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120 years of history

This website outlines the history of Kew Cottages in the context of changing social ideas about intellectual disability in Australia and worldwide. It reveals a shift from a belief that people with intellectual disabilities were educatable, to a view by the 1920s, that the ‘feebleminded’ were unreclaimable and a menace to society. Throughout Kew Cottages’ history a small cohort of progressive journalists, parents, activists, and more recently residents themselves, fought for and finally gained greater rights and respect. However, while the idea of menace slowly faded, it took until the 1980s to recognise the human rights of those with intellectual disabilities, which led to the end of institutions like Kew.  

This website is a companion to Corinne Manning Bye-Bye Charlie: Stories from the Vanishing World of Kew Cottages, NewSouth Press, Sydney, 2008 and Lee-Ann Monk & David Henderson with Christine Bigby, Richard Broome and Katie Holmes, Failed Ambitions. Kew Cottages and Changing Ideas of Intellectual Disabilities, Monash University Press, Clayton, 2023.

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