Asbestos photos

The location of the asbestos dump site was photographed in a 1996 report and was the result of a massive job to remove as much asbestos from the wards on both sides of the Lachlan River. The exact where about of the dump site has been a mystery according to Derwent Valley Council documents, but this report locates the site with a number of photos. The low quality photocopies make it hard to identify the location without some local knowledge. The only indication is that the site was part of the old tip site which was on the south side of Glebe Road, once a site used for grazing cattle.

Can you help identify the area?

The Derwent Valley Council reported that they knew that asbestos was dumped on the site, but didn’t know where in the last plans for the area. 

Related stories:

Site still unsafe?

New Norfolk Structure Plan (Draft)

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Defiant Lives

Great news for people interested in the Disability Rights Movement in Tasmania. If there is enough people committed to buying a ticket the Documentary “Defiant Lives” will screen in Tasmania at the State Cinema in North Hobart.

All companion card holders can get in for free. Limited wheelchair spaces are available (2 only).

It will screen with open captions, and audience members can also download the MovieReader app, which syncs to an audio description.

Date: Mon, Aug 21, 2017 6:15 PM
Where: State Cinema
375 Elizabeth St, , North Hobart, Tasmania, 7000, Australia
Adult: $20.00
Additional booking fee of $1.65 per ticket.
There are 2 wheelchair spaces available.


Ticket Sales Here


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Leenowwenne people occupied site before Barracks

The Leenowwenne people were one of five Aboriginal tribes in the Big River district and lived on the lands that New Norfolk is currently sited. The Barracks replaced the older wooden structures that housed invalid convicts and most of the building material were sourced from the Lachlan River, which, on the map below is considered to have potential Aboriginal heritage significance.

Possible Aboriginal Heritage significance areas are marked out below and are the river flats including the market gardens and the hill country east of Glebe Road.

Indigenous WC map

Click link above or map below to open a full page version.

The Aboriginal history about that time (1800-20’s) called for the Military presence in the area as the British expansion continued throughout the valley using convict labor.

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Vandalism, the ongoing story

This 1996 report assesses the the Oval Wards, D, E, F and G for their ongoing vandalism. It was described as minor and not causing too much internal damage, however compared to today’s damage the Oval Wards are so bad that any investor would have to consider almost starting again.

The Sunday Tasmanian news paper Reporter contact me some weeks ago asking questions about some of the buildings on the site. This was a story that also involved a number of old and unused Government buildings in Tasmania, all that have been “disposed” of from Government and then left to become vandalised and some burnt down.

Willow Court Oval Wards were one such group of buildings and Claremont Primary School is another. The School and the oval wards were owned by the one person who has since either relinquished or placed the land and building back onto the market at much higher prices than originally tendered for, or purchased in some cases.

The State of Tasmania (over the history) is littered with buildings previously owned by the people of Tasmania and managed on our behalf by Government then sold, often below market value and then left for vandalism.

The heritage listed hospital building at Brighton Army Camp was damaged in 2013 by fire and numerous Royal Derwent Hospital/Willow Court Training Centre buildings suffered the same. The heritage listed building in the Claremont Primary School have suffered many thousands of dollars of damage from neglect and vandalism. 

It would appear that history is repeating it self when it comes to publicly owned assets and the disposal methods Governments employ. Tasmanian Tax payers are often left with less than valuation amounts for these assets, but we are then exposing our Tasmanian Heritage to Vandals over many years.

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Full Campus Map

Full Campus Map

This is a full Royal Derwent Hospital campus map which includes the Millbrook Rise component which became part of the hospital in 1968 and is the only remaining open section still providing mental health care services to Tasmanians.

It is commonly believed that the hospital closed in 2000 but this is false as this part is still operational. It had it’s own identity from 1934 til 1968, although it did shared staffing with Lachlan Park Hospital and came into the Hospital’s full administration when Lachlan Park changed names to the Royal Derwent Hospital.

The maps come from a campus rationalisation plan. The plan contained three alternatives for building usage, demolition. remain in use and buildings to not be used.  

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Build Heritage call for action, unheard

The Friends of Willow Court took part in the Legislative Council Inquiry into Built Heritage Tourism in Tasmania in 2015. 

