categories are not arranged in any particular order within the index however, each drawer is clearly labelled with the category.
There are, at times, differences between the file number as it appears on the file cover, and the corresponding index card for the file. Many file numbers have an "H" prefix, however this is not always included in the file number represented on the corresponding index card for the file. This relates particularly to the group of files relating to Garbage Depots, which have a prefix of "GAR", and General Index files, with a prefix of "GI". As a result, in this collection, some files in the group relating to Garbage Depots, with a 'GAR' alpha prefix, have been labelled with a file number which includes an "H" prefix, whilst other files do not have an "H" prefix. Files relating to Food Standards do not have an "H" prefix on the file cover, and have been recorded as "FS", followed by the subject-specific alpha prefix and the file number.
The Public Health Division of the Health Commission ceased to exist during August 1985 when the Department of Health II was established. This series was maintained by the new Department into 1986, when a new filing sequence was established which combined both the general correspondence (VPRS 14831) and Executive files (VPRS 14832) created by the central registry of the Department and previous Commission's Central Administration Division with this series. The new series was controlled by a computerised record management system utilising the `RMS' software package. Under this package files were allocated a sequential number with a numeric/alpha prefix which identified a broad subject area. During the process of the establishment of this new system, the Health Department selected a number of files from within this series which were considered to be required for future reference/action. These files were accordingly `top numbered' (i.e allocated new file numbers from) into the new filing system. The relevant entries in the card index in VPRS 14837 were annotated with the new file number.
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