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
 
 
 

Reverend Drew Lelean – staff member at Larundel Mental Hospital

Lelean Close in Bundoora is named after Reverend (Clive) Drew Lelean who served as a Chaplain and therapist at Larundel and Mont Park Psychiatric Hospitals for 25 years from about 1967 to 1991.
If you want to take an historic Walk around the Estate which honours several former Larundel Hospital Staff including Rev Drew Lelean go to:
Larundel Staff remembrance walk – Walking Maps
Grassy Woodland Reserve off Lelean Close Bundoora – Photo Kathy Andrewartha
Drew’s parents and family
Drew’s parents were Arthur Drew and Doris (Brownell) who spent much time in Fiji after their marriage in 1918. Arthur was a Minister and developed a farming scheme for the native Fijians.
Drew’s brother Colin Oswald was born in Terang in 1919 before they went to Fiji. Drew’s older sister Alison Clare (Lady Hughes, nee Lelean) was born in 1921 in Ba in north western Fiji (she died in 2018), and his other brother Arthur Brownell Lelean was born in 1923 (he died in 2005). Drew himself was also born in Fiji in 1929. Colin the eldest, served in WWII in the Australian Army and died in 2008.
The family lived in Ballarat from 1936 and Rev Arthur Lelean Senior became well known for his powers of diagnosing illnesses, see The Argus June 8 1951, p. 3. https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/rendition/nla.news-page1746286.pdf
A photograph from a Facebook page ‘Lelean Family History’ shows Drew Lelean’s family celebrating his parents’ 50th Wedding Anniversary in 1968, with Drew in the clerical collar (back left).
Rev Arthur Lelean Senior died in 1972 at 79 years of age and Mrs Doris Lelean died in 1977 in Ballarat.
Drew’s caring work in the mental health field
Drew Lelean married Margaret Jean (Tolliday) in 1953 and they had two daughters and a son. Margaret was from Clunes 30 km north of Ballarat.
Drew and Margaret moved to Essendon in 1954 when he was still a theology student. His first Parish was in Casterton in western Victoria. Then the family moved to Tasmania for a period, where Drew first became particularly interested in helping those suffering from mental ill health, in his work as a clergyman in East Launceston.
In 1967, he transferred to the Larundel Psychiatric Hospital as a Chaplain, and Drew and Margaret and the family lived on site. Chaplains had been appointed to the mental institutions from about ten years before in 1956.
Drew was one of the first Church Ministers to train in Clinical Pastoral Education with Rev Roy Bradley at the Austin Hospital, in the 1970s, see https://www.asacpev.org.au/roy-bradley-appreciatian.html Clinical Pastoral Education was aimed at training in ministerial and psychological listening to people’s life stories. This course was specifically for those interested in pastoral care for people with mental ill health. Chaplains typically served across multiple institutions and wards and Anglican, Methodist, Presbyterian and Catholic ministers shared the work at Larundel, with good cooperation between the pastoral carers. The chaplains were seen as important therapists.
By 1980 when their children were adults, Rev Drew Lelean and Margaret moved to Macleod and she was now working as a library assistant. He officially retired in 1991 from his duties across Larundel, Mont Park, Plenty, Heidelberg and Janefield Hospitals, but continued providing valuable support. In 2017 Reverend Drew Lelean celebrated 60 years since his ordination as a Methodist minister.
He still lives in the Macleod area but his wife Margaret passed away in 2018.
Rev Drew Lelean was awarded an OAM in 2009 for ’service to the community of Victoria through the development of chaplaincy and pastoral care education in the field of mental health’.
Thanks to Rev Drew Lelean and his family for his photograph and their interest and help with this Biography
 
