|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.
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.