Ada Wilkinson

Ada Wilkinson was born in Stawell but spent a large part of her life in Diamond Creek before moving to Bundoora. Ada began working at Mont Park as the kiosk manager in 1985, alongside one other woman. The kiosk was quite a basic setup, designed more like an informal drop-in centre which provided tea, coffee, sandwiches and cakes and space for the patients to visit.

https://www.montparktospringthorpe.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/08/Ada-Wilkinson-website-audio.mp3
‘As I remember’ recalled Ada, ‘the people who used to come in and buy things just loved icing, so we used to have these little patty cake things with icing on them.’ The customers were mostly patients, with some staff members dropping in every now and then. Some customers had very specific requests for food. Ada recalled one staff member: ‘I remember one particular lady – she always wanted tomato sandwiches but she didn’t want to see the tomatoes so you had to put this tiny little bit of tomato in.’
Ada only worked in the Mont Park kiosk for a couple of years. At times she found it hard, as she felt that some of the patients who frequented the kiosk had quite sad lives.
Our thanks go to Ada for agreeing to release her interview through the project’s management team and excerpts on our website.

Derrick Fernando

Derrick Fernando, was born on 30 June in 1931 in a town in Sri Lanka called Negombo which is on the west coast.
After Derrick migrated to Australia in February 1973, he sought employment in engineering because he was trained as a mechanical engineer. His first job was at Pentridge Prison. After nine months as an engineer at Pentridge he applied for and was appointed to the position of engineer at Mont Park. Derrick remained in charge of engineering and projects, until the site was closed in 1997, a period of approximately 25 years. With his family, he lived on site in one of the staff houses.  Living there meant he made life long friendships with many of the staff including some of the doctors and medical experts.
https://www.montparktospringthorpe.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/08/Derrick-Fernando-website-audio.mp3
Derrick’s role as Head Engineer gave him a broad range of responsibilities. These included managing and overseeing the work on all mechanical, electrical, plumbing, security and water services across Mont Park’s large grounds and all of its many buildings.  He was in charge of major projects where whole systems such as the piped heating, were changed and updated across the site. This was no 9 to 5 job and it was common for him to receive calls in the middle of the night.  Derrick has a natural talent for story telling and an obvious passion for the work he did at Mont Park for so many years. His interview shares his knowledge of the site and the technicalities of keeping such a big operation functioning through many anecdotes and entertaining stories. Some are sad, many are told with wit and colour. The day to day life and challenges of working at Mont Park come alive through Derrick’s oral history interview. Listen to the sound bites attached here. Derrick retired to a home nearby and continues to be a keen member of the Strathallan Golf Club.
Our thanks go to Derrick for agreeing to release his interview through the project’s management team and excerpts on our website.

Ernest Jones Clinic Preston – 60 Years of Outpatient and Mental Health Care

1962 – 2022
Dr (William) Ernest Jones (1867 – 1957) was very much respected as a psychiatrist and administrator, and the Ernest Jones Clinic, the Ernest Jones Hall in Mont Park (opened in 1930), and a boulevard in Springthorpe Estate near Mont Park, are named after him.
He trained in London, graduating in 1890. After experience from his employment in asylums, he was recruited to work in Victoria, and played a pivotal role in advancing more suitable treatment and accommodation for those with mental ill health. He was initially appointed as ‘Inspector-General of the Insane’ for 5 years and ultimately served from 1905 – 1937, with the final more refined title of ‘Director of Mental Hygiene’. See Dr (William) Ernest Jones | Mont Park to Springthorpe
Carmel House – photo taken in 2022 (K. Andrewartha)
1962
The Ernest Jones Clinic (EJC) in Hotham Street Preston was established in 1962 as a day hospital. The Ernest Jones Clinic provided community-based psychiatric services and developed a group homes program centred around ‘Rosa Gilbert House’ and the ‘Carmel Hostel’ in Hotham Street Preston. ‘Carmel’ had been a private hospital in a two storey house with established gardens, and was purchased in 1963. EJC provided outpatient assessments and also treatments including injections of dopamine blockers to calm thoughts and mood swings, or even the more intrusive electroconvulsive therapy. Ernest Jones Clinic | findingrecords.dhhs.vic.gov.au

