Expression of Interest (Sale or Lease)

The long awaited Expression Of Interest (EOI) concept for the sale or lease of Willow Court was announced nearly three years ago (March 2015) and on the 30.12.2017 I was sent an email from Cr Bester stating;

The Council recently approved the release of an Expression of Interest document… he goes on to state that no EOI have been supplied for the group of Councillor to view.

The last part of the statement is interesting seeing that the final document has not been issued! Telling the public that the process is advanced and that they are waiting for EOI is “Fake News”.


This has been the Council’s prefered option to deal with the publicly owned Heritage Site that they currently are the Custodians. I was keen to understand the context that was going to be part of the decision making process around the lease or sale of our Tasmanian Heritage Site, so I wrote to the Derwent Valley Council to:

  1. Ask for the Expression of interest documentation and,
  2. To have supplied, any related documentation around any decisions around the type of use for the site. (ethics)

I think it is important that the Council, who are the current Custodians of the site, explain the context by which they are going to sell or lease the site and what sort of activities they are ethically bound by heritage and by their own collective thoughts to allow on the site. At this stage we have only heard from a small number of individual Councillors who have had a range of personal opinions, but nothing in writing from them as a collective.

I believe that our Tasmanian Heritage needs the utmost consideration when a public entity such as the State Government or a Local Government body decide to offer our Heritage for sale to private enterprise.

I have floated the concept at meetings that without a guiding document around this the Council could well sell the site for a theme park. While most Councillors reject this notion, without some guiding document, what I suggest could become a reality.

At the last Council meeting (December) a member of the public asked a question of the Council and in doing so stated that the Oval Wards (D, E, F, G) and land were sold for $43,500 while an offer of $200,000 sat on the table. It is important to note that no Councillors choose to confirm or deny the figures announced by the member of the public and the context of the sale was not mentioned.

I received an email back from the The Executive Assistant, Melinda Pearce which appears to contradict the announcement made earlier about the release of the document itself. 

“I can confirm that an EOI has not been publicly released yet”

So as a Tasmanian interested in Tasmanian Heritage, in particular Willow Court, I am left confused by these contradictory statements. Does this Council know what it is doing with this process? I would suggest that clearly there are issues with the system that has already taken nearly three years to produce the EOI and clearly there are issue between Councillors about the actual release.

We can only wait to see what ethical boundaries they have placed on any interested party who wishes to use the site which they are the Tasmanian Custodians!



Posted in Global, Local | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Full Ree Pettifer Report 1989

I have now uploaded the full report (61 pages) onto the “articles tab” on this website






Final Report

This is 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. This was an unpublished document 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


(This replaces a part copy that I had already stored on this site)

Posted in Global, Local | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

PURKISS Juanita (June)

January 9, 2018
PURKISS Juanita (June) Died peacefully at New Norfolk District Hospital on January 8th, 2018. Daughter of Bill and Jean Herbert (both dec). Sister to Bill Herbert and Sheila and Rex Cleary. Loving aunt to her nieces and nephews. Now at peace.

Published in: The Advocate

Wards K1 and K2

It is with great sadness that Willow Court has lost one of its longest serving staff members and keepers of the history. I had the privilege of recording an interview with June Purkiss a couple of years ago with Anne Salt the chairperson of the Friends of Willow Court and found her to a knowledgeable, warm and respected lady.

June was able to shed light on much of the history from her start at the Hospital in 1946 and even was able to remember earlier than that when her father William (Bill) Herbert worked as a bricklayer on Wards E and D around the oval in the early 1930’s. Bill also became a long serving and respected staff member in 1938.

I have included a previously unreleased section of that interview and another podcast that was a recording of June’s memories for the “walking through time” project which can also be found on the Derwent Valley Council Website.

Posted in Global, Local | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Reflective Garden

Last week I had the opportunity to speak with some of the Friends of Frascati House (FoFH) as they inspected the new layout and progress of the Reflective Garden, sited between the rear of the Frascati House (1834) and The Avenue.

Over the past 2-3 years the “Flourish Mental Health Action in Our Hands” self advocacy group have been in discussions with the Derwent Valley Council and the Friends of Frascati House to see if it is possible to also contribute a plaque for the Gardens.

I have been involved in this committee for over twelve months and while there has been some progression, little physical evidence has happened. Last week I was able to have a discussion with Councillor Bester and Mr Greg Winton, General Manager along with three members of the Frascati House Committee who agreed to further discussions with Flourish. 