Prepared by Kathy Andrewartha 2021
 
Resources:
Bircanin, Iliya and Short, Alex (1995) Glimpses of the past: Mont Park, Larundel, Plenty, The Authors, Melbourne
Clinical Pastoral Education course – Roy Bradley Appreciatian (asacpev.org.au)
Extensive Lelean Family History from 18th Century England to present – Lelean Family History – Home | Facebook
Queen’s Birthday Honours list – 2009 Queen’s Birthday Honours (Australia) – Wikipedia
Rev Drew Lelean’s contribution to family history network 2003 – Contact Made (lelean.com)
Sixty years as a Minister, Drew Lelean – 2017-Tributes-list.pdf (synod.org.au)
Years of work in Fiji by the Ministers Charles and Arthur Lelean –  A Mission Divided – ANU   and Babasiga: A Lelean descendant

Joanna Gonnella (Gonella) – Larundel Hospital Charge Sister

Joanna Gonnella worked at the Larundel Mental Hospital, which operated for many years at the site behind Polaris Shopping Centre on Plenty Road Bundoora.
Gonella Crescent Bundoora commemorates Joanna Gonnella (correct spelling) who worked as a nurse and Charge Sister with the patients of Larundel for more than 20 years.
Gonella Crescent winds its way through the beautiful houses of the Gresswell Grange Estate, near the Larundel Memorial Reserve and the Larundel Walkway. If you would like to take an historic Walk around this Estate which honours Joanna Gonnella and other Larundel staff go to:
Larundel Staff remembrance walk – Walking Maps
Joanna was born Ivana Remskar in 1936 and married Alfredo Gonnella in 1958. Both had migrated from Europe after World War Two. Alfredo and Joanna had one daughter. Joanna became the Charge Sister at Larundel Hospital from the late 1960s, working with the Medical Superintendent Dr David Barlow who came to the Hospital about the same time (see https://www.montparktospringthorpe.com/david-john-harding-barlow/ ). They ‘ran a tight ship’ according to their co-workers, in this very large and busy facility.
Joanna’s husband Alfredo worked initially as a ward assistant and then trained and worked as a nurse also. They lived in Thomastown for about 20 years until they moved out to St Andrews to a 36 hectares farm in about 1983. There they raised beef cattle and improved the property greatly, surviving the droughts of the early 2000s and then the dangerous bushfire on Black Saturday 2009.
Joanna Gonnella on their property in the 2010’s
 
Joanna died suddenly in 2012 at the age of 75 years.
Thanks to former Larundel Hospital staff members Pam and Eric Wrigley for the photograph of Joanna when she was the Charge Sister at Larundel.
Prepared by Kathy Andrewartha 2021.
Resources:
Article about closure of Larundel Hospital from Northside Christian College web pages – Larundel Psychiatric Hospital – BUNDOORA HISTORY (weebly.com)
Description of Gonnella’s Farm, Community Environmental Recovery Action Plan St Andrews Catchment Fact Sheet https://www.bing.com/search?q=Environmental+Recovery+Action+Plan+St+Andrews+Catchment+Fact+Sheet.+Nillumbik.vic.gov.au&cvid=888f724c00404ff086a4f4104d845477&pglt=43&FORM=ANNTA1&PC=U531
 
 

 
 
 
 
 

