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1976 to 2008

1976-2008 top
KewCottages-ward beds empty.jpg


Kew Cottages often epitomised contemporary thinking towards intellectual disability. In the 1970s and 80s the Cottages operated according to the developmental model and normalisation principles. The developmental model advocated that people with intellectual disability had the potential to develop and learn. Normalisation purported making available, to people with intellectual disability, patterns and conditions of everyday life that resembled those found in mainstream society. Four training and education centres were established at Kew, from funds raised by The Age newspaper's Minus Children Appeal, to enable residents to participate in programs that reflected these ideals.


In the 1980s and 90s, disability rights and advocacy movements encouraged greater individualisation for residents and attempted to address issues of inequity. However, within a large institution such as Kew, overcrowding and oppressive institutional practices tended to obviate such reforms. During this period efforts were also made to impart a sense of individual living within the institution by partitioning dormitories into smaller, shared living spaces and creating semi-independent living accommodations. However, it was only in the 1990s that the majority of residents were able to live in this type of accommodation.


From the 1980s, deinstitutionalisation policies resulted in a greater number of residents moving away from the institution and into the community. Relocation initiatives were hastened as a result of the 1996 fire, which killed nine residents, and the 2001 announcement that Kew Cottages was to be closed and redeveloped. Kew's closure signalled an important shift in social policy which advocated for the inclusion of people with intellectual disability within mainstream Australian society, rather than housing them in segregated, large scale State institutions. This era clearly highlighted that disability should not be considered a barrier to valuing, accepting and including people with intellectual disability within mainstream society.

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