If you have any documents that would interest our members and you would like to share them please send us a message through the “contact us” tab. If this page and our website has helped you in your studies please tell us through our “contact us” page.


“Historical Notes. Present Day Statistics, Objectives and Functions”.

A copy of this four page document is stored in the Archives of Tasmania LINK, however there are differences of the creation date. It is believed that the copy of Trouble Asylum was given to the then local Anglican Minister of New Norfolk as a thank you for his ongoing support to the Author, Ralph W Gowlland. It is believed  that the four page document was owned and used by the author, Ralph Gowlland for his book. It was written by the then Psychiatrist Superintendent Dr R. V. Parton, dated, August 1978.

38.Friends of Willow Court 27.2.15

The Friends of Willow Court’s submission to the Legislative Council Inquiry into Built Heritage Tourism in Tasmania, which has called in the State Government “To ensure that the full tourism potential of Willow Court is realized there must be a clear State Government leadership role and expectation of how sites are to be protected and integrated into a Heritage Tourism Strategy.”


Millbrook Rise book 1934

For the first time on the internet we offer you a 1934 publication of the Millbrook Rise Hospital which was taken into the hospital’s management in the 1960’s and is still operating today under general mental health services. Originally the hospital was set up for returned service personal and their families, it was a convalescent institution that separated those that returned from war and needed psychiatric services from the general population of the Mental Diseases Hospital at New Norfolk. This publication is reported in hospital’s 1935 reports and stated that it was distributed “to the medical profession and soldiers clubs both in Tasmania and on the mainland”

Nicola Goc Madness 24 pages

This is a paper by Nicola Goc who has researched in some detail the lives of women sent to the asylum at New Norfolk in the early to mid 1800’s. It talks about treatments and conditions in the Colony’s early history.

Some of the knowledge comes from Dr. G. Crabb’s collection of medical knowledge in the book, “The History of Lachlan Park”.

In this paper she explores the use of an “electric machine” which was used here at the Hospital before it was used and recorded in the history books for the well established English Hospitals.


Dax Report 1962

This is the original Cunningham Dax Report that set the hospital (then Lachlan Park Hospital) in a new direction in 1962. It looked at the direction and some issues that had arisen but concentrated on a new vision for a statewide approach to mental health, alcoholism and mental defective (old term used). It was the plan to divide the hospital, re categorise patients and professionalise, recruit and renumerate appropriately the staff. There are planned routine changes and most renovations were to be done with labour supplied by patients. 32 pages.



This is a inventory of artifacts that were stored after the Hospital closed and remained in the possession and protection of the new owner, the Derwent Valley Council. 33 pages.

Regulations for the Guidance of the Officers and Attendants in the Lunatic Asylum, New Norfolk 1856

This is a document that gives clear instructions for each of the staff about their duties within the hospital. Dated 1856 and printed in Tasmania it is a rare document that was found in the UK archives.

Primary school children’s perception and understanding of mental retardation

This is a 32 page study that was undertaken when there were thoughts of deinstitutionalising the children at Willow Court. What was the likely outcome and how would children blend into a integrated educational system?

The late Dr Merrill Stanley Jackson (March 2015) and Brian Knowles asked 63 questions that attempted to seek the perceptions of children from grades 3-6 with some interesting results.

Assessment of social commonsense

This book asked questions to a person to determine the mental\intellectual capacity to understand and respond in what would be a common sense manner. The result could be a lengthy stay in Lachlan Park\Willow Court under the 1929 Mental Deficiency Act.

Mental Deficiency Bill 1920

This is a select committee charge with the job of looking at the 1920 Mental Deficiency Bill.  This documents clearly stated how this Bill was designed to exclude people with Mental Health and or People with disabilities from their community and family of origin. It also has a clear intent to join the eugenics movement,

“The result of that is the man in a great many cases becomes a vagrant, a careless member of society; and the woman, in many cases, becomes likewise a vagrant, but worst of all, many of them of the lower grade become prostitutes, and people of that sort and all of them tend to propagate their own species.”

