|Description of this AgencyDescription of this Agency|
Establishment and Development of Services
Yarra Bend was the first permanent institution established in Victoria that was devoted to the treatment of the mentally ill. It opened in 1848 as a ward of the Asylum at Tarban Creek in New South Wales. It was not officially called Yarra Bend Asylum until July 1851 when the Port Phillip District separated from the Colony of New South Wales. Prior to the establishment of Yarra Bend lunatic patients had been kept in the District's gaols. Yarra Bend was proclaimed an Asylum under the provisions of the Lunacy Statute 1867 (No.309) in the Government Gazette in October 1867.
From its establishment until 1905 the institution at Yarra Bend 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.1873) changed the title of all "asylums" to "hospitals for the insane". This Act came into operation in 1905. Despite the change in designation the function and structure of the agency was unchanged. The title was altered to reflect the community's changing attitude towards mental illness and the Victorian Government's approach to the treatment of mentally disturbed persons.
An asylum/hospital for the insane was any public building proclaimed by the Governor-in-Council 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. 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. Under the provisions of the Lunacy Act 1914 (No.2539) patients could also be admitted to a hospital for the insane on a voluntary basis, that is, on the patient's own request for a specified period of time.
The Yarra Bend Asylum was situated near the junction of Merri Creek and the Yarra River quite near the current site of Fairlea Women's Prison.
Closure of Yarra Bend
Overcrowding and the primitive living conditions were problems at Yarra Bend over a long period of time. The overcrowding was relieved to some extent when new asylums were opened at Kew (VA 2840) Royal Park (VA 2845) and Mont Park (VA 2846) in the metropolitan area and Ararat (VA 2841) Beechworth (VA 2842) and Sunbury (VA 2843) outside the metropolitan district.
However despite the opening of new institutions which relieved some of the pressure on Yarra Bend, by the early 20th century the facilities at Yarra Bend were clearly too old fashioned to facilitate more modern methods of treating mental illness. New admissions to Yarra Bend ceased in 1924 and the institution was finally closed in 1925. All remaining patients were transferred to Mont Park.
Location of Records
Substantial clinical and administrative records are held at the Public Record Office. See below.