It would appear that the wording of the proposed plaque that the FoFH have submitted to Council and the wording on the plaque that Flourish self advocacy group have proposed are almost identical.

I am currently waiting for Jess Dallas who is the Council’s Project Manager to contact me back with the wording*. If both groups can agree, there is an opportunity for a plaque to be installed to remember past residents, staff and community members that were involved in the Hospital’s 174 years of operation.

Frascati House Committee and the Derwent Valley Council have also considered some proposed insensitive activities in the old home but it is nice to see that there is an opportunity to have some respectful and sensitive activity on the site. 

*p.s. Jess Dallas had sent the wording but due to a communication issue I only received it yesterday. Thanks Jess.

APIU, DVC may approve tour of “Satan’s House”!

Friends of Frascati House looking at the Reflective Garden

Posted in Global, Local | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Council move to clean up oval wards.

The Derwent Valley Council have placed an Abatement Notice on the Willow Court Oval Wards currently owned by Glenora ll Pty Ltd and managed by Tony Ellis. The Wards have been an eye sore now for many years and although owned privately have failed to reach any planned potential. The oval and Wards were originally sold to Robert Rockerfellow, who after dividing profitable land from least profitable on sold the buildings to Ellis for unit development.

Mr Ellis, who has also planned an apartment complex for Willow Court in New Norfolk, offered an apology to those affected.

“A painful time it’s been for me and my family, being off on unpaid sick leave for nine months,” he said.

“However, after this really challenging period of my life, it’s wonderful to be back at work again for part two of my life.

“I would also like to take this opportunity to apologise to anyone who has been impacted — especially financially — by these delays, and I gratefully appreciate their patience as I’m now at work quickly resolving these issues.” Mercury Article Sept 2017


Abatement Notice

Posted in Global, Local | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

Unlock Willow Court

Dr Helen Norrie listens and facilitates discussions

Last night I attended a gathering at Willow Court with Dr Helen Norrie and Dr Tamas Oszvald, both from the University of Tasmania. They are working with the Derwent Valley Council and the New Norfolk community to scope potential collaborative projects that could facilitate the activation of Willow Court, engaging with past, present and future narratives and histories.

This initiative was funded by a grant from UTAS Creativity, Culture and Society research stream, and the project aims to develop a list of potential future projects, and collaborative partners.

The key focus of the meeting and the whole project involved piecing together information that exists, identifying gaps in knowledge/information as documented, identifying key ‘knowledge custodians’ and understanding the complexities of recent and past histories.

There was representation from:

Linking and Networking Supper

New Norfolk High School,

Derwent Valley Council,

Friends of Frascati House,

Friends of Willow Court,

New Norfolk Business Alliance,

Local Tourist operators,

Derwent Valley Players,

Owners of the Agrarian Kitchen and other interested parties.

Can Seng Ooi, Professor in Cultural and Heritage Tourism, Hamish Maxwell- Stewart, Professor of History and the co-author of a previous report into the reuse of Willow Court, Professor Lucy Frost were in attendance.  

We were presented with a scope of the project by Dr Helen Norrie and Dr Tamas Oszvald and then we were asked to introduce ourselves and our connection with the site. A moderated discussion of possible future projects on the site and the interconnection they could have with the community, locally, Statewide and nationally were then discussed. A short time of questions.

Previous Reports and General Information Table.

An update on the DVC’s “expression of interest” process was given by the General Manager Mr Greg Winton.

Personal thoughts: For me this is the last ditch effort to get some common ground and for all parties to work towards one agenda. Failure to work together will simply add another report to the already high pile of the 16 previous reports and this would be a serious concern for the site. 

I have a good feeling about this. We can only contribute and work towards Willow Court becoming a place to visit in Tasmania and hope that other agendas will be left behind. I know that both Helen and Tamas are working hard to see that happen.

On a not so related matter, meetings at Willow Court Barracks without toilet facilities are a sure test of endurance for invited guests!




Posted in Global, Local | Tagged , , , , , | 3 Comments

Is it time to “unlock Willow Court”?

More news coming soon!

Traditional Soldiers

Posted in Global, Local | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Study into Willow Court use.

Last week I had the opportunity to meet with both Dr Norrie and Dr Osvald about the engagement project that they have been investigating at Willow Court. They explained the project and stated that this will be approximately the 15-16th report into Willow Court. We were able to explain some of the history and the complex and mixed history of the site and plan on returning to have more input. 

