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Organisation Lachlan Park Hospital (1937 - 1968)
- Care Provider and Government-run
Please note that this page reproduces the original language used in the historical sources drawn upon to compile this entry. This language includes offensive and derogatory terms which are today considered unacceptable. We apologise for any offence caused by such language.
Please note that this page contains information that could cause distress. We apologise if it does.
Lachlan Park Hospital was a secure mental asylum on the western side of the Lachlan River in New Norfolk. It was surrounded by a high wall and locked gates with security guards. It held over forty children and adolescents in 1963. Parents placed most of them there on the advice of doctors because of an intellectual or severe physical disability. In those days, these conditions carried a social stigma. In addition, parents who attempted to raise the children themselves received no government or community support. Other children were wards of state or, until 1963, under the guardianship of the Mental Deficiency Board.
In 1940, Bronte House became the Boys' Cottage and the former Boys' Cottage, L Ward, became M Ward for women and girls.
In a submission to the Senate Inquiry into Children in Institutional Care, a former ward of state described her time at Lachlan Park during the 1950s. The Sisters at the Magdalen Home had arranged her transferral to the children's ward there because they found her behaviour difficult to manage. She helped look after the younger children on the ward. In her submission, she recalled that the nurses restrained the children with Downs Syndrome so that they could not walk. On one occasion, the nurses caused burns by putting hot water bottles without covers on children who were too physically disabled to move. When the young woman tried to escape, after attempts to sedate her, she was transferred to another ward where, according to the submission, there was 'lots of screaming'. She was put in a cell with a 'small peephole' in the door.
Margaret Reynolds, the former senator, went to teach at Lachlan Park Special School, located in the grounds of Lachlan Park, in 1963. In her autobiography, she describes the asylum as a 'dumping ground'. Reynolds remembers her first visit to the Children's Ward. She wrote:
The Children's Ward was a very dispiriting place. It contained rows of cots and narrow iron beds, but there was no colour or life in the room. The floors were regularly mopped with standard hospital-issue disinfectant so the air was thick with an overpowering smell. Several young children suffering various degrees of paralysis or mental retardation were confined to their beds. I was appalled to discover that many of them were actually tied down with bandages, their bodies lifeless and their expressions vacant.
Later Reynolds discovered that there were other children in the asylum. Girls over 10 were scattered throughout the adult wards. Even J Ward, a maximum security ward for disabled adult women, occasionally held girls with 'behaviour problems'. Reynolds recalled that the ward smelled of urine and faeces, making it difficult to breathe. These children witnessed the disturbing behaviour of the adults and heard patients receiving electric shock treatment.
About 40 boys lived in a separate secure ward close to the school. Reynolds often heard the sound of boys being beaten. They had few activities to engage them. Some of them did not have intellectual disabilities but were juvenile offenders, placed at Lachlan Park because it was the only secure unit available, apart from Risdon Prison.
Plans to close Lachlan Park go back to 1944 when Dr Catarinich, Victoria's Director of Mental Health, condemned the buildings as too crowded, out-of-date, unhygienic, and structurally unsound. He suggested that it be replaced with a new hospital. In 1949, following a Parliamentary Standing Committee recommendation, the government decided to build a new mental hospital on the eastern side of the Lachlan River. It opened in 1968 as the Royal Derwent Hospital. However, Lachlan Park was not abandoned. Instead as part of the new hospital, it was used exclusively for people with intellectual disabilities.
- 1937 - 1968
- Lachlan Park was in New Norfolk. Location: New Norfolk
1827 - 1859 Lunatic Asylum, New Norfolk
1859 - 1915 Hospital for the Insane, New Norfolk
1915 - 1937 Mental Diseases Hospital, New Norfolk
1929 - 1937 Lunatic Asylum
1937 - 1968 Lachlan Park Hospital
1968 - 2000 Royal Derwent Hospital
- Alexander, Alison, From tiny acorns mighty oaks grow: the history of Oaks Tasmania, Oak Tasmania, Glenorchy, Tasmania, 96 pp. Details
- Gowlland, RW, Troubled asylum: the history of the Invalid Barracks, New Norfolk Colonial Hospital, New Norfolk Madhouse, New Norfolk Her Majesty's Lunatic Asylum, New Norfolk Mental Diseases Hospital, New Norfolk Lachlan Park, New Norfolk Royal Derwent Hospital, Self publication, New Norfolk, 1996. Details
- Reynolds. Margaret, Living Politics, University of Queensland Press, St Lucia, Qld, 2007, 237 pp. Details
- Willow Court Asylum Complex: Tasmanian Heritage Entry, Heritage Tasmania, Hobart, 2008. Details
- Johnston, Paul, Strating, R, Morris, Miranda, and Small, T, Willow Court, Conservation Management Plan, Stage D, Alonnah/A Ward and Industrial Therapy, October 2006. Details
- Reynolds, Margaret and Hols, Monica, Remember the children: stories about the lives of young people in Tasmania's last mental institution, 1950-2000, National Disability Services, Hobart, December 2011, 15 pp. Details
- 'Submission number 182', in Inquiry into Children in Institutional Care: Submissions received by the committee as at 17/3/05, Parliament of Australia Senate Standing Committee on Community Affairs, Commonwealth of Australia, 2004, http://www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Committees/Senate_Committees?url=clac_ctte/completed_inquiries/2004-07/inst_care/submissions/sublist.htm. Details
- New CD Release "If I Had Wings-Imagine": Bio The Forgotten Australians, http://www.leannehawkins.com.au/bio. Details
- Lachlan Park Hospital, New Norfolk, identification stamp
- 1951 - 1965
- TAHO Reference: AB713-1-6256
- Tasmanian Images: Tasmanian Archive and Heritage Office
Sources used to compile this entry: 'Submission number 182', in Inquiry into Children in Institutional Care: Submissions received by the committee as at 17/3/05, Parliament of Australia Senate Standing Committee on Community Affairs, Commonwealth of Australia, 2004, http://www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Committees/Senate_Committees?url=clac_ctte/completed_inquiries/2004-07/inst_care/submissions/sublist.htm; Willow Court Asylum Complex: Tasmanian Heritage Entry, Heritage Tasmania, Hobart, 2008; Alexander, Alison, From tiny acorns mighty oaks grow: the history of Oaks Tasmania, Oak Tasmania, Glenorchy, Tasmania, 96 pp; Johnston, Paul, Strating, R, Morris, Miranda, and Small, T, Willow Court, Conservation Management Plan, Stage D, Alonnah/A Ward and Industrial Therapy, October 2006; Reynolds. Margaret, Living Politics, University of Queensland Press, St Lucia, Qld, 2007, 237 pp.
Prepared by: Caroline Evans
Created: 27 October 2011, Last modified: 19 March 2013