Kew Idiot Asylum

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Kew Idiot Asylum
Opened 1887
Closed 2008
Current Status Closed
Building Style Cottage Plan
Location Kew, VIC
Alternate Names
  • Kew Idiot Ward
  • Kew Cottages
  • Kew Cottages Training Centre
  • Kew Residential Services


The Children's Cottages at Kew were first opened in 1887. A Gazette notice has not been found. The institution was established to provide separate accommodation for child inmates who had previously been accommodated with adult patients. Although the Cottages only admitted children as patients, many of those children remained in residence at the Cottages as adults. The function of the institution was to provide accommodation and educational instruction for mentally retarded children. Some Wards of the State and other various "difficult" children were also admitted.

The institution was first established as a ward of the Kew Asylum and termed the "Idiot Ward". The Cottages at Kew were known as the Kew Idiot Asylum from 1887 until c.1929. From 1929 they have been known as the "Children's Cottages, Kew" or alternatively "Kew Cottages Training Centre". In 1962 the Cottages were proclaimed a "training centre" under the provisions of the 1959 Mental Health Act.

By 1973 a further appeal was initiated by Graham Perkin, Editor of the Age newspaper. This became known as the Minus Children Appeal. There were over 500 children on the waiting list for places at Kew Cottages at that time. Four major buildings were constructed in this period to cater for daytime activities and education and named the Hamer Centre (day activity centre), the Smorgon Centre (medical and dental centre) and the Perkin Art Centre and the Age/Geiger Centre (theatre and kindergarten), which incorporated the Geiger Playhouse, were built as a result of this appeal.

It appears that the Idiot Asylum/Cottages has largely functioned independently from the