The Mental Health Authority Parliamentary Report of 1963 stated that Mont Park medical staff were finding that working with outpatients in the Preston clinic kept the clients from returning to hospital. Dr Grantley Wright was the Psychiatric Superintendent responsible at this time and was located at Mont Park Hospital.
Dr B. Clark, the Consultant Psychiatrist at Ernest Jones Clinic, itemised 965 psychiatry sessions in the 1964 Annual Report. Records showed that 4887 patients attended the Clinic, and of these 1358 were new referrals. The Consultant Psychiatrist, the Medical Officer and 33 other medical staff from area hospitals had seen patients.
Outpatient narratives for the Mental Health Authority showed the client numbers at the Ernest Jones Clinic gradually increased over the next decade.
1972
Dr David Barlow in the Ernest Jones Clinic Annual Report in 1972 stated that 48% of the patients that year had come from the Mont Park Hospital, 24% from Plenty Hospital and 11% from Larundel.
Increasingly the EJC was serving a teaching function with nursing students from the Larundel Clinical School attending the outpatient program and the Day Hospital. Social Work students, Occupational Therapy students and Social Welfare trainees also engaged in training at the Ernest Jones Clinic.
 An Emergency Service was instigated at EJC in 1972 for crisis intervention.
After care facilities at the local Carmel Hostel, Rosa Gilbert Flats, McCracken House and Gower Street flats continued to be administered by EJC staff.
A pharmacist was employed full time from 1972, to dispense medication including injections. Nurses from EJC visited homes to provide care in the domestic environment.
A further statement to Parliament in October 1972 provided an update on patients discharged from Larundel, who were expected to be outpatients at the Ernest Jones Clinic. There was a waiting period of 2-3 weeks, although there was capacity to take care of emergency cases.
Physical improvements to the EJC at this time, included construction of a concrete driveway to accommodate visitors and staff parking.
1976
In 1976 Carmel Hostel had residential capacity for 16 women, with 9 patients being discharged during the year, and no new admissions.
In that same year, the Rose Gilbert House had rooms for 18 females, 36 women were admitted and 25 discharged. In 1977 figures were similar with responsibility for 45 new patients and 30 ladies were discharged.
In 1976 the ‘Preston Day Hospital’ now had 88 clients as outpatients, 23 admitted during the year, and 84 discharged, with 27 patients still being looked after at the end of the year.
Mental Health Authority Parliamentary Reports beyond 1977 collected statistics in a different format and specific comments were no longer recorded to provide detailed descriptions of the activities at EJC Preston.
De-institutionalization
From the 1980s treatment in outpatient clinics for those with mental ill health, was seen as more efficient and effective than treatment in mental hospitals. Hospitals required permanent boarding fees in addition to medical fees. Patients were considered to have more freedom with community-based treatments and of course it was less expensive.
The de-institutionalization philosophy and procedures could give rise to disadvantages for patients. They needed to be carefully and suitably prepared for discharge into the care of outpatient clinics. Unfortunately some mentally ill patients relapsed into a ‘revolving door’ situation, where they were periodically hospitalized, released and without effective rehabilitation, then needed confinement in a hospital again.
A report to the Victorian Parliament in 1989 answering a question on notice, stated that EJC functions were still continuing to be:

Assessment and early treatment of emergency and new referrals
Rehabilitation, in the form of longer term programs in social skills and life skills
Accommodation support programs in 6 flats and 13 group homes, currently catering for 55 residents.

