Agency VA 2841
Ararat (Asylum 1867-1905; Hospital for the Insane 1905-1934; Mental Hospital 1934-1993; Training Centre 1966-1993; Ararat Forensic Psychiatry Centre 1991-1997; Training Centre and Mental Hospital known as non-statutory name of Aradale)
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Date Range: 1867 - 1997
Description of this AgencyDescription of this Agency

Establishment and Development of Services

In 1863, Ararat and Beechworth were chosen as sites for country asylums.

In October 1867, the Ararat Asylum officially opened for the 'reception of lunatics'. Its proclamation as an Asylum was published in the Government Gazette on 1 October 1867. It was officially opened on 19 October 1967.

In 1886, the old Ararat gaol was proclaimed J Ward of the asylum. J Ward housed 'criminal and dangerous' male patients under maximum security. J Ward was intended as a temporary solution, but it nonetheless continued for more than 100 years.

Since its establishment, the title of the institution at Ararat has been altered several times, reflecting both the community's changing attitude towards mental illness and the Victorian Government's approach to the treatment of mental illness.

From its establishment until 1905 the institution at Ararat was known as an Asylum. This title emphasised its function as a place of detention rather than a hospital which provided treatment for mentally ill people whose conditions could be managed. The Lunacy Act 1903 (1873) changed the title of all "asylums" to "hospitals for the insane". This Act came into operation in March 1905.

The Mental Hygiene Act 1933 (No.4157) altered the title to "mental hospitals". In 1934, it became Ararat Mental Hospital. In 1958, a local community competition resulted in the Mental Health Authority adopting the name Aradale, but this non-statutory title was never formalised.

In 1966, parts of Ararat Mental Hospital became the Ararat Training Centre for people with intellectual disabilities. Mental Hospital residents continued as patients. Patients identified as having an intellectual disability were reclassified as trainees and relocated to the Ararat Training Centre.

In 1991, J Ward closed and was replaced by the Ararat Forensic Psychiatry Centre, a medium security facility with 20 beds.

By 1993, all mental hospital patients and training centre trainees were relocated to various community-based housing facilities. In April 1994, the Ararat/Aradale Mental Hospital and Training Centre were decommissioned. Only the Forensic Psychiatry Centre remained.

In 1997, the Ararat Forensic Psychiatry Centre closed and the remaining patients were transferred to the Rosanna Forensic Centre at Mont Park in Melbourne.

Role of an Asylum

An asylum/hospital for the insane etc. was any public building proclaimed by the Governor-in-Council and published in the Government Gazette as a place for the reception of lunatics. An asylum could also provide wards for the temporary reception of patients as well as long-term patients. The Mental Health Act 1959 (No.6605) designated hospitals providing short-term diagnosis and accommodation as "psychiatric hospitals". Any institution could have a section designated as a mental hospital for long-term or indefinite hospitalization and a section designated as a psychiatric hospital for short-term diagnosis and treatment of acute psychiatric illness. Any such designations of particular wards are published in the Government Gazette.

Patients could not be retained in an Asylum without a warrant requesting their admission. Prior to 1867 the warrant was signed by the Governor. After this date the Chief Secretary (VRG 26) was responsible for this function. From 1934 the Director of Mental Hygiene (VA 2865) and from 1952 the Chief Medical Officer of the Mental Hygiene Branch (VA 2866) were successively responsible for admission of patients. The Lunacy Act 1914 (No.2539) made provision for the admission of patients on a voluntary basis as well as by certification.

J Ward

In December 1886 the old gaol at Ararat was proclaimed as "J Ward" of the Ararat Asylum. It was to cater for those persons who were detained in any gaol, reformatory or industrial school or other place of confinement who appeared to be insane. Before being transferred to "J Ward" any such person had to be certified as insane by two medical practitioners. The Chief Secretary was then responsible for directing the removal of the person from the gaol to "J Ward" by a signed warrant. The ward was not a separate institution in its own right and has continued to function as a division of the Ararat Mental Hospital. "J Ward" was always regarded as a temporary measure.

A new institution was to be built at Sunbury for the retention of the criminally insane. However when the building was nearing completion it was decided that it would house females only, and males would remain at "J Ward". "J Ward" remained the maximum security facility for the State's criminally insane until its closure in January 1991.


Lunacy Statute 1867
Lunacy Act 1888
Lunacy Act 1890
Lunacy Act 1903
Lunacy Act 1915
Lunacy Act 1928
Mental Hygiene Act 1933
Mental Hygiene Act 1958
Health Commission Act 1977.
Mental Health Act 1986.

Location of Records

The Public Record Office has substantial holdings of Clinical records from this agency. See below.
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Date Range Series Title Series Number Series Location Public Access
? 1884 - ? 1939 Outward Letter Books VPRS 18159 North Melbourne Open
? 1925 - ? 1980 Admission Register of Patients VPRS 18299 North Melbourne Closed
? 1990 - ? 1990 Patient Files (J Ward) VPRS 18304 North Melbourne Closed
1867 - ? 1959 Nominal Register of Patients VPRS 7427 North Melbourne Part Open
1867 - 1882 Index to Discharge Register of Patients VPRS 18139 North Melbourne Open
1867 - 1912 Case Books of Female Patients VPRS 7401 North Melbourne Open
1867 - 1939 Administration Outward Letter Books VPRS 18162 North Melbourne Open
1867 - 1960 Asylum Records VPRS 7455 North Melbourne Part Open
1867 - 1980 Medical Journal and Daily Report Books VPRS 18300 North Melbourne Part Open
1867 - 1988 Discharge Register of Patients VPRS 17790 North Melbourne Part Open
1867 - 1993 Admission and Discharge Register of Patients VPRS 18140 North Melbourne Part Open
1867 - 1997 Admission Index Cards VPRS 18377 North Melbourne Closed
1869 - ? 1881 Seclusion Register VPRS 18137 North Melbourne Open
1871 - 1948 Register of Complaints Against Staff VPRS 18303 North Melbourne Closed
1872 - 1953 Register of Inward Correspondence VPRS 18160 North Melbourne Open
1882 - 1987 Inspector Generals and Visitor Books VPRS 18298 North Melbourne Closed
1899 - ? 1965 Annual Examination of Patients Register VPRS 7430 North Melbourne Part Open
1900 - 1922 Circular and Memorandum Book VPRS 18161 North Melbourne Open
1906 - ? 1946 Post Mortem Register VPRS 7438 North Melbourne Closed
1910 - ? 1962 Annual and Quinquennial Examination of Patients Register VPRS 18181 North Melbourne Closed
Functions for which this Agency has or has had primary responsibilityFunctions for which this Agency has or has had primary responsibility
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Date of Responsibility Function Title Function Number
1867 - cont Health, mental VF 128
Functions for which this Agency has or has had secondary responsibilityFunctions for which this Agency has or has had secondary responsibility
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Superior AgenciesSuperior Agencies
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1867 - 1905 Hospitals for the Insane Branch VA 2863
1905 - 1933 Lunacy Department (located in Chief Secretary's Department) VA 2864
1934 - 1944 Department of Mental Hygiene (located in Chief Secretary's Department VA 475) VA 2865
1945 - 1978 Mental Hygiene Branch, Department of Health I VA 2866
1987 - 1993 Office of Psychiatric Services VA 2837
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Date of Relationship Group Title Group Number
1867 - cont Health and Welfare Agencies VRG 8