“While Nature plays an important part in eliminating the defect yet we cannot eliminate the possibility  of propagation in the insane, but we can get these at the stage of mental deficients. By stopping them at that stage you are going to save two generations work on the part of Nature.”

This is the language of the time and the thoughts of the time. The report clearly has an opinion of stopping people from propagating as undesirables who will create more undesirables. This was to be done by housing them at New Norfolk.

Lectures for Attendants and Nurses, 1921 book

This book is now scanned and available for you to read. This extremely rare publication contains the information for staff at the Mental Diseases Hospital, New Norfolk to carry out their work role.

Subjects include:

Anatomy and Physiology

Contagions and infectious diseases

Ethics of nursing

Nursing of Mental Diseases

The publication was printed in Tasmania for the Hospital and contain language, theories and practices of the time and should be read in this context

“Idiots and Imbeciles. They should be sent to special hospital, where they may, as far as possible, be educated or specially nursed and cared for.”


Willow Court Historical Background 1996

New Norfolk Asylum, Historical Background. Report to Austral Archaeology June 1996, by Dr Warrick Pearson has now been uploaded for public viewing. This Report is a detailed archaeological document of the whole site, containing many facts, figures, photos and data about Willow Court from 1827. The documents also covers the underground assets from the Barracks in the 1880’s including the barrel drain. All manner of documents surveys and plans have been gathered to form this definitive document. Release for the first time for public viewing this will keep the Willow Court historian busy for some time. The document is well referenced, however the scan is a little faint on some pages.


Sesqui-Centenary Celebrations

Royal Derwent Hospital 1827 – 1977 including a sketch on the cover of the east side of the hospital, a brief historical overview, a programme of events for the week of celebration, a copy of the coat of arms and the meaning along with the names of the people involved in putting the celebration together.


Heather Burke folder

Six new short documents containing historic information about Willow Court in the early 18oo’s from the prospective of the travels of the time who visited the Asylum. Supplied by Associate Professor Heather Burke.

Willow Court Conservation Management Plan Nelson, Barwick, Slatyer & Loveday 2003

This is a 121 page document commissioned to understand the conservation value of each building. It sets out to describe each of the following buildings in stage one:

Ladies Cottage
Nurses Home
Administration Building
Masonic Lodge K2 Ward
Neighbourhood House (School)
Weatherboard (demountable) building
Lions Club

This section of the Conservation Plan focuses on the building~ in Stage One or the Lot 40 which is defined above. These are the buildings for which a particular developer has proposed uses and works.
The objective of this Conservation Plan is to identify the heritage significance of each of the buildings, to assess the appropriateness of the proposed building uses and to guide development on these buildings in
accordance with their heritage significance. Kate Loveday – Consultant Town Planner

RDH & WC Campus Rationalisation Interim Report Dec 1993

“With implementation of Community Integration programs and the reduction in the numbers of  residents on both campuses the DHHS has commissioned this review to identify possible ways to rationalise the building stock and services, with particular reference to heating arrangements, to reduce ongoing running costs while improving the physical environment for the residents and staff. The present condition and suitability of all buildings has been assessed and seven options identified indicating the implications and costs of various differing approaches.” This report was made by Micheal Ganley and sets out all the values of all buildings as well as construction type and ability to be used or reused or re-purposed. It also includes, the still open, Mill Brook Rise Campus.  This is a rare report and not publicly available.

Willow Court sale agreement

THE HONOURABLE D.E. LLEWELLYN AND LACHLAN RIVER COMMUNITY (HOLDINGS) PTY. LTD. This is the sale agreement between these parties.

Comprehensive Health Assessments During De-institutionalisation – An Observational Study

The de-institutionalization of people with intellectual disability is still occurring in Australia. The people going through the process often have high support needs and very complex health needs. Onsite or visiting healthcare services, including medical services, are provided for them while they are still in institutions. Outside institutions, they go to their own General Practitioners (GPs).

