Having lived and worked in the area for decades, I have always been fascinated by the Mont Park and Larundel sites. I have been privileged to experience the mixture of native and exotic plant and trees, and the birds and kangaroos throughout the Mont Park site and in the La Trobe University Wildlife Sanctuary. Around the perimeter of La Trobe University, the changes were obvious as institutions closed and the university refurbished and utilised some of the remarkable heritage buildings.
Many of my neighbours’ and friends’ parents had worked at Mont Park as cooks, bootmakers, laundry staff, ward attendants, administrators etc. The stories of Christmas parties, art shows and trips through the Mont Park hospital site were intriguing. Learning the role of the Bundoora Homestead Park area in the repatriation of military veterans after World War l provoked my curiosity to further investigate the history and development of the whole mental health precinct.
We have discovered many revealing stories, thanks to people who generously provided their family recollections and to Libraries who helped with background research – NSW and Victorian State Libraries, Royal Melbourne Hospital Library, Yarra Plenty Regional Library and La Trobe University Library.
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We moved to Springthorpe in 2003 in the early stages of the estate’s establishment and have followed the estate’s development, remaining enthusiastic about its beautiful, natural environs, due in large part to Linaker’s original botanical design, a legacy of the Mont Park hospital site. I studied and majored in history, English and community development and worked in adult and tertiary education for over 35 years in the northern Melbourne area. I am enjoying learning skills as an amateur history enthusiast, particularly in oral history.
Raised in Ballarat and as a post war baby boomer, I was touched by the mental health issues of numerous relatives and acquaintances who either spent time in another of Victoria’s past, large mental health facilities, Lakeside Hospital, or who were returned servicemen spending periods at the ‘Heidelberg Repat’ and Mont Park for treatment. Mont Park’s history and the history of mental health treatment and care continues to be an area of interest.
I have always sought to understand more about mental health and mental health care. I had a great aunt, whom I loved dearly, who spent almost 20 years of her youth from 1922, in ‘Lakeside’ Ballarat, yet who recovered and went on to live quite independently until old age. Her stories about her internment and the mystery of her recovery made a lasting impact on me and have remained a puzzle, as has the knowledge that so many people shared her fate and were perhaps not even as fortunate to have recovered and moved on, as she did.
Likewise, everyone has a story, and listening to and encouraging former staff and locals to tell their stories and memories of Mont Park through the oral history technique has and continues to be fascinating and surprising. New themes continue to emerge. They include dedication to patients, work ethic and understaffing, early approaches to social work and occupational therapy, the central role of the nurses, use of experimental and cutting edge treatments and drug therapies, impacts of institutionalized care, the role of the government and public service and commentary on the transition to deinstitutionalization.
Being involved in this project continues to be a privilege. I’ve loved participants’ anecdotes and reminiscences and my reading and research has answered many of my questions about mental health care and related issues in Victoria’s past.”
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I was born and raised in the northern suburbs (Reservoir). My father Lindsay was a long-serving Councillor with the then City of Preston and as such both he and my mother Pamela were involved in numerous local community projects including the creation of Bundoora Park. As a result, I have always been familiar with our local area, later (in the 1980s) visiting an elderly lady/friend here at Mont Park as part of the volunteer based Do-Care visiting program.
My young family now live in the area, and I joined our Local History Project a couple of years ago and have since enjoyed spending hundreds (and hundreds) of hours researching any number of aspects of the Project prior to contributing Articles and Images to both our Website and our Facebook page. Hours that in hindsight have been time very well spent in that it has totally enriched my understanding and appreciation of the Mont Park area and surrounds, both as it was, and as it now is. And I now look to share this knowledge and captured imagery with my fellow community members so that they too can appreciate what we had (and now have) that in turn I hope will preserve it as best we can for future generations appreciation.
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I spent my early school years in Rosanna and lived in Waiora Road. When we moved into the area there were very few houses and we spent our childhood roaming around the paddocks with friends. I went to Rosanna State School first then to Rosanna High, which became La Trobe University High now part of the Charles La Trobe schools and La Trobe University. While at the high school we often sat outside for lessons under a large gum tree and the cows from the Mont Park farm used to wander down towards the school. Later I was involved with La Trobe University Physiotherapy Department specifically with regard to Physiotherapy student education.
We had a pair of Tawny Frogmouths who lived in a couple of casuarina trees on our property, returning each year (one year with a young bird) and I have spent many hours watching the birdlife and kangaroos we can see at the back of our property.
As a child, the Mont Park hospital precinct was a scary place and we drove through it fearfully when we visited relatives in Preston. Since working on the project, I have learned about the great community spirit from the relatives and people who lived and worked in the various hospitals.
I have always been very interested in the local history and enjoy learning about the local area, and the different personalities who made such an impact on mental health, contributing to the improved management of illnesses which did so much damage to people’s lives. Speaking with people who worked here has given me an insight into what their experiences were while working or living in the areas of the hospitals and a greater appreciation of our need to ensure their stories are recorded for others.
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I emigrated from the Caribbean to Australia in 2009 and being a lifelong nature-lover, I was drawn to the green spaces in and around Springthorpe, eventually moving to the area in 2014. Since then I have been documenting the wildlife spotted and reported in local backyards, shared spaces, forests, and reserves. I was honoured when approached to write an article for the website on local wildlife and I drew upon dozens of hours in the field and hundreds of photos of our furry and winged neighbours in writing my article for the project.
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