Welcome to the Willow Court History Group.
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Willow Court is the oldest, continually run asylum located in the island state of Tasmania, Australia and had its heritage start before 1827. This is older than the well-known and well visited Port Arthur Historic Site. Asylums like Willow Court that once segregated and housed people with disabilities and mentally ill have lain empty and often unused for the last decade. As the Social Model of care was rolled out the vacating of these institutions began. Tasmania was the first state in Australia to de-institutionalise all of the people it housed and closed the doors of Willow Court/Royal Derwent Hospital in late 2000.
This social experiment was watched by other states in Australia, which also had started their own journey of de-institutionalisation. Communities were left with large complexes and equally large maintenance bills, often to much for small municipal councils or state governments to bear through their rate payer/tax payer base. Theft, arson and vandalism all added to already growing problems of natural decay. This is the story of Willow Court in New Norfolk, Tasmania, a peaceful township on the banks of the Derwent River 30 km from Hobart.
We are interested in Willow Court and we seek to deliver an online representation of this hospital/asylum’s history. We strive to present and preserve a balanced interpretation (without fear or favour) of the history and will include the stories of all those that were affected by Willow Court and the Government policies of the day designed to segregate people based on their mental health or intellectual disability.
A planned reuse of Willow Court highlights the Barracks as an interpretation/museum that housed “invalid convicts”. Along with this website’s online presence we offer the public a glimpse into the workings of a hospital originally created for invalid convicts, people living with a disability and or a mental health issue and which operated mostly as a closed shop for 174 years.
There has been a stigma and shame surrounding Willow Court for many years and yet we consider this is also our rich and valuable heritage both physical and human. We have called for Willow Court to become a listed “Site of Conscience” through the International Coalition of Sites of Conscience. During the advocacy stage of this group we called for recognition of the human struggle that took place at Willow Court. Past to Present, Memory to Action” was our motto when we first started in 2012 and we encouraged our community to use our history to enlighten our future.
We are linked to the Pennhurst Memorial and Preservation Alliance in the United States and share many of the same troubles, victories and struggles. Pennhurst has already become a site of conscience and is also striving to preserve its rich history with the 2015 announcement of the purchase of the Superintendent’s Cottage, which will become a museum.
Please feel free to join our Facebook group or Facebook page using the links provided. We are happy to supply educational material including podcasts, films, documentation, guest speakers who are registered teachers in the state of Tasmania.
We are always looking for information about Willow Court and we wish to gather its long and proud and troubled history and record that for future generations to know and understand the past. We can run tours for groups when allowed onto the property which is owned by the Derwent Valley Council.
My name is Mark Krause, I am a teacher in the VET vocational educational system in Tasmania and I have a long history (23 years) of working for people living with disability. I have a passion for human rights and our Tasmanian history in relation to institutional care provision, de-institutionalisation and the start of the community integration/living program.
Partners, Consultants & Volunteers.
Joshua Krause: IT advisor and Web hosting
Anthony Nicholson OAM: Consultant Historian and Ex-Employee Willow Court Admin.
Anne McKinstray: Advisor and Ex-Employee Willow Court Centre.
Michelle Eastwood: Transcribing Services.
Join our Facebook Group for discussions with nearly 900 other Willow Court passionate folk and find out the latest news by clicking on the Facebook icon below
Join our Facebook Page and hear ongoing news about Willow Court and Royal Derwent Hospital by using the side tab. Over 1400 people in total volunteered to join our groups.