The Lunacy Act of 1878 (42 Vic Act No. 7) made provision for the appointment of a Master of Lunacy (the Master in Equity "for the time being... .
Arthur Todd Holroyd Esquire assumed the Office of the Master of Lunacy on 16 May, 1879 (5), but his office was not fully operational until 3 September, 1879. (6)
The Lunacy Act (further amendment) Act, 1893 [56 Victoria, Act No. 23] gave a clearer definition of the duties of the Master in Lunacy, enumerating in some detail his powers in relation to the property of patients, (6) executing instruments on their behalf, (7) disposition of their money including investment (8) and the dispersal of their property after death. (9)
The Australian Lunacy Convention Act, 1894 [58 Victoria, Act No. 5], further extended the powers of the Master in Lunacy to exercise the powers of the Court and in order to assist with his increasing workload facilitated the appointment of a Deputy Master and a Chief Clerk.
The Lunacy Act of 1898 (Act No 45, ,1898) repealed the previous Lunacy Act of 1878 and authorised the appointment of a Deputy Master in Lunacy (10) while retaining the clause relating to the powers and duties of the Master in Lunacy and the Master in Equity. (11) It placed control of all NSW asylums under the protection of a central administration (12) and commissioned the Inspector General to inspect all licensed establishments where insane persons were held, and to report annually to the Colonial Secretary.(13)
The Lunacy (Amendment) Act, 1955 (Act No. 3, 1955) gave the Master the same of collection, recovery, management, sale, disposition, administration, and inquiry over property in New South Wales belonging to psychiatric patients confined in other British countries (14)
The Lunacy Act 1898-1955 was repealed by the Mental Health Act (No.45, 1958) which altered the name of the Master's office from the Master in Lunacy to the Master in Protective Jurisdiction of the Supreme Court. The office continued to be held by the Master in Equity (15) In addition to his existing functions the Master could engage an agency (Bank, solicitor, stockbroker or other person) to administer or manage the estate of a patient, protected or incapable person. (16) The range of activities which could be performed in the name of the patient was expanded to include receiving moneys from private properties, selling property to a value of £1000, entering contracts, bringing or defending legal actions, managing a business, entering contracts, transferring land to the Real Property Act, 1900, sequestrating the estate under bankruptcy laws. (17)
The Supreme Court Act, 1970, (Act No 62, 1970) together with amendments to the Mental Health Act, effective from 1 July 1972 altered the name of the Protective Jurisdiction of the Supreme Court to the Protective Division (18) and the title of the Deputy Master in the Protective Division to the Registrar in the Protective Division. (19) The Master's Office became known as the Protective Office.
In 1977 the role of the office was described as follows
"The office is concerned mainly with the management and protection of the estates of psychiatric patients.
"Functions: Investigation, protection and management of estates of individuals who have been committed as patients in State psychiatric hospitals and the estates of voluntary patients where such patients have requested management of their affairs including also the continuation of the management of the estates of discharged patients where they are unable to manage their own affairs.
"Operation of the Registry of the Protective Division of the Supreme Court and supervision of the management of the estates of protected and incapable persons where private managers have been appointed by the [Supreme] Court.
"Services: Protective and managerial services so far as the business affairs of patients are concerned including:
Collection of income and capital entitlements;
Payment of Debts;
Providing for the maintenance of patients and dependants;
Leasing, purchase and sale of real estate;
Income and land tax returns;
Repairs and maintenance of real estate" (20)
The Office of the Protective Commissioner was placed on a firmer legislative basis and became a statutory body under the Protected Estates Act, 1983 and the office was re-constituted from 8 August, 1985 when the Act was proclaimed.
(1) Lunacy Act, 1878 s.105
(2) Loc. Cit.
(3) Ibid. s. 106
(4) Ibid s. 109 ff
(3) NSW GG 16 May, 1879 p.2145.
(4) Public Service Lists, 1880 p.31.
(5) Loc Cit.
(6) Report on the working of the Department of the Master in Lunacy, to 31 December, 1880 p.1 in NSW Parliamentary Papers 1880-81 vol 2. P.51
(6) Lunacy Act, Further Amendment Act, 1893 s. 21
(7) Ibid. s. 23
(8) Ibid. s. 25-26
(9) Ibid. s. 32
(10) Lunacy Act, 1898 s. 115
(11) Ibid ss.115 - 167
(12) Ibid ss. 77 - 78
(13) Ibid ss. 77 -81
(14) Lunacy (Amendment) Act, 1955 s 2. Addition to section 167B of the original Act
((15) Mental Health Act, 1958 s.3(2)(a)
(16) Ibis. s. 52 (2) -(3)
(17) Ibid. S. 61
(18) Supreme Court Act, 1970 s.8(b)
(19) Ibid. S. 8(f)
(20) NSW Government Directory 1977 p. 77 'Protective Office'