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1952 to 1975

1952-1975 top
KewCottages-ward beds empty.jpg


Although 1952-74 was an era when Victorians witnessed widespread reforms, it was characterised by a continual failure of the State mental health service to care for residents at Kew Cottages. During this period many Australians enjoyed a high quality of life brought about by postwar economic growth. With prosperity came a new enthusiasm for social reform to raise the standard of living for marginalised and impoverished Australians.

In 1952, English Psychiatrist, Dr Eric Cunningham Dax, was appointed as the Chairman of the newly formed Mental Hygiene Authority. Renowned for his reformist zeal, Dax introduced policies which vastly improved the reputation and fabric of State institutions which housed people experiencing 'mental illness' and intellectual disability. Kew Cottages was targetted for reform. Along with an increase in government expenditure, The Herald newspaper's Tipping Appeal raised substantial funds which enabled the improvement of facilities at the Cottages. The 1950s and 60s also saw an increase in the number and range of staff employed at Kew. These included: paediatricians; dentists; social workers; psychologists; occupational, physio, speech and music therapists; artisans; and ward assistants. However, as resources improved the number of residents also grew from 414 in 1952 to 948 in 1968. For many residents, life at Kew Cottages remained challenging.

By 1973 public concern at the treatment of people with intellectual disability at Kew Cottages and in the general community was evident in articles published by The Age newspaper, known as the 'Minus Children' series. The term 'Minus Children' reflected the attitude that many people held in the general community about people with intellectual disability that they were lacking in opportunity, resources, adequate care and 'mental capacity'.

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