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1912 to 1952 - Outside World

Embracing the Children’s Cottages

Occupational Auxiliary - Mental Hospital, Kew, Second Annual Report, 1936.jpg

During the past year we were able to embrace the Children's Cottages in our activities, due chiefly to the generosity of Mrs. C. Winters and Mrs. Desmond Fitzgerald, by sending us a monthly donation. We are not only grateful but return our sincere thanks to them both ...

Extract from Occupational Auxiliary - Mental Hospital, Kew, Second Annual Report, 1936.
Mental Hospitals Auxiliaries of Victoria Manuscript Collection, PA 89/140, State Library of Victoria.

Occupational Auxiliary - Mental Hospital, Kew, Second Annual Report, 1936.jpg

It was indeed a joy to entertain over 1000 patients at Christmas, in response to our appeal through the Press and other well wishers who came along to assist. The music was kindly supplied by the Public Service and Kew City Band, and was highly appreciated by the inmates.

When Father Christmas visited the children, each decked in a cap and waving a flag, their joy knew no bounds, and it certainly was a never-to-be-forgotten sight. We believe it was their first real Christmas party. Cakes, fruit, sweets, ice creams, etc., were distributed by the members, whilst Father Christmas handed out the toys, etc. ...

Garments are also made and given to the younger children, whilst some of the elder girls have received dress lengths with which to make frocks.

The Nursery Children have received warm woollies, etc.

Occupational Auxiliary - Mental Hospital, Kew, Second Annual Report, 1936.
Mental Hospitals Auxiliaries of Victoria Manuscript Collection, PA 89/140, State Library of Victoria.

On December 17th we decided to entertain the patients at one big Xmas party, which proved a great success. The Public Service and Kew Bands kindly gave their services, assisted by Mr. McPherson and his band of Scottish dancers. Cakes, sweets, fruit, cigarettes, soft drinks and 1000 ice creams were given out by the members, while at the cottages excitement was intense over their first Xmas tree, which was laden with toys sent by friends and the Sun Toy Fund. Mr. A. Dickeson, who acted the role of Father Xmas, was greatly cheered by the children. Races were run, and prizes given were the lovely woollen dolls and animals made and sent by the Hawthorn-Camberwell Housewives Association, all for which we extend our thanks; also to friends who sent sweets and cigarettes, and to different firms who donated foodstuffs ---

Whilst we were in recess at Christmas a member gave 30 boys and three nurses a picnic to Brighton Beach. These outings were enjoyed immensely ...


We should like to thank "Tiny", of 3XY, and pals of Happiness House for their gifts of lovely toys, books, crystal sets, tennis rackets, gramophone records, and an electric wireless set; also for "Tiny's" visit to the school at the break-up party, and the kindly message sent over the air to the children.

A Koola has been installed in the Nursery, which will be a big asset in the summer.

On Coronation Day we gave the children a party. After community singing of patriotic songs, each child received a bag of biscuits, cakes and sweets. We thank Eastcourt branch for their big donation of sweets.

Three dozen bathing suits have been supplied to the children. Also a number of them received new clothes for their annual picnic. Mr. Morris, of Croydon, allowed us to visit his orchard and get a large supply of apples for the children. 
Troops of Boy Scouts and Girl Guides have been formed at the Cottages, and are making good progress. Mrs. Campbell, a member of the Auxiliary, has been elected to be trained to act as their Guider. We regret that Miss E. Hayler, who has been ably assisting in the movement, will be leaving us to sail abroad in October. We thank Miss A. Campbell and Miss Boyer (commissioners), also the 1st East Melbourne Rangers, for kindly offering to knit pull-overs for the children at the Cottages with wool supplied by the Auxiliary ---

And further we extend our thanks to all subscribers, Mrs. Menzies (Eastcourt Branch) and Mrs. Pardy (Riversdale) for assisting us in our work for the Children's Cottages.


Occupational Auxiliary - Mental Hospital KEW, Third Annual Report, 1937.
Mental Hospitals Auxiliaries of Victoria Manuscript Collection, PA 89/140, State Library of Victoria.

Occupational Auxiliary - Mental Hospital KEW, Third Annual Report, 1937.jpg
Occupational Auxiliary - Mental Hospital KEW, Fourth Annual Report, 1938.jpg

The Girl Guide and Boy Scout movements were commenced at the Children's Cottages, Kew, in May, 1937. Both have proved a marked success. Mrs. D. J. Campbell, their Guider and Hon. Secretary of the Kew Branch, has helped to secure position for six of the Guides with friendly people. Recent reports from their employers show that they are behaving well and progressing favourably under their new conditions. Scouting and Guiding aim at improving the patients by education in the form of recreation. They are a valuable addition therefore to other methods of occupational therapy.

