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In 1901, a Parliamentary Select Committee was appointed to inquire into the mental health system in Western Australia. The Committee found that Fremantle Asylum was inadequate in many respects and recommended it be closed. As a result, a new mental health facility in Claremont - Claremont Hospital for the Insane - was established. In 1903, Government Reserve H8636 (394 acres) was set aside for this purpose.
By August 1903, temporary buildings had been established on the site and some initial patients transferred. Female patients remained at the Fremantle Asylum until 1908, after which they were transferred to Claremont.
The Claremont facility was Western Australia’s principal mental hospital until its closure in 1972.
It housed the majority of the State’s mental patients, both male and female adults (in separate wings) and children. Admission was by certification under the Lunacy Act 1903 or the Inebriates Act 1912, although ‘voluntary boarders’ were also admitted for limited periods of time. In the absence of community facilities, most patients were long-term.
Patients were admitted for a wide range of physical as well as mental disorders, including developmental disability, old age, alcoholism and serious infectious diseases that caused delirium. War veterans with psychiatric injuries were also housed in Claremont until separate facilities were built, including Stromness (1918-1926) and Lemnos Hospitals (1926-1995).
The hospital operated a small farm within its premises and registers of herds and farm produce are included in the records held by the State Records Office.
In 1933 the Hospital’s name was changed to Claremont Mental Hospital, and then in 1967 to Claremont Hospital. In 1972, the Hospital was closed and divided into two separate campuses: Swanbourne Hospital for psychogeriatric patients and adults with developmental disabilities, and Graylands Hospital for acute psychiatric patients.
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A one thousand acre property for Whitby Falls Hospital was purchased from a William Paterson by the State government in 1897 for the sum of 7, 000 pounds. Fremantle Asylum by this time had become over-crowded and it was decided to move some psychiatric patients to Whitby Falls. The farmhouse on the property was renovated to accomodate 50 patients and the first 12 patients were placed there on 12 July 1897.
Despite a proclamation on 12 September 1900 declaring Whitby Falls an asylum, it was eventually deemed too remote a location and a new asylum was built at Claremont instead.
Whitby Falls Hospital became an auxiliary to Claremont Hospital and a cooperative dairy farm and cattle breeding program was implemented by the two hospitals.
In 1914, Whitby Falls was gazetted a home for male alcoholics under the Inebriates Act 1912. The Hospital reverted again to take psychiatric patients from Claremont in 1918.
Due to the small number of patients at Whitby Falls Hospital, the Under Secretary declared in 1932 that "as an institution Whitby hardly justified it's existence (financially)" and it was declared "first and foremost a farm". Whitby's agricultural program was used as occupational therapy and rehabilitation for patients placed there but it also became a profitable operation that included poultry, dairy, vegetable, orchard, piggery and beef production.
In 1958, the government built a new hospital on the grounds of Whitby Falls. The original farmhouse was left unused until demolition in 1971.
In 1972, Claremont Hospital was divided into Graylands Hospital and Swanbourne Hospital. Whitby Falls became an annexe to Graylands and was de-gazetted from being an approved hospital to a hostel. The Armadale Health Service supplied psychiatric and allied health services to the hostel from the 1980's.
(Administrative history reference: Mental Hospitals Department, "Whitby Falls Mental Hospital, Control and Development of", file 23/1964, State Records Office of WA, consignment 3614).
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The first mentally ill patients in Western Australia were cared for in temporary accommodation, including the wreck of the Marquis of Anglesey, the Fremantle Round House and in the Colonial Hospital. When convict transportation began in 1850, the numbers of people with mental illnesses in the colony began to increase. Official care began with the transfer of ten convicts from Fremantle Gaol to a new asylum located in Scots warehouse in November 1857.
Fremantle Asylum was completed and occupied in July 1865 and accommodated a wide range of patients. Initially most were male convicts, but gradually more patients were admitted from the civilian population. Common causes of admission were sunstroke, sexually transmitted diseases, alcoholism, delirium and diseases of old age. Patients could be admitted from anywhere in the colony. After proclamation of the Lunacy Act 1871, patients could be admitted by certification.
The Asylum was under the direction of a Surgeon Superintendent, and was administered jointly by the Imperial and colonial governments until 1886 when control was transferred to the colonial government. After the 1890's gold rushes, the Asylum became drastically overcrowded, forcing a reorganisation of facilities (including the purchase of Whitby Falls as an asylum farm in 1897) and plans for a much larger institution. Fremantle Lunatic Asylum was no longer used after 1909 once all patients had been transferred to the new Claremont Hospital for the Insane.