Eugenics was an influential doctrine popular from the late nineteenth to the mid-twentieth centuries. While not discounting the role of environmental factors, it placed considerable emphasis on heredity in shaping an individual's characteristics. Eugenics had a racist element in that it emphasised the superiority of the white race. Its advocates believed that in order for white people to maintain their dominance in the world, governments should intervene to promote the physical fitness of white children.
In Tasmania, eugenicist thought encouraged measures to improve the survival rates of babies. It also underpinned the passage of the 1920 Mental Deficiency Act which had provisions to control children and adults considered to be 'mentally deficient'.
Sources used to compile this entry: 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.
Prepared by: Caroline Evans
Created: 21 October 2011, Last modified: 24 February 2014