At a concert given by the Friendship Circle and Uncle Win (of 3KZ) we provided 600 bags of toffee, 400 pears and 300 bananas; these were given out to the patients by members of the Auxiliary, who were guests of the evening, and friends of 3KZ.

Members visited the Cottages on Easter Saturday and distributed Easter eggs among the children. We also sent sweets and picture books to the children at Janefield ---

In June we gave a large quantity of oranges to the children at the Cottages, and gifts of woollen pull-overs to the men; the female patients received long bed-stockings and shoulder capes.

We urgently need more members and helpers; you can assist us in our work by joining up with our small band of workers, and help this humane cause - to brighten the sad lot of the mentally sick ---

The grateful thanks of the Committee are due to the following:- ... "The Sun" Toy Fund, for gifts of toys for the children's Xmas stockings ... to members of the Press for bringing the activities of the Auxiliary before the public ... We especially wish to thank the Willow Tinware Co. for the splendid Xmas party they gave the children at the Cottages, and trust they will be able to repeat the same this year.

Occupational Auxiliary - Mental Hospital KEW, Fourth Annual Report, 1938.
Mental Hospitals Auxiliaries of Victoria Manuscript Collection, PA 89/140, State Library of Victoria.

Their Misery is our Shame.jpg

‘Their Misery is Our Shame’

DEAR DR. DAX: I hope you are a fighter ---

You are coming to a desperately urgent and important job. You bring to it high professional qualifications and the reputation of being a progressive, energetic humanitarian. But I hope you are a fighter as well a man who cares more about doing a job than holding a job - because this quality of character may have a far greater bearing on what you achieve here than all your skill as a physician and all your ability as an organiser.

You are coming to work in a field where, to our shame, there is almost limitless opportunity for reform.

We claim to be a prosperous, enlightened State. Yet, in our mental hospitals, you will find conditions today which would have aroused a fury of indignation in Britain 50 years ago. Some time ago I was assigned by this newspaper to inquire into the truth of repeated allegations that mentally ill people in this State are neglected, suffering, and subjected to ill treatment.

To the best of my ability I have made my investigations impartially and thoroughly. I have sought to temper distressing observations by seeking the explanation and comment of doctors, both those employed by the Department of Mental Hygiene and others in private practice as psychiatrists.

Reproach to conscience

I am not convinced about the truth of certain specific allegations that have been made recently. But I am convinced completely and sincerely - that the mental hospitals you are coming to administer are today in such a condition that they are a terrible reproach to the public conscience and a damning indictment of State administrations, past and present.

When you arrive in Melbourne, please go quietly and without announcement to Royal Park and Kew - preferably without first hearing a flood of explanations about why nothing has been done, why very little is being done, and why so little more can be done in the near future.

If it is true that you are a humanitarian you will, sir, be moved. If it is true that you are a realist and a practical man, you will perhaps be depressed by the magnitude of the job ahead of you ---

At Kew, you will be saddened - far beyond the point of disgust or anger - by the accommodation provided for mentally defective children.


You will inspect aged, filthy buildings, which are in appearance more like a medieval Bedlam than a modern institution for the care of the sick.

There you will find a handful of doctors, nurses and attendants fighting ever-encroaching squalor heroically - to bring a chance of useful life to the lucky ones who can take it; to give a little happiness and warmth to those who are doomed to live and die as idiots.

The abandonment of the Kew hospital, its replacement with modern buildings has been repeatedly promised by successive governments.

They protest innocence!

But Kew hospital is still there, still the only home of hundreds of miserable children, whose mental defect is far less than the moral defect of the community which permits them so to be housed and clothed!

Unless you are indeed a fighter, Dr. Dax - prepared if need be to appeal openly to the decent elements in this State to help you get what you want - Kew mental hospital will still have its pitiful child inmates when your term of office is at an end.

You will learn that, in Victoria, our State politicians tackle involved or difficult problems only when the public outcry for a solution is so angry that they would be defeated at the polls if they did not take action ---

Osmar White, 'Their Misery is our Shame: The facts about our mental hospitals', The Herald, 28 August 1951, page 4.
Courtesy of The Herald and Weekly Times Ltd.

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