Dr Donald Oldmeadow – Larundel Psychiatric Hospital

Oldmeadow Court in the Gresswell Grange Estate in Bundoora is named after one of the Doctors who worked for the Victorian Mental Health Authority and at the Larundel Psychiatric Hospital, which was located in this area until the 1990s.
If you want to take an historic Walk around this Estate which honours several former Larundel Hospital staff as well as Dr Oldmeadow go to:
Larundel Staff remembrance walk – Walking Maps
Oldmeadow Court Feb 2021- Photo by Kathy Andrewartha
Dr Donald Oldmeadow was born in 1913 and graduated in Medicine from The University of Melbourne in 1937. He obtained his Diploma of Psychological Medicine in 1944.
Dr Donald Oldmeadow served in the Army in World War II, along with his 3 brothers who were all in the RAAF. One of the brothers Fenton Charles was killed in a Lancaster aircraft over Germany in 1942. His other brothers Russell Henry and Richard Frank returned from the war to Australia. Dr Oldmeadow himself served with the 2nd Field Ambulance and was promoted to Captain. He worked mainly in Broome during the War.
Dr Oldmeadow and Jocelyn (Joycelyn LUGTON) were engaged before the War and married in 1941. She lived near Ballarat at Clunes. They had six children, one of whom also practises medicine.
After WWII with his family, he lived and worked in Fiji for 14 years as a GP and obstetrician https://www.smh.com.au/politics/federal/the-big-issue-domestic-violence-20120310-1urbs.html
There had been a strong family link with the Pacific islands. Don’s uncle Henry Charles Haabai, his aunt Annie Mau White, and his father James Andy Viv had all been born in Tonga in the early 1880s.
Dr Don Oldmeadow came back from Fiji to live and work at Larundel and the other Asylum Hospitals in Victoria.
Dr Don Oldmeadow – his work with Mental Health Authority
Don and Jocelyn lived on site at the Larundel Hospital site in one of the doctors’ residences with their family in the 1960s. He was the Medical Officer when this Hospital was a huge complex for people suffering with mental ill health. He reported to the Mental Health Authority in 1968 as the Chief Medical Officer responsible for about 6000 patients over all the institutions in Victoria. He noted encouragingly that staff were making real efforts to improve the standard of care for all the patients. He thanked the staff in his report in 1969 for their genuine concern in the care of their patients. At this time thousands of out-patients with mental ill health were also being cared for across Victoria.
Don and Jocelyn moved to a home in Ivanhoe in the 1970s and then relocated to Western Australia in about 1980. He continued to work in WA from the early 1980s until his final retirement at the age of 95. His wife Jocelyn died in 2004 and Don lived to be 100 years of age when he died in 2013.
He was a generous mentor and caring person, and a sincerely religious man. He did indeed live a long and fruitful life as stated in his family death notice.
Thanks to Don’s family for providing the photograph of him.
Prepared by Kathy Andrewartha 2021
Resources:
Death notice tributes to Dr Don Oldmeadow
Don Oldmeadow Death Notice – Melbourne, Victoria | The Age
Don Oldmeadow Death Notice – Melbourne, Victoria | The Age
Family tree details http://www.loadsofpeople.co.uk/ef_127.html?LMCL=rUsTqv
Note from Dr Oldmeadow’s son https://www.smh.com.au/politics/federal/the-big-issue-domestic-violence-20120310-1urbs.html
Reports to Mental Health Authority by Dr D.J. Oldmeadow for 1968 and 1969 and 1973 https://www.parliament.vic.gov.au/papers/govpub/VPARL1969-70No35.pdf
https://www.parliament.vic.gov.au/papers/govpub/VPARL1970-71No29.pdf
https://www.parliament.vic.gov.au/papers/govpub/VPARL1974-76No4.pdf
Tribute to Dr Don Oldmeadow from a WA church http://uc-wembleydowns.org.au/?page=lecinfo&pagesub=lecsermon&action=details&REFCODE=ID2013090000188
 

