Location: Ararat, Victoria, Australia
Operation Time: 1865 – 1998
Type: Not Kirkbride Plan
Status: Turned into college campus of the Northern Melbourne Institute of TAFE (NMIT) in 2001
The Aradale Mental Hospital (originally known as the Ararat Lunatic Asylum) was built in Ararat, Victoria, Australia. The asylum, along with its sister hospitals at Kew and Beechworth, were founded in order to take care of the growing number of “lunatics” residing in the area.
In 1864, construction for the Ararat Lunatic Asylum began. Guardhouses were built two years later in 1866. According to hospital records, patients were admitted as early as 1865. The psychiatric hospital was designed by G. W. Vivian and his assistant, J. J. Clark. The Kew Lunatic Asylum and Beechworth Asylum were worked on at the same time, however, Ararat was finished before its sisters.
Contradicting popular belief, patients did not build the asylum; the project was contracted to O’Grady, Glynn, and O’Callaghan. Like several mental institutions of the 19th century, the Ararat Lunatic Asylum featured a town within a town, featuring its own market gardens, orchard, vineyards, and livestock.
During its peak, the hospital had over 500 staff members and had 63 buildings. After 1998, the asylum housed female prisoners during the building and renovation of the Dame Phyllis Frost Centre until the current management took over in 2001, turning it into a college.
In December, 1886, the jail portion of Ararat Lunatic Asylum was proclaimed “J Ward”, which would hold anyone currently held at any jail or reformatory who appeared to be insane. Another mental institution was eventually built in Sunbury to hold the criminally insane. “J Ward” was closed 102 years later in May, 1988.
In the early 1990s, Ararat Lunatic Asylum (now known as the Aradale Mental Hospital) began its decommissioning process by transferring the patients to other facilities. By December, 1993, the only remaining ward was the Ararat Forensic Psychiatry Centre.
In 1997, all remaining patients were transferred to Rosanna, where they waited until the new Thomas Embling Hospital in Fairfield was finished.
In 2001, the Victorian Government gave $7.4 million to NMIT in order to establish a campus for the Australian College of Wine on the site of the Aradale Mental Hospital. Vineyards and olive groves were planted in 2002, and a olive processing facility and winery were eventually added onto the site.
The Aradale Mental Hospital has been subject to the paranormal due to patient deaths within the hospital. The most frequently investigated areas of the building include administration, the men’s and women’s wards, the chapel, the kitchen, the hospital, and the morgue.