Ararat Lunatic Asylum

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Ararat Lunatic Asylum
Construction Began 1860
Opened 1867
Closed 1998
Current Status Closed
Building Style Echelon Plan
Architect(s) G.W. Vivian
Location Ararat, VIC
Alternate Names
  • Ararat Mental Hospital
  • Aradale Mental Hospital
  • Ararat Forensic Psychiatry Centre


Ararat Asylum was opened in October 1867. Its proclamation as an Asylum was published in the Government Gazette on 1 October 1867.

Since its establishment the title of the institution at Ararat has been altered several times to reflect both the community's changing attitude towards mental illness and the Government of Victoria's approach to the treatment of mentally disturbed persons. Despite the changes in designation the function and structure of the agency has not altered significantly, therefore the institution has been registered as one continuous agency. 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 who could possibly be cured. 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". Over recent years Ararat has also become known as "Aradale".

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". In May 1988 the Minister for Health announced that "J Ward" was to be closed over the next year.


Website for the hospital museum