Bundoora Repatriation Mental Hospital

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Bundoora Repatriation Mental Hospital
Opened 1923
Closed 1993
Current Status Demolished (Partially)
Building Style Cottage Plan
Location Bundoora, VIC
Alternate Names
  • Bundoora Convalescent Farm


Bundoora Homestead was built in 1899 for JMV Smith, a prominent identity in the horse breeding and racing industry. The 606 acre (245.2 hectare) property known as Bundoora Park, operated as a horse and cattle stud and was home to race horses. In the years before the outbreak of World War I, the Smith children married and moved away to other properties in Victoria and England. By then, JMV Smith was a senior gentleman and his health had began to deteriorate. With no options for the continuation of the business and estate within the family, in 1920, Bundoora Park was offered for sale for the considerable sum of £29,000. A report to cabinet, signed by Edward Millen, Australia’s first Minister for Repatriation and Minister for Defence (1913–14), identified Bundoora Park as a prime location for the establishment of a convalescent farm.

The Mental Treatment Act 1915 had allowed for ex-service patients to obtain mental health treatment voluntarily . In 1915 a ward at Mont Park (VA 2846) was taken over as a Convalescent Military Hospital. An agreement was made with the Defence Department for the latter to erect the Mont Park central block for use as a Military Hospital. This hospital was generally referred to as the Military Mental Hospital or the Military Mental Block, and primarily catered for ex-military personnel with chronic psychiatric illness.

There was also a hospital variously known as the Bundoora Farm or Homestead or the Repatriation Mental Hospital built on or near the current site of the Bundoora Repatriation Hospital. In April 1920, the Commonwealth bought Bundoora Park - 600 acres with a substantial homestead and various cottages, sheds and stables. The combined facility became Mont Park Military Mental Wards - a halfway house between treatment and discharge. It aimed to treat returned soldiers suffering from trauma and mental illness as a result of their war service through the provision of fresh air and gentle farm work.

In 1923, the property was transferred to the Repatriation Commission and in 1924 the Bundoora Homestead (initially known as Bundoora Convalescent Farm, sometimes the Bundoora Park Curative Farm) was opened as Hospital Ward 2. These changes were due to the growing patient numbers and awareness of their need for complex, long term care. The Bundoora Park Homestead, the principle building of the repatriation facility, later became an arts centre. The building, located on Snake Gully Road, Bundoora, was originally built for racing identity John Matthew Vincent Smith, completed in 1900. It was purchased by the Government, specifically the Repatriation Commission, in 1920.

The construction of the separate military mental health facility, away from Mont Park (VA 2846), was in response to pressure from returned servicemen's organisations to protect shell-shocked patients from the stigma of mental illness by removing them from the general psychiatric patient population in Mont Park. The military block at Mont Park was closed in 1924 and handed back to the State for civilian mental cases. The Victoria Gazette (No. 175, Wednesday October 8, 1924, p. 3175) proclaimed that the institution, to be known as 'Repatriation Mental Hospital "B"', was "to be exclusively used for the reception, care, and treatment of mental patients", to take effect from the 1st April, 1924. In October, 1924 the Mont Park facility was named Repatriation Mental Hospital "A", and the Bundoora site named Repatriation Mental Hospital "B".

The Victoria Gazette (No. 74, Wednesday April 12, 1933, p. 1183) proclaimed to revoke the above proclamation made in October 1924, and the institution was to be then known as 'Repatriation Mental Hospital, Bundoora' (VA 2846), as "an institution to be exclusively used for the reception, care, and treatment of mental treatment patients". In 1933 all the military patients from Mont Park were transferred to the Bundoora Repatriation Mental Hospital. Over the years eight more wards were built, giving the hospital a capacity of 291 beds by 1968.

In 1950 the hospital had 200 patients. Only patients who had an entitlement for psychiatric disorder due to war service were admitted. Many patients were admitted and discharged more than once, some up to 15 times over a period of years. Bundoora Repatriation Hospital benefitted from active volunteers, especially from the Red Cross and Returned Servicemen's League.

From approximately 1984-93, the Bundoora Repatriation Hospital (VA 2846) was jointly funded by the Office of Psychiatric Services and Department of Veteran Affairs under a State/Commonwealth agreement. Returned servicemen with mental health issues were cared for at the Bundoora Repatriation Hospital until its official closure in October 1993. Most of the buildings were demolished to make way for suburban housing. Several buildings were refurbished for other uses.