Margaret Julia Tobin (1952 – 14 October 2002) was a psychiatrist and leader of Australian mental health services reform. She was the victim of a murder committed by Eric Gassy, a former psychiatrist whom she had played a role in removing from medical practice some years prior.

Margaret Tobin
Margaret Tobin

Died14 October 2002

Early life and education


Margaret Julia Tobin was born in 1952 and was brought to Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, from the UK by her parents in 1954.[1] She was the eldest of eight children.[1]

She graduated from Mount Lilydale Mercy College in 1970 and received a scholarship to study medicine at Melbourne University in 1978.[2]

Australian mental health service reforms


Tobin completed her training in psychiatry in 1986 and as a psychiatrist, took on leadership roles and became a mental health services manager in Victoria.[1] Around this time, widespread corruption, abuse and neglect within Victorian mental health institutions came to light via several inquiries. Tobin led positive change and instigated reform in response to these findings in Willsmere, Melbourne; Lakeside Hospital and Aradale Hospital, Ballarat; and Ararat Hospital.[1]

This led to her appointment to St George Hospital in Sydney in 1993 to lead a similar rejuvenation of mental health services in the city.[1] After this she was appointed as head of mental health services for South Australia.[citation needed]

Eric Gassy


In 1994, Tobin wrote to the New South Wales Medical Board requesting the evaluation of fitness to practice of one of the staff specialists at St George's, Eric Gassy, following a period of extended sick leave. Gassy had at one point acted as director of the mental health unit at St George's; however, he was never formerly appointed due to paranoid behaviour, conflict with senior nursing staff, and a reputation for propositioning young female staff. No formal action had been taken, however, prior to Tobin's request for evaluation.[1]

Psychiatrists involved in the evaluation disagreed regarding Gassy's condition, and (likely due in part to this, and likely due in part to his lack of insight) appropriate treatment or help was not available to him via the mental health service systems of the time. As a result of this he was deregistered as a medical practitioner.[1]



Eight years later, Tobin had become the director of mental health services for South Australia. On 14 October 2002, she was returning to her office when Eric Gassy shot her four times. She died shortly after arriving at hospital.[3] Directly after the shooting, there was immediate concern that the motive had been to halt the ongoing mental health reform process, and prompt security measures were taken to protect staff and patients at Glenside Psychiatric Hospital, as well as the Premier and Health Minister.[4]

Honours and commemorations


Following her death, Dr Tobin and her legacy of mental health reform and health service leadership was honoured and commemorated in a number of different ways, including:


  • Book: Melissa Sweet, 2006. Inside Madness: How One Woman's Passionate Drive to Reform the Mental Health System Ended in Tragedy. Macmillan Australia
  • TV series episode: Michael Venables, 2017. Murder Calls Australia. (Season 1, episode 6) Margaret Tobin. Nine Network.[citation needed]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g "Sweet, M. 2018. Inside Madness – Medicolegal Society of New South Wales Inc. presentation" (PDF).
  2. ^ "Mount Lilydale Mercy College Honour roll inductees. 2017".
  3. ^ Sweet, M (2004). "Deregistered psychiatrist convicted of murder". BMJ. 22 (329): 759. PMC 520990.
  4. ^ Sweet, Melissa (2006). Inside Madness: How One Woman's Passionate Drive to Reform the Mental Health System Ended in Tragedy. Australia: MacMillan.
  5. ^ "RACMA Margaret Tobin Challenge Award".
  6. ^ "Lister House on North Terrace" (photo + text). State Library of South Australia. 16 February 1930. Retrieved 22 April 2024. Lister House, erected on a vacant site in 1928-9, North Terrace east, 16 February 1930.
  7. ^ "Adelaide Lister House". Flickr. Retrieved 22 April 2024.
  8. ^ "SA Health Regional Local Health Network Scholarship Program".
  9. ^ "RANZCP Awards".