Dr Daniel Kahans – Psychiatrist and Musical Therapist at Larundel

Kahans Close is a small street in the Gresswell Grange Estate in Bundoora. It is named after Dr Daniel Kahans who worked at Larundel in the 1960s and 1970s. He was one of the more colourful psychiatrists and a performing musician around Melbourne.
If you want to take an historic walk around this estate which honours several former Larundel Hospital staff as well as Daniel Kahans, go to:
https://walkingmaps.com.au/walk/4854
Daniel was born in Shanghai in China in 1934 and his parents migrated to Australia in 1947 to NSW. His grandparents lived in Shanghai as well, and his Russian grandmother is described in his cello and spoken performance piece ‘Shanghai Rickshaw’ from La Mama Theatre in 2010, see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zFJ8tNWTtks
Daniel Kahans from Youtube – filmed by Aaron Claringbold
As a child in NSW Daniel studied cello with the famous British cellist William Ewart (Gladstone) Bell. He also studied music with the composer and conductor Sir Eugene Goossens. Daniel graduated in Medicine in 1959 from the University of Sydney and then went to the UK and studied psychiatry in London, graduating in 1966. He had married Jillian Shepherd in Sydney in 1962. She was also an accomplished cellist and became a highly regarded cello teacher in Melbourne. She was also an artist. Daniel and Jill moved back to Australia to Melbourne in 1968 and had four children. They lived at Larundel for many years and then moved to the nearby suburb of Lower Plenty.
Music Therapy at Larundel
Dr Daniel Kahans is famous for introducing music therapy to Larundel Mental Hospital in 1971. Along with Dr Denise Grocke (nee Erdonmez), who had trained in music therapy in the USA, they conducted therapy sessions in many wards, but particularly for patients in Fawkner House. Patients in this ward had intensive group therapy in music, drama and dance which was unique in Victoria. Denise Grocke (now Emeritus Professor Grocke) worked at Larundel for ten years, then set up the first music therapy course at the University of Melbourne in 1978, with the help of Dr Kahans and Dr Percy Jones.
Daniel Kahans also operated a busy private psychiatry practice at Wingrove Cottage in Eltham from 1971 and subsequently published many academic papers on various aspect of mental illness and the role of the psychiatrist and music therapy (for example, see Kahans and Calford, 1982). He classed this work as ‘psycho-aesthetics’, which he defined as the psychology of art forms including music therapy and art therapy. Aspects of the therapy included singing, group improvisation, music and movement, sometimes resulting in a formal group performance. Jane Refshauge amongst others, worked with Dr Kahans in this program, see http://www.dtaa.org.au/conference/speakers.htm
Dr Kahans performed many of his original avant-garde musical and spoken word works in Melbourne, including many at La Mama Theatre in Carlton, working with his wife Jill Kahans who performed as both actor and director.
Larundel Hospital and the Arts
Visual and performing arts were encouraged at Larundel with the Occupational Therapists working with art practitioners. Margaret Lasica, a well-regarded ballet performer and teacher, taught dance and movement to patients at Larundel. Margaret Lasica (nee Weiss) had come to Melbourne from Vienna in 1939 and she performed with Melbourne ballet groups such as the Modern Dance Ensemble.
Dr Cunningham Dax fostered the practice of art therapy at Larundel and Mont Park, and art works have been archived in the Dax Collection at the University of Melbourne, see https://cv.vic.gov.au/stories/creative-life/making-sense-art-and-mental-health/cramped-conditions/
Many visual art works from the later period of 1987 – 1997 are maintained by the La Trobe University Art Institute at Bendigo, see https://www.latrobe.edu.au/art-institute/collections  In the 1990s practising artists worked with the patients.
The use of music, art and drama therapy in the health sector has expanded since these Larundel days into general hospitals, aged care facilities and palliative care centres.
During the recent COVID-19 pandemic Royal Melbourne Hospital music therapists produced popular YouTube videos for their patients and the community see The Royal Melbourne Hospital – Scrub Choir 2.0 sing “I’ll stand by you” by The Pretenders | Facebook
And  ‘We Wish You’ by The RMH Scrub Choir – YouTube
 
Prepared by Kathy Andrewartha 2020.
 
Resources:
Daniel Kahans bio for musical performance in Eltham in 2014 with photograph https://elthamsouthfineart.files.wordpress.com/2014/05/poster-daniel-khans.pdf
History of the Australian Music Therapy Association   https://www.austmta.org.au/content/history
Interview with Denise Grocke https://voices.no/index.php/voices/article/view/2277/2032
Kahans, D. and Calford, M. B. (1982). The influence of music on psychiatric patients’ immediate attitude change toward therapists. Journal of Music Therapy, 19 (3), 179-187.
Musical performance in Sydney at age 17, Daniel Kahans
https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/130955255?searchTerm=daniel%20Kahans
Performance at La Mama 2010, Daniel Kahans describing a ride with his grandmother/babuska in a ‘Shanghai Rickshaw’ with spoken word and cello https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zFJ8tNWTtks
Report of Dance Movement Therapy Conference 2015 http://www.dtaa.org.au/conference/speakers.htm
 
 

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