|Description of this AgencyDescription of this Agency|
Establishment and Development of Services
The Kew Asylum was first opened in 1871 as a ward of Yarra Bend. For a short period Kew was also known as the "Metropolitan Asylum". Many of Kew's early patients were transferred from Yarra Bend and the Collingwood Asylum. In October 1872 Kew was proclaimed a separate institution from Yarra Bend.
Since its establishment the title of the institution at Kew has been altered several times to reflect both the community's changing attitude towards mental illness and the Government of Victoria's approach to the treatment of mentally disturbed persons. Despite the changes in designation the function and structure of the agency has not altered significantly, therefore the institution has been registered as one continuous agency. From its establishment until 1905 the institution at Kew 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 who could possibly be cured. The Lunacy Act 1903 (No.309) 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".
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". Therefore 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.
In October 1962 Kew was formally proclaimed a Mental Hospital under the Mental Health Act 1959 (No.6605).
In January 1982 wards G1, G3, and G4 of Kew Mental Hospital were proclaimed a Psychiatric Hospital under the provisions of the Mental Health Act 1959 (No.6605). There wards were known as the Willsmere Unit and were established to receive and accommodate short-term acute patients. During the 1970's Kew also became known as Willsmere Hospital.
In December 1988 Kew/Willsmere Mental Hospital and the Willsmere Unit were decommissioned following a detailed report by the Parliamentary Social Development Committee.
Lunacy Statute 1867
Lunacy Act 1880
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 Hygiene Act 1986.
Location of Records
The Public Record Office has substantial holdings of clinical and administrative records from this agency. See below.