The transition phase from institutional health care to community based GP care is a vulnerable time for this population. They may require more thorough support from their practitioners while this transition occurs 1. However, the practitioners are often untrained and inexperienced with this specific population 2-5. Therefore people with intellectual disability may be at higher risk. 1. They may still be at higher risk once they are past that transition stage and living in the community. Study done at Willow Court

Memo about Willow Court School closure and funding arrangements

“It seems most likely, however, that the school could be closed at the end of 1988.” One of the issues of  community integration was how is this funded? This memo suggests how the school funding can be broken up as each person leaves and transferred to schools in the public domain. IT wouldn’t have been easy breaking up funding and distributing it to other service providers, but this document from 1987 tells us some ways that this was occurring.

Ree Pettifer’s 1989 report of the Clinical Nursing Practice at Willow Court.

The full report that was claimed to have closed the institution, along with the original letter to the then Minister for Health and Human Services the Hon Judy Jackson are here for your enjoyment and reading pleasure. “It would be easy to lay the blame on the nursing staff for the living conditions and standards of care of residents at Willow Court Centre. To do so however would be to oversimplify the forces at play in the working life of the nursing staff at Willow Court”. Ree Pettifer 1989

Notes of meeting held to discuss the outcomes of the institutional living program review on Tuesday 17 May 1988

Discussions about staffing arrangements from both Management and Staff representatives around the future of the Institutional Living Program. This paper outlines some of the actions and proposals for closure of wards and opening of Group homes. Present are Willow Court Management, Health Commission Management and Unions and professional bodies representing the very different levels of the workforce at Willow Court. 4 pages.

Circular Closure of C Ward

18th May, 1988 Circular to staff of Willow Court announcing the closure of C Ward and the opening of group houses. This 4 page documents tells staff about the upcoming major change at Willow Court Training Centre. It gives a background briefing to the proposed changes and the timing for the “phased relocation of residents”. It concludes with a staffing proposal for each house. Signed by the late Jerry Von Bamberger, Superintendent/Chief Executive Officer.

ASSID Document 1988

This document is from (ASSID) Australian Society for the Study of Intellectual Disability which is a peak body of the Australian Disability Industry and in this documents they are encouraging the then Minister for Health Ray Groom to follow the path of other states of Australia and other counties in the process of de-institutionalisation of people living with disability at Willow Court Centre. This is the first time this document has been publicly available.


Synopsis of residents, statistics, Willow Court institutional living program 2.8.1988

This memo records the Examiner News Papers letter to the editor by Clarrie Strochnetter, State Secretary Disabled People International (Tas)  two years after the state parliament made the formal decision to start the de-institutionalisation process of Willow Court Centre. Clarrie asks what is happening after two years?

Also there is a full number count for each ward and the staffing ratios.

Tasmanian Audit Office Report into the sale of RDH and Willow Court

In recent years, a number of members of the public have written to me raising concerns about matters relating to the Royal Derwent Hospital (RDH) and
Willow Court sites. This resulted in audit work being done as it related to Willow Court and inclusion of findings in my Report No 1 of June 2010, Volume 2, Local Government Authorities 2008-09 . I had been reluctant to pursue this further but the request from the Public Accounts Committee in June 2012 persuaded me to examine matters relating to the sale of the RDH site, a process which commenced in 1998.



“Visitors increasingly wish to hear the voices and stories of local communities in their experiences of tourist destinations. In addition, local community values need to be
recognised as integral to the significance of heritage properties. However these aspects have been extremely difficult to represent to date.

Willow Court is a rich and complex heritage site with a diverse range of stories, reactions and opinions. These stem from the local community, the individuals
hospitalised at Willow Court, their families and friends, the workers and professionals employed throughout its history. They extend beyond the Derwent Valley to
individuals and families throughout Australia.” This article introduces the concepts of gathering stories about Willow Court through a “Story Telling Module.”

AN AGREEMENT made the 18th day of June one thousand nine hundred and fourty-one.

“AN AGREEMENT made the 18th day of June one thousand nine hundred and forty-one between THE HONOURABLE THOMAS HENRY DAVIES being and as the Minister for Lands and Works for the time being in the State of Tasmania (hereinafter called “the Minister”) of the one part and THE WARDEN COUNCILLORS AND ELECTORS OF THE MUNICIPALITY OF NEW NORFOLK (hereinafter called” the council”) of the other part WHEREAS for many years past the sewage from Lachlan Park Hospital” Resolve the mystery about underground tunnels at Willow Court.