The reports range from the Architectural values through to the large McDonald Report (found in the documents tab on this site) created to plan for the future use of the site. This project was put forward by The New Norfolk Business Alliance which is a Special sub committee of the Derwent Valley Council. The study will look at future community engagement opportunities for the site and is seeking interested groups and individuals to have an input into the process.

As I reported in an earlier report, the Derwent Valley Council are currently also looking at an expression of interest process for the site, which they have been announcing for nearly two years. The Council are looking at interested parties to restore, occupy and use the site.

Interested parties are yet to see the conditions and details that are set out but the Council have been looking at the advertising costs and options up to $76, 960 (+GST) which they admit is unfunded from the ratepayers at this stage. The proposal from the DVC agenda is below.

University of Tasmania Community Engagement Project
The New Norfolk Business Alliance has been exploring how a community arts project could be used to promote visitation to New Norfolk. As a result of discussions Dr Helen Norrie (Lecturer at the School of Architecture and Design) and Dr Tamas Osvald (Research Assistant at the College of the Arts) from the University of Tasmania have shown an interest in the collation of information and undertaking a short community mapping exercise which will inform future community engagement opportunities.
Dr Norrie and Dr Osvald have been successful in receiving approximately $5,500 through an internal University of Tasmania grant (Creative Culture and Society Research) to further explore the potential for collaborative and interdisciplinary projects with Willow Court as the basis of the discussion. The project is a short term program which will be completed by December 2017 and will collate information, map the community and identify potential future collaborations and opportunities for future projects. Dr Norrie and Dr Osvald intend to provide the results of their project to the Council for further discussion once completed. This project does not involve any financial commitment from the Council and the outcomes may assist in future funding applications. A brief outline of the project is attached.

Posted in Global, Local | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

Patchwork Cafe

A long history has been had for the demountable building that we know today as the Patchwork Cafe in the privately owned section of the hospital grounds at New Norfolk.

In the documentary that recorded the last six months (Six Months to go and counting) before the closure of the institution there is a scene where you can see the steam rising from the grate just in front of the door of what is now the cafe, in it’s current location. This was part of the steam loop heating system that went to each Ward of the Hospital. Many people have a vivid memory of steam rising up in the middle of winter in the hospital grounds.

The demountable building was first located beside K1 (building with the clock tower) then moved after the construction of K2 (current Masonic Lodge). It wasn’t in the plan in 1883 but appears in the picture above and it is the building with a pitched roof located about one third along in the photo from the left.

Some people have only ever know this buildings as Patchwork Cafe and others have known this demountable building as a school and an Occupational Therapy building. Today it sits in it’s third location and still bears the marks of being part of the Institution. If you look carefully inside at the windows you will notice that the glass on some of the lower pains is quite thick and around the wooden window frame there is are holes where metal bars once were installed to stop escapes.

This picture shows the building in it’s current location before the gardens and the strange and sometimes controversial old car bodies that currently surround it. The picture below shows the side and rear view and lacks the gardens that have been put in around the Cafe.

Posted in Global, Local | Tagged , | 2 Comments


Last week was a tremendously powerful week for evoking memories and reflection with “Remembrance Day” activities being broadcast on the television and ceremonies being held in our community. It was also a week that I found out that a number of people I knew had died.

This has had me thinking about remembering, reflecting and the social normal methods we share and speak to each other about the death of friends, relations and colleagues.

It wasn’t that long ago that I noticed another cherished colleague, too many at the Royal Derwent Hospital, had died and as expected there was a wonderful response and out pouring from past friends and colleagues, all sharing their condolences and stories of who that person was to them and their loss and sadness felt. As a small community there was a joint grieving that could be felt even through the digital social media that we commonly use today.

This has made me think as I was dealing with grief, the grief and loss of two people. This was on top of the news of the last six people in a short space of months that have died and yet some of this news I hadn’t heard for weeks afterwards.

There had been no opportunity to show that out pouring of grief, no opportunity to attend public funerals to celebrate the lives of these people and the contribution they had made to society and the people around them. There was no Facebook group to share this knowledge, no place to write your thoughts. It was allowed to quietly pass.

This is the life (and death) of the past Residents of Willow Court.

What is stopping this from happening? Doesn’t true inclusion look the same as other people’s lives or is the need to maintain the “Organisation’s” privacy and confidentiality policy stopping real inclusion, even in death?

The only characteristic that is different was an intellectual disability. Maybe we have a long way to go.

Posted in Global, Local | Tagged | Leave a comment