Agency VA 2839
Yarra Bend (Asylum 1848-1905; Hospital for the Insane 1905-1925)
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Date Range: 1848 - 1925
 
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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.

 
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    PROVguide059 Mental Health Records
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Date Range Series Title Series Number Series Location Public Access
? 1848 - ? 1856 General Register of Admissions and Discharges VPRS 7416 North Melbourne Open
? 1883 - 1925 Nominal Registers VPRS 7421 North Melbourne Open
1848 - 1912 Index to Male and Female Case Books VPRS 7422 North Melbourne Open
1848 - 1924 Register of Patients VPRS 7417 North Melbourne Part Open
1848 - 1925 Admission Warrants of Male Patients 1848-1925 Female Patients 1848-1855, 1896-1904 VPRS 7556 North Melbourne Open
1856 - 1924 Admission Warrants of Female Patients VPRS 7562 North Melbourne Open
1857 - 1925 Discharge Register VPRS 7418 North Melbourne Open
1862 - 1912 Case Books of Female Patients VPRS 7400 North Melbourne Open
1872 - 1912 Case Books of Male Patients VPRS 7399 North Melbourne Open
1889 - 1924 Annual Examination of Patients Register VPRS 7408 North Melbourne Part Open
1891 - 1952 Medical Journals VPRS 18366 North Melbourne Part Open
1903 - 1925 Trial Leave Registers VPRS 7445 North Melbourne Open
1905 - 1925 Quinquennial Examination of Patients Registers VPRS 7409 North Melbourne Open
1909 - ? 1913 Post Mortem Register VPRS 7437 North Melbourne Open
1912 - 1925 Admission Cards of Male and Female Patients VPRS 7447 North Melbourne Open
By 1854 - ? 1858 Letter Books VPRS 7459 North Melbourne Open
By 1856 - 1925 Discharge Warrants VPRS 7541 North Melbourne Open
By 1870 - ? 1926 Memoranda and Circulars Books VPRS 7462 North Melbourne Open
By 1875 - ? 1879 Register of Inwards Correspondence VPRS 7463 North Melbourne Open
By 1897 - 1925 Inspector-General's and Visitors Books VPRS 7460 North Melbourne Open
Functions for which this Agency has or has had primary responsibilityFunctions for which this Agency has or has had primary responsibility
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Date of Responsibility Function Title Function Number
1848 - 1925 Health, mental VF 128
Functions for which this Agency has or has had secondary responsibilityFunctions for which this Agency has or has had secondary responsibility
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Superior AgenciesSuperior Agencies
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1848 - 1854 Chief Secretary's Department VA 475
1854 - 1905 Hospitals for the Insane Branch VA 2863
1905 - 1925 Lunacy Department (located in Chief Secretary's Department) VA 2864
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1848 - 1925 Health and Welfare Agencies VRG 8