Audio documentaries, interviews, tours and lectures about Willow Court and Royal Derwent Hospital. Press play to hear, run mouse along blue line to see sections and click mouse on desired section to hear. These recordings can not be seen on portable devices. If you would like to hear or download a recording for educational purposes please use the contact tab.

Russell Penman was the Director of Nursing and the CEO of Willow Court Training Centre during a major part of the downsizing of the institution, as it started moving from a medical (care) model to a social model of support. 

Through this interview we can hear what it was like to manage a place that was reported to have a ghost and what the reality was. The Derwent Valley Council heard Russell in a workshop last year and he recorded this interview with myself and local resident, Anne Salt shortly before. The interview reveals Russell’s personal history within the Disability Support System, the job of closing Willow Court Training Centre and the interaction between the community and the hospital.

While it is clear that to perpetuate this story and attempt to bring it back to life, the people who can profit from that will be doing so. We would like to interview the person who worked at the Council during this event who told Russell it was about creating employment, because they knew that the Hospital was downsizing.

We approached this interview with an open mind, because we didn’t know what we were going to discover and what Russell was about to reveal to us. He revealed much more than a simple Ghost Story, he was able to explain the affects it had on staff and patients alike.

The collection of audio memories is a part of the joint project between the Willow Court History Group and the Friends of Willow Court. The copyright holder is the speaker, in this case Russell Penman.

1 Introduction and relocating from South Australia.

2 Russell loved the town being so close to the hospital. The Ghost and managing the media.

3 The setup to raise and encourage employment opportunity by creating Winston. Historical search for Winston. Historical books in the Barracks. The “mad town”

4 Group homes are up and running, family, staff and the uncertainty of de-institutionalisation. After the job.

(c) 2017 Copyright Story: Mark Krause. (c) 2015 Copyright Audio: Russell Penman.

Chantelle in the tunnel


Associate Professor Heather Burke and her assistant, Chantelle (pictured left in the Barrel Drain) visited New Norfolk to explore the Barrel Drain that runs from the Barracks to the Derwent River. Both are from Finders University’s Department of Archaeology and have a strong interest in early Australian historical sites. Willow Court is a special case as the Barracks pre existed the Port Arthur penal settlement. Some construction occurred in the early to mid 1820’s and was reported to be extremely poor quality with earth floors and leaking roofs.The Barracks building replaced them after its design was ordered in 1827. The special case of Willow Court is, it is Australia’s oldest purpose built asylum which remains on the same ground. To an Archaeologist this means layers of artifacts that can inform us of the history of care in Australia’s early colonial years.

Associate-Professor-Heather-Burke © 2015 Copyright Willow Court History Group Inc. Transcript service provided by Michelle Eastwood at


Living in Living Out Project was created for the mental health conference that was held at Royal Derwent Hospital in 1996. Memorabilia can be found at the Derwent Valley Historic Association. Website here was the work of Martin Walsh: The Royal Derwent Hospital, New Norfolk, Tasmania.
A collaborative exhibition of sound, text and stereo images, drawn from the experience of work at the Royal Derwent Mental Hospital, created by Poonkhin Khut, Miranda Morris and Martin Walch and installed in the disused maximum security Ward C of Willow Court. Curated by John McQeenie, Arts Project Officer for the Tasmanian Trades and Labour Council.

Interview and music:

1 Max Hardwick

2 Nora Johnson

3 Postlude

4 Residual

5 Track 1

6 Track 2

7 Track 3


8 Track 4


When the siren went off at Royal Derwent Hospital/Lachlan Park Hospital, Tasmania at the asylum, the local community knew what to do, children and adults went indoors and waited until the siren sounded again to indicate the all clear. What was this about? The siren indicated that a patient had escaped and the hospital had different sounds which meant different levels of alert and danger. How did visitors and the children feel about this? This conversation between New Norfolk Councillor James Graham, Anne Salt and Mark Krause discusses some of the stories about the alarm.

“I think children’s reactions depended on if they had parents who worked in the hospital. As kids 10-12 years old, if the siren went off a group of us got on our bikes and went to see what ward the action was going on at. We were taught not to be scared of the people there just because they had physical or mental health issues…” Lyell Wilson


6th October 2012 Working Bee at the gates of Willow Court Tasmania, former Resident, Geoffrey came to visit and helped us out with some safety tips and told me about some of his life inside Willow Court and outside. *LANGUAGE WARNING*
length:5min 32 Sec

October 6th-7th Working Bee started restoration of the Willow Court entrance, in this interview I talk to Rod about the finer details of restoration to Heritage Tasmania Standards.


Paul Mayne talks us through the wards of Willow Court (west) and what it was like to live in a community that has an Asylum as one of the main employers. Later he became an employee and saw many changes to what was a large institution, changes for Staff and Residents (Patients) alike. He also talks about workplace culture and fitting in to a multi-generational community and workplace. The development of skills and training for the residents was one of those big changes from a medical model of having everything done for you to learning about choice all had its start at Willow Court.

Willow Court Audio Tour (part one) Length: 38 Minutes 32 seconds.

Willow Court Audio Tour (part two) Length: 1 hour 11 seconds.

Willow Court and Royal Derwent Hospital tour is a two part documentary. Part one talks about The Barracks and it’s extensive history. Ex-staff member Paul Mayne, now CEO of Langford Support Services Inc., Historian and Administrator Tony Nicholson and Valley Vision’s Project Officer Ian Brown take us through the oval Wards D, E and G and visit the East side of Royal Derwent Hospital in part two. Many of the Wards on the east side of the hospital are now gone forever.

Carla-Paula © 2015 Copyright Willow Court History Group Inc. Transcript service provided by Michelle Eastwood at

Carla Paul talks about her teenage years inside Royal Derwent Hospital. Length: 39:51

Here Carla talks to a group of Students and answers questions about life at Royal Derwent Hospital, Ward 7. From when she walked in wearing her school uniform to when she asked to leave and how she coped outside the Hospital.







Frascati Heritage Day

What a wonderful time listening to Margaret Richards, the daughter of Dr Brothers, Medical Superintendent this afternoon and looking through Frescati House during the Heritage open day. Margaret lived at Frescati from 1935-1946 with her family up until the age of 11 years, this is her story. CLICK HERE for transcript Frescati-House



ken obrian

Ken O’Brien from New Norfolk who owned the General Store talks about the Royal Derwent Hospital’s water supply, sewage and sullage systems and how they interacted with the township. Now in his 90’s Ken’s vivid memory of the early township was shared at the Frascati Open Day in January 2013.

Four new Podcasts from the Heritage Trail New Norfolk walking tour
map walk tour NN

Allan Pearson- Management

Allan Pearson Podcast Transcript. © 2015 Copyright Willow Court History Group Inc.
Transcript service provided by Michelle Eastwood at

June Purkiss- Nursing

Margaret Bratt discusses growing up at Willow Court as the daughter of Dr Crabb.

© 2015 Copyright Willow Court History Group Inc.
Transcript service provided by Michelle Eastwood at

Margaret Reynolds

These audio recordings are © Copyrighted work; downloading, recording or public broadcasting of this work is a criminal offence. © Copyright 2013. Laughing Productions.

(Except Allan Pearson, June Purkiss, Growing-up-at-Willow-Court & Margaret Reynolds © Copyright 2013 Derwent Valley Council)