The principal functions of the Commonwealth in terms of health in South Australia have been quarantine and public health. The Commonwealth inherited quarantine responsibilities with the passing of the Quarantine Act 1908. All state quarantine officers were appointed to execute quarantine duties on behalf of the Commonwealth. These officers continued to operate out of the state offices in Port Adelaide and the Torrens Island quarantine station. Following amendments to the Act in 1912, 1915 and 1920, quarantine was transferred to the newly created Department of Health in March 1921, when the Director of Quarantine became the Director-General of Health.
The Department of Health was responsible for (but not limited to) the administration of the Quarantine Act; investigation of the causes of disease and death, and establishment and control of laboratories for this purpose; collection of sanitary data and investigation of all factors affecting health in industries; and education of the community in matters of public health. In 1946 the Constitution was formally amended to give the Commonwealth Government greater health powers – it was now able to make laws about pharmaceutical, hospital and sickness benefits, and medical and dental services.