Remember the children (NDS Public Document)

“Stories about the lives of young people in Tasmania’s last mental institution 1950-2000” A collection of stories and recollections of past Staff, Residents and Families. This is a Public document funded by National Disability Services and there fore is publicly available. Edited by Margaret Reynolds.

Evaluation of the Ward 7 Patients

November, 2000, Valerie Williams is the Royal Derwent Hospital Mental Health Advocate and she reports in this 23 page document about conditions and treatments, fears and frustrations of both Staff and Patients. This was driven by a 1999 piece of legislation that determined that  “Consumers and carers have the opportunity to be involved in the management and evaluation of the facility” What a radical new concept for RDH.

The New Norfolk Hospital for the Insane by Susan Piddock

28 pages of beautiful history about New Norfolk’s Hospital for the Insane written by Susan who is one of Australia’s leading researchers and writer about Asylums. Susan also has a separate tab on this website; Susan Piddock

“I fell in love with asylums and l have boxes of material about WA and NSW which l haven’t had time to complete. I really wanted to understand the differences in asylums between convict and non-convict asylums”

Susan has a passion for Asylums in Australia and with her well researched work it will be interesting to see the difference between the Convict and non-convict set ups on a nationwide basis. This would explain some of Tasmania’s history in the care of the people it housed.

It was 50 years ago but Allan Bester vividly recalls the sound of the sirens that would shred the night-time silence of his home at New Norfolk

This 3 page insight into Allan Bester’s world gives us a glimpse of family life with an Asylum as the main employer in town, Allan was the third generation to follow into the same work and became one of Tasmania’ Leading practitioners working with People with Dementia at Adards Nursing home formally in Warrane Tasmania. His history with RDH and Willow Court helped him know and follow better practices, than had been his leaning experience. Courier Mail Oct 2006, John Wright.

A role model for rural communities

Source Unknown, half a page article talking about the decline of employment within the Derwent Valley area after the closure of RDH and Willow Court. 1,000 jobs would disappear before the closure and change the face of this area economically and socially.


Description of RDH from 1 January 1827 til closure on 30 November 2000, this document also outlines the date and years that name changes took place. There are also facts about the number and sex of the patients and what happened during over crowding. 3 pages.

Willow Court Asylum Precinct Register of the National Estate

Same as above, but concentrated on the west side of the hospital, 8 pages of factual information from the heritage register including names  and dates of construction of Wards. Design and construction type with a brief history included.

PANDDA Autumn Newsletter 2012     Skills Institute Newsletter 2012

Two articles that have been printed about  Willow Court Tasmania Advocacy Group and our basic mission statement. The Skills Institute of Tasmania and the PANDDA National Newsletter both have an interest in Willow Court and asked me for this article along with how we have been using the Nation Broadband Network NBN for education of support workers, including this rich local history that is sitting on our Island State of Tasmania.

AGG Newsletter 2010

The Australian Association of Gerontology opening address and Dr. A. J. Foster’ s report of elderly Patients within the Royal Derwent Hospital, based on a study, presented at the twelfth annual Conference. This document looks at the mental, physical disorders, prognosis, treatment and care of any disorder present, probable life expectancy, length of stay in the hospital, appropriateness of stay in the mental hospital, source of referral to the hospital, and family support.

Cassy O’Conner MP Inaugural Speech 22 July 2008

Cassie O’Conner’s Inaugural Speech 2008, what does the current (2013) Minister for Community Services think about an Apology to those that lived at Willow Court?

Willow Court Final Interpretation Plan

2006 report about the Interpretation of “art and life behind the wall”. This report was incorporated into the Malcolm McDonald Report (below) it only refers to those places that the Derwent Valley Council own and manages. 37 pages including plans and market tested concepts are all included and tell what could be done with the Heritage Precinct and what type of experiences visitors like to have. A strong preference for “knowing a day in the life of a staff and patient” was the preferred outcome.