“because we want the tourism potential of Willow Court realized”

and believed “Our concern is that while the ownership and management of this nationally significant heritage site is the responsibility of a small regional council, the tourism potential of the site and economic benefits to the Derwent Valley economy will not be realized”.

At the time they believed that, “Willow Court in its current state is a prime example of neglected recognition and interpretation”.

At the end of their submission they made a clear statement and called on the State Government to act. 

“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.”

While there has been some State Government money put into the Agrarian Eatery there has been little to no investment from Local, State and Federal Governments into the decaying buildings beyond that and the heritage buildings have appeared to have slipped of the agenda. The current plans of the owner, the Derwent Valley Council, have stated their total goals for the current year

 “Council is aware of the need to continue the works started at Willow Court and is looking into various ways of funding this.” 

The full report can be found on our documents tab or click HERE

Related stories:

Built Heritage

Built Heritage Committee Visit Willow Court

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Troubled Asylum and letter

This first edition, signed copy of Troubled Asylum was delivered today and already has a buyer. That buyer had lost their own copy which was purchased while working at the Hospital and this one will be a welcome replacement.

This is a unique copy that the late author, Ralph W Gowlland gave to a friend and confidant and is in the best condition I have yet seen.

Inside was a letter/note from Dr Reginald V Parton, the then Psychiatrist Superintendent. The four page letter/note includes historical notes, present day statistics and the 1978 objectives and functions of the hospital (RDH).

I still have a waiting list of people who wish to buy a copy of this important document, so if you wish to sell a copy please contact me at and I will put you in touch with buyers who have cash ready and waiting. If you wish to be added to the buyers list also contact me.

Trouble Asylum, Author R. W Gowlland. First edition, signed.

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Heritage listing still waiting

The Heritage listing for Frascati House and The Barracks Heritage Precinct initiated by the then former Federal Member for Lions, Eric Hutchinson in 2015 is still on hold until the September meeting of the Australian Heritage Council.

It is now envisaged the final decision could be known by March next year after Department Representatives have visited the site again. They have already visited on a number of occasions since the 2015 announcement according to today’s news report from the Mercury News paper.

(c) Copyright The Mercury News paper

Former Federal Member for Lions, Eric Hutchinson 

It also appears that “take action now group” from the “Parramatta Female Factory Precinct” are “competing” with Willow Court and are urging members and the public to write submissions in support of their application for Heritage listing.

“HOWEVER, the battle is not over.” according to the author of the website, North Parramatta Residents’ Action Group. The group was a well organised and listed all the contacts to promote the only Site of Conscience in Australia.

“We are competing against Willow Court Barracks Precinct and Frescati House in Tasmania and Abbotsford Convent in Melbourne.”

Related stories:

Start of the Heritage listing process for Willow Court

Willow Court mentioned in Canberra

Call for “Public Comment” on Heritage listing

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Alexander Laing Report

Traditional Soldiers

On Sunday May the 14th 2017 the Derwent Valley was alive with the sound of music. It might seem a little cliché, but what better way to describe the complimentary sounds of guitar and violin echoing around the valley. The valley and some of the many heritage listed homesteads, churches and significant locations such as Willow Court, played host to people from all over Tasmania. First of its kind here in the valley the day showcased many nineteenth century Australian bush style folk tunes written by Alexander Laing.

Originally from Scotland, Laing was sentenced to seven years for stealing and transported to Sydney before moving to Van Diemen’s Land at the age of twenty-three. On receiving a ticket of leave, Laing went on to become Chief Constable of Police in Sorrell, Richmond and New Norfolk. Musically minded, Laing played the violin and wrote over sixty original compositions. Recently uncovered by retired Port Arthur historian Peter MacFie, these once popular pieces are again evoking the imaginations of Tasmanians here in the valley.

Played at their place of inspiration by the energising Sorrell based trio the ‘Green Hills Gathering’  the program consisted of an exciting variance of waltzes, hornpipes, marches and jigs each played with devotion to the composer’s intent. The assertive and vibrant melodies had the audience tapping their toes and bobbing their heads with the music. Even the frogs and kookaburras in the picturesque setting of Glenleith joined in with their own choral contribution. With so many standout tunes it was hard to pick a crowd favourite though the Tasmanian Waltz played at Tasmania’s oldest church,  St. Matthews  was of particular appeal for its patriotic quality, dedicated to the renaming of Tasmania in 1856.

