Pyrton was a government-run Home for children diagnosed with profound intellectual disabilities. It opened in 1966 in Eden Hill (Lockridge) with children transferred from Claremont Hospital. Pyrton provided long-term accommodation and short-term respite 'care'. From 1973, young people could be employed in an onsite Training Centre. No children were admitted to Pyrton after the 1980s. Pyrton residents were moved into community-based hostels or to Mount Henry Hospital by 1997 and Pyrton was closed by 1998.
Pyrton opened on 12 December 1966. It was established and run by Mental Health Services. Pyrton was built on land once owned by the Drake-Brockman family, and took its name from the village in England where Elizabeth Drake-Brockman had once lived.
The first building at Pyrton was the Primary Unit, later called 'Myoora'. It had four dormitories. The Secondary Unit ('Pindarra') had a two metre high fence and no gardens. A Tertiary Unit ('Carramar') was built in 1975 to provide a more 'homely environment'. Each unit had 64 beds.
Pyrton was staffed by multidisciplinary professional teams, principally registered nurses, psychologists, occupational therapists, physiotherapists and social trainers. The first intake of children was classified as 'active'. They were followed in January 1967 by a group of 'immobile' children, who went into a special dormitory. These children were all under 12 years old and had lived all of their lives in Claremont Hospital. Stella's (1996) history of Pyrton records that many children, due to the lack of individual attention, training and support at Claremont, had little idea how to behave or to how to acquire social skills. Self-harming, lack of self-worth and anti-social behaviours were common. In 1969, behaviour modification techniques were introduced at Pyrton to complement social training. At first, seclusion in padded cells was tried but found to have little positive impact on self-mutilation, so a 'cattle prodder' which was said to 'deliver a very painful but safe shock, was used on several residents whose behaviour was considered a danger to themselves' (p.113).
In 1975, searching for ways to develop the potential of each child, individual treatment plans were implemented. Even so, evaluations showed that the institutional environment of Pyrton was not delivering the hoped-for progression to higher skills. By the 1980s, there were no children in residence at Pyrton - though some people who had been children on admission were still there. But a decision had been made not to admit any more children to Pyrton.
Pyrton was part of the hostel system and was based on a 'progression model' whereby people would move towards greater independence. Pyrton residents were moved into community-based hostels or to Mount Henry Hospital by 1997 and Pyrton was closed by 1998.
Sources used to compile this entry: 'Health - Pyrton Training Centre', in Hansard Archive 1870 to 1995, Parliament of Western Australia, 27 October 1982, https://www.parliament.wa.gov.au/Hansard/hansard1870to1995.nsf/83cc4ce93b5d4e0b48257b33001cfef6/DD0C7DD61F09776948257A460013AEA7/$File/19821027_Assembly.pdf; 'Legislative Assembly - Questions on Notice [Pyrton Complex - People Relocated to Different Accommodation]', in Parliamentary Debates (Hansard), Parliament of Western Australia, 15 October 1996, https://www.parliament.wa.gov.au/Hansard/hansard1870to1995.nsf/83cc4ce93b5d4e0b48257b33001cfef6/BA8D675604DD32D148258435001E00A4/$File/19961015_Assembly.pdf; 'Legislative Assembly - Questions on Notice [Pyrton Complex - Residents; Social]', in Parliamentary Debates (Hansard), Parliament of Western Australia, 3 September 1996, https://www.parliament.wa.gov.au/Hansard/hansard1870to1995.nsf/83cc4ce93b5d4e0b48257b33001cfef6/DC1599F29891A99448258435001E0024/$File/19960903_Assembly.pdf; 'Legislative Assembly - Questions on Notice [Disability Services - Care in the Community]', in Parliamentary Debates (Hansard), Parliament of Western Australia, 1 May 1997, http://www.parliament.wa.gov.au/hansard/hans35.nsf/(ATT)/14FAAB688F43DB18482565F000798F0F/$file/A0501052.PDF; Disability Services Commission, History of disability services, Government of Western Australia, http://www.disability.wa.gov.au/understanding-disability1/understanding-disability/history-of-disability-services/; Ellis, A.S., Eloquent Testimony : the Story of the Mental Health Services in Western Australia, 1830-1975, University of Western Australia Press, Nedlands, Western Australia, 1984. pp.139, 207.; Stella, Leonie, 'Normalisation and Beyond: Public Sector Residential Care 1965-1990', in Errol Cocks (ed.), Under blue skies : the social construction of intellectual disability in Western Australia, Centre for Disability Research and Development, Faculty of Health and Human Sciences, Edith Cowan University, Perth, 1996, pp. 92-136. pp.110-114, 117, 119, 121.; 'Land planning schemes local authority Town of Bassendean--60 Lord Street Eden Hill--Pyrton Training Centre and proposed mental hospital site' (1994 - 1998), State Records Office of Western Australia, AU WA S406- cons7319 10D30059/1, accessed via State Records Office of WA website on 1 September 2015; 'Reserves hospital Mental Health Reserve 25363 Swan loc 6813 Pyrton Estate within-system 6 (m 41) Shire of Swan Health Dept' (1954 - 1988), State Records Office of Western Australia, AU WA S211- cons6196 1954-5149-01RO, accessed via State Records Office of WA website on 1 September 2015.
Prepared by: Debra Rosser
Created: 25 July 2013, Last modified: 18 September 2015