$1 million in recurrent funds was allocated to EJC in the 1988 -1989 financial year. Before 1985 funding had been part of the Mont Park Hospital financial allocation.
EJC staff were fully occupied with patients and their families, with interviews, reviewing cases, therapy sessions, emergency work, and also supervising and engaging in the accommodation program for the 55 residents.
2022 – 60 years on
Photo of the original Ernest Jones Clinic – Provided by the State of Victoria to use to provide insight into the development of psychiatry in Victoria (Non-Commercial Use)
In a statement to the Government Royal Commission in 2020, Sandy Jeffs OAM highlighted the importance of after care facilities for patients who have been in mental health hospitals.
Sandy is a former patient of Larundel and a valuable advocate for people with mental ill health. She is the author, with Margaret Leggatt of the book ‘Out of the Madhouse. From Asylums to Caring Community?’ (2020).
Sandy Jeffs pointed out the value of social support in clinics, such as represented by the Ernest Jones Clinic. People need help to access scheduled appointments, and manage their rehabilitation. Sandy advocated group therapy and art and music therapy sessions in pleasant community surroundings as essential for a return to health. See, Community witness statement template (royalcommission.vic.gov.au)
The EJC service has evolved now into the Northern Adult Area Mental Health Service. See, Northern Adult Area Mental Health Service | Victorian Agency for Health Information (vahi.vic.gov.au)
This facility provides a range of vital clinical treatment services for adults experiencing an episode of severe mental illness and is mobilised for patients in the Whittlesea and Darebin areas. There are acute, subacute, specialist, and support mental health services. Inpatient units are located within surrounding general hospitals and Community Care Units provide 24 hour attention for those with complex needs. One of these residential services is still in Preston and such units provide Prevention and Recovery Care.
Sources:
Vic Parliamentary papers – Mental Health Authority Reports on line. For example use:
Search Results for mental health 1965 (sirsidynix.net.au
Other sources as indicated.
Thanks to Mental Health Library Victoria  for assistance with finding the photo of the original Ernest Jones Clinic.

Christmas and Gala Sports Days at Mont Park

One hundred years ago the Mont Park hospital site sometimes enjoyed entertainment and lighter moments for the staff and patients.
Two papers reported the annual Christmas party for Mont Park residents in 1929:

Table Talk (Melbourne, Victoria 1885- 1939) Thursday 3rd January 1929 Page 54
03 Jan 1929 – GALA DAY AT MONT PARK SANATORIUM – Trove (nla.gov.au)
Advertiser (Hurstbridge, Victoria 1922-1939) Friday 18th January 1929 Page 2
18 Jan 1929 – GALA DAY AT MONT PARK SANATORIUM – Trove (nla.gov.au)

 
Several community groups remembered to help brighten up Christmas for the Mont Park Hospital area residents each year.
 
Merry Christmas to all, and best wishes for 2022 – from the Mont Park to Springthorpe Heritage Group.

Gala Sports Day – at the Mont Park Hospital Site, one hundred years ago. 
Mont Park Hospital held regular Gala Sports Days to entertain the staff, the patients and their families. Besides the usual athletics events, which were hotly contested by the medical staff, there was a range of novelty events, popular always at community picnics at this time.
Events included:
Handicap sprints – for Staff/Officers/Patients
‘Sticky bun competitions’ which raised much laughter. These involved eating buns suspended from a string – resulting in treacle covered faces.
Threading the needle – a game for both adults and children.
The ‘Ladies Nail-driving competition’ – a hammering race for nurses, masseurs and VADs (WW1 Voluntary Aid Detachments – health care assistants).
In 1919 an exhibition of horsemanship was presented by local women and troopers, and this was warmly applauded. Often the day finished with prize giving at a Concert or a Dance, sometimes with a fancy dress theme.
Photos appeared in the Melbourne Press showing one of these cheerful occasions at Mont Park in 1919, see 29 Nov 1919 – ATHLETIC SPORTS AT MONT PARK MILITARY HOSPITAL – Trove (nla.gov.au)
The tradition of family parties for clients and staff continued into the 1990s, with many older Banyule and Darebin residents now still remembering these from their childhood.
 