St Matthews Church

Organised and proudly presented by the Friends of Willow Court, the dedicated members were pleased to provide specialised commentary highlighting the rich history of the Derwent Valley, including the Barracks at Willow Court where Laing occupied the role of Upper Wardsman. The site which is rarely open to the public, offered an ambience reminiscent of colonial times with many tunes dedicated to Dr Huston and his family. Additionally during his time at Willow Court Laing wrote a testimonial acknowledging Huston’s preference for non violence and threatening care of asylum patients. The tour included an historical walk around the heritage listed gardens and Frascati House where Huston and his family resided. Guests were greeted to a mini market of locally crafted items and members of the Frascati House Committee were there to share their abundance of knowledge and insight of Frascati’s history.

Frascati House

Reminders of Tasmania’s rich colonial history can be found in the numerous historical buildings and streetscapes of the Derwent Valley. A particular highlight of the tour included St. Pauls Uniting Church where Laing’s children were baptised. In an effort to right old wrongs, Laing acknowledged his loyalty to the crown by naming his children after British royalty. Unique to many, the church was of particular appeal for its well preserved original furnishings. The wooden cedar pews and brass pipe floor heating stealing the limelight of the show. The audience did well to ad heed the advice of the Royal Marines who gingerly warned “If you smell something burning, it is just your sole”.

Soldiers supply security

With so many sites to visit and two bus loads full of enthusiasts the red coated Royal Marines ensured the day ran smoothly. This representation, being free from the traumatic aspects of the war, instead offered an artistic revival of the Derwent Rifles, who were a volunteer rifle company who paraded in New Norfolk during the mid 1800’s. With rifles left at the door, the Lachlan Hall, dressed for a Mother’s Day luncheon was well prepared for the hungry onslaught.

Guests became acquainted over a hearty meal of soups and sandwiches, and in the process identified connections to family, locations and Alexander Laing himself. On stage the string ensemble gathered to the admiration of the crowd. The lively trio entertained once again with a colourful array of allegro marches dedicated to the Derwent Rifles.

The successful day concluded with a momentous performance at the impressive homestead Glen Derwent. Formally the Elwin Hotel the property has a rich history telling the story of Irish leader William Smith O’Brien who resided at the property until his release in 1854. The congregation collected in the Oast House where the acoustics of the small stone building inevitably changed the sound of the music, creating an electrifying climax to the day’s adventures.

The autumn colours and country cottage flowers delivered a lovely backdrop for a garden tea party of scones and jam. Guests mingled and reflected on the days events. Members of the Friends of Willow Court were inundated with compliments acknowledging how the Fiddle Excursion had exceeded all expectations.  Guests especially looked forward to the prospect of similar excursions in the future.

The hard workers

Delighted to receive the positive and rewarding feedback on the day’s achievements, the Friends of Willow Court were also pleased to have raised funds for the Willow Court Restoration Fund, and acknowledge and thank all stakeholders who contributed to the success of the event.

For more images click below

Open Days & Events

My thanks to Nadia Lobb for this report and images.

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Oral History recording

Last Saturday a group from the Friends of Willow Court and one member of the Willow Court History Group went for a day training session at the Glenorchy Linc. The training was provided by “Oral History Tasmania” who have a high standard of professionalism and ethics when recording the stories of Tasmanian’s and is a part of the national group,  Oral History Australia Inc.

The Friends of Willow Court are members of Oral History Tasmania and have been part of the recording history project that the Willow Court History Group have been a part of for the past 3 years. We have accumulated many hours of podcasts across of broad spectrum of the history at Willow Court, Royal Derwent Hospital and Lachlan Park Hospital.

When gathering Oral History recordings we have been abiding by the “Oral History Australia Inc.” Guidelines of ethical practice. We have recorded oral history from 1938 to the closure in 2000. This has been lived experience from patients, all levels of care staff, trades persons and senior management.

We are looking for people who are able to contribute to the oral history repository of Willow Court. We need more people who experienced being a patient, senior policy makers, cleaners, Millbrook Rise staff and patients, Parents and Friends Association, Community support organisations and people who may have been regular visitors at the site. We also have an interest in finding more Doctors, senior and junior nursing staff who worked on the east side of the Royal Derwent Hospital and I’m sure I have missed many areas of the history so please contact us at: 

Contact & Support Us





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