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1952 to 1975 - Families

Kew cottages parents' association.jpg

Kew Cottages Parents’ Association 

Kew cottages parents' association.jpg


By 1957, despite the climate of severe unmet need and overcrowding in state institutions, public interest and government support for further improvement of the Cottages had waned, and parents were angry and fearful of what might happen to their children living there. A survey of parents by the Cottages' first social worker, Irena Higgins, found that parents typically felt isolated and lonely, unaware that others were 'sharing the same grief'. Irena recorded her early experience in the December 1997 KCPA Newsletter.

Louise Godwin & Catherine Wade, Kew Cottages Parents' Association: The First Fifty Years Melbourne, Kew Cottages Parents' Association Inc, 2007, pages 2-3, reproduced with permission of the Kew Cottages Parents’ Association.

From committal as ‘insane’ to voluntary admission

Prior to the early 1960s, residents were committed under Victorian legislation that applied to both people with ‘mental illness’ and intellectual disability. This system required two doctors to certify an individual as being of ‘unsound mind’. Certified people were considered to be ‘insane’ and in need of custodial State care. In 1959, the Victorian Government passed the Mental Health Act. In 1962, the new legislation became operative and allowed for residents to be voluntarily admitted to the Cottages. According to Kew's Superintendent, Dr Wilfrid Brady, legislative change was welcomed by many parents and doctors who found it abhorrent to declare a baby or young child ‘insane’.


Corinne Manning, Bye-Bye Charlie: Stories from the Vanishing World of Kew Cottages Sydney, UNSW Press, 2008, page. 20; Wilfrid Brady, 'The Mental Health Act (Victoria) 1962', Australian Children Limited, Vol. 1, no. 7 (October 1963), page 345.

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