 

Brian St Alban Smith – writer, artist, poet and patient

Patients were encouraged to develop and utilise their skills in their hospitalisation and recovery. Brian St Alban Smith was a Larundel patient in the 1960s. He wrote and published a book about his experiences as a patient, a book for children on the opal fields and a book of his poetry. Here are some of his poems and drawings sent to us from his family. The Feature Picture shows the the front covers of his three books.
His Book: The Spirit Beyond the Psyche: hope for depressives (1978, now out of print)
..‘Is a sensitively written novel based on the author’s own experience as a mental patient. The reader is subtly caught up in the convulsions of a brain-nightmare and he associates with a mind that is gradually becoming aware of its own irrationality. And, though now and then a momentary brightness gleams through, he co-experiences the horror of the locked ward: he endures the long and bitter striving towards normality – towards the light that must be present, else all human existence is hell indeed…’
The Opal Pub – painting by Brian St Alban Smith
Brian St Alban Smith
About the Author
Brian St Alban Smith was born in Singapore in 1926. During the closing stages of World War II, as a very young man, he served in the RAAF as an air-gunner, following this service with a stint in the British Army in India before that country’s independence. He then served six years in the Royal Australian Engineers. Married in Victoria in 1948 to Greta, they had 3 children. He was unwell for a lengthy period in the 1960s, suffering bipolar disorder (manic depression). He settled to live as a writer and artist in the foothills of the Dandenong Ranges of Victoria, until his death in 2014 at age 88 years.
He published a book of his poetry, ‘Brushstrokes from the Hills’, in 1981. Some of his poems are reproduced here, illustrating his great talent and meticulous observation.
THE DIM QUESTION (1968)
Are we mad in here?
Or are we the sane ones?
Outside is chaos…dark…
Some laugh at us, sneer,
Visitors,
Scared, yet preening themselves
Because they can leave.
I look about the ward,
At the circle of resigned figures,
And a great love wells
For them…
The boy in the Rugby helmet of leather,
Protection against his many falls
…Brain damage…
The kindly septuagenarian,
So thin, so wasted, wrinkled pyjamas,
Who shuffles by, always apologies
On his lips.
He apologises for being…
The bald man with the speech defect, constantly twitching,
…D’uuuh…Grant him peace…
We are a race apart;
I see this when the Voices let me,
During the respites…
But there is one I pray for,
Sadly, fervently,
The good psychiatrist,
The skilled one
Who is an atheist.
Long years in asylums killed his boyhood faith,
He told me once.
He neither believes in inner devils
Nor in an all-embracing Deity.
Yet every day he does God’s work…
His patience is like the Saviour’s…
Yet still par-blind?
I always thought atheists were evil
Lesson one…
I see a lady in my head – often –
My life.
I would go to her whom I love dearly
But I am fearful of the lost days,
The times of madness,
When unwittingly, I might strike her down…
So, I stay here til someone is sure.
Someone…doctor, God, my family;
I stay here with my brothers…
Portrait of a Young Lady – 1969
REQUIEM FOR A DEPRESSIVE (1970) 
Music plays, mournful, a requiem
As the beat of wings
Against the web of gold…
Spirit-music,
A Last-Post for the unbrave:
Yet valour in his coffin…
So, the madness lies…
Sad monster…shrivelled, wrinkled,
That other self, that id,
Baking violet on an opal-dump,
Shackled by phobias
In the last landscape
Of his heart…

The Old Chinaman’s Shack at Three Mile –  by Brian St Alban Smith
Rehabilitation through creative work 
Other writers and patients have also crafted works which describe Larundel, such as Sandy Jeffs in her revealing ‘Out of the madhouse: from asylums to caring community?’ This book written with Margaret Leggatt in 2020, advocates for rehabilitation without the stigma associated with mental ill health.
Art work collected from Larundel is available in the Cunningham Dax Collection, and the La Trobe University Art Institute. Dr Cunningham Dax and Occupational Therapists at Larundel were enthusiastic in promoting art and other creative work to stimulate rehabilitation.
See: Dr Eric Cunningham Dax | Mont Park to Springthorpe
Occupational Therapy and mental health hospitals – Mont Park and Larundel | Mont Park to Springthorpe
This article was written with permission from Brian St Alban Smith’s family in 2021, and we would like to express our sincere thanks to them.
K. Andrewartha and Margaret Jack 2021
 
 
 

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