Willow Court Historic Landscape Audit Report 2004

19 pages, including photos of the grounds and an audit of plants and trees located in the Willow Court Precinct, maps of plants detailed and a maintenance program for the Frescati hawthorn hedges and the oldest (believed to be) grape vine in Australia. Here as part of the audit are some privately own lands and buildings with associated gardens and trees. It has been clear that the Derwent Valley Council never followed any of this advice or Maintenance Plan. The Friends of Frescati have been restoring the gardens in the past couple of years and have been successful in obtaining a grant for a Community Garden Project.

Marketing Plan 2006    Marketing plan version 2 – 2006

Both these plan are complete and examine Willow Court’s visitor potential as an Arts and “Life Behind the Walls” experience. Each have costing’s and rationale and were a DVC Council/valley vision project. This has been replaced or added to by the latest plan of use below, Malcolm McDonald Report. Either of these reports spoke or suggested any night ghost hunting activities, this was only introduced by a Department of Health and Human Services representative who also is a founding member of the APIU (Australian Paranormal Investigation Unit) in 2012. These reports suggest a connection with the Cunningham-Dax Art collection Dax Centre The Cunningham Dax Collection consists of over 15,000 creative works on paper, paintings, ceramics, and textiles created by people who have experienced mental illness or psychological trauma. Suggestions of continued arts programs to be held in the restored complex once restoration is completed are recommended.

The Barracks Willow Court Short History

A one page history of Willow Court mainly dealing with the physical location and buildings. Author is unknown.

Business Plan & Development Plan Prepared by Malcolm MacDonald & Associates 2011

This is the latest plan to be commissioned by the Derwent Valley Council and takes a different path to those that preceded it. It has a different focus and leave out some of the important history of Mental Health and Disability in favour of early convict heritage to attract visitors to Willow Court. Full costing’s are included here with rationale and visitor data. Lots of information is gathered from the earlier reports and updated. It is here that we are introduced to the Ghost tours or Night tours, but we are also warned that this is already being done elsewhere. A list of people who assisted and contributed to this plan are credited on page 7, including a representative from the Department of Disability Child Youth and Family Services, we believe this person represented the population of previous Patients that were managed by the Dept. at Willow Court. The current Special Council Committee, chaired by David Llewellyn is following this conservation plan in restoring Willow Court Heritage Precinct with funds obtained from the State Government and sales from the Royal Derwent Hospital site.

Wage case for Nursing Staff 1985

This is the Tasmanian Industrial Commissions Transcript of Proceedings for a 1985 variation to the award and explores the accounts of staff who are being asked to work in a new programmatically structured model instead of the medical model that had been the norm. Each side presents their case and the extra time and resources that are being asked for and used. This gives an interesting view into cultural and workplace change and when it is managed wrongly can end up in  mediation in an industrial context. There is a breakdown of beds, patients and staff numbers for 1985. Normalisation is talked about as a theory that was introduced into Glenora House. This is a must read to gather a understanding of changing attitudes and the conflict of new ideas challenging old ideas and is a great 78 page read in a historic context.

Union Letter 1988

Who advocated for people at Willow Court and Royal Derwent Hospital? Here is an example of a letter written by staff to attempt to change work practices and get simple resources for Clients living in the centre. The Hospital Employee’s Federation of Australia wrote a covering letter in support of the list of changes asked by these employees. This group of employees were studying at the TAFE collage in Hobart and were requesting upgraded services and supply of basic age-appropriate equipment for Clients (new term), flexibility for Clients and Choice. This forms a strong case for Staff being Advocates along side Clients Families and Visitors to the centre.

New hope for the forgotten children

Margaret Lyne from Launceston was known as the quiet determined teacher who has directed what has become known as “The Miracle of Lachlan Park”. Skill development in the 1960′s.  The 1960′s became an important era with the rise of the parent advocate movement, prompting considerable change in the way Disability support was given. As a movement it swept the world and eventually closed Willow Court as a model and practice.

After 16 years of Teaching Margaret Lyne went on to a life of Politics in Queensland, Federal Parliament and the United Nations. Better known to Tasmanian’s as Margaret Reynolds the past CEO of National Disability Services (NDS) Tas.


This article has had the picture of the students removed for privacy reasons. The language framework should be read in the context of time.