A New South Wales Act of 1838 (1 Vic. no. 3) provided "for the attendance of medical witnesses at Coroners' Inquests and Inquiries by Justices of the Peace." Prior to separation from New South Wales in 1859, until the enactment of The Inquests of Death Act of 1866, medical practitioners were appointed as coroners in some districts in Queensland. According to the Queensland Blue Book of 1864, Joseph Ward was appointed coroner for Maryborough on 6 October 1860.
Coroners were assisted in their inquiries by a Coroner's Jury, and, in 1861, the first Queensland act relating to Coroners' Courts enabled juries, which had delivered a verdict of manslaughter to accept bail. The Inquests on Fires Act of 1863 empowered coroners to hold inquests on fires. The Inquests of Death Act of 1866 Act, however, stated that juries were no longer to be summoned for inquests and that depositions, together with a certificate of the supposed cause of death, be forwarded to the Attorney-General, and a duplicate-certificate be sent to the Commissioner of Police. Medical practitioners could be called to provide testimony if there was any reasonable doubt as to the cause of death.
A note in the Queensland Blue Book 1867 states that "the duties of coroner are performed by the Police Magistrates and Justices of the Peace in the several districts of the colony without juries." No further entries appear for coroners outside Brisbane.
No major change to the discharge of coroners' duties was enacted until The Coroner's Act of 1930.
The Coroners Act of 1930 consolidated inquest legislation and established Coroner's jurisdiction within each petty sessions district constituted under the Justices Acts 1886 to 1929. Under this legislation, a Coroner's Court could be constituted by a police magistrate, or in petty sessions districts where no police magistrate had been appointed, by a clerk of petty sessions.
In 2003, the position of State Coroner was established by the Coroners Act 2003, and the appointment of the first State Coroner by the Governor in Council was gazetted on 17 April 2003 to take effect on and from 1 July 2003.
The Coroners Court had jurisdiction to inquire into the manner and cause of death of any persons killed, drowned, who died of unknown causes, who died under suspicious circumstances, who had not been granted certificates of death by medical practitioners, who died in prisons, asylums or other institutions and who were unattended by medical practitioners three months prior to death. Coroners were also granted jurisdiction to inquire into the circumstances of fires and the circumstances surrounding missing persons.
In 2003, the new coronial system is intended to place a strong emphasis on preventing deaths, providing information and support to families, and ensuring greater sensitivity to different cultures and beliefs.
The State Coroner's functions include:
overseeing and co-ordinating the coronial system,
seals of the Coroners Courts are to be kept under the State Coroner's directions; and the State Coroner may issue practice directions about general procedures of the Courts. At the local level, magistrates will continue to act as coroners, and are granted powers to make recommendations in relation to public health or safety, the administration of justice and ways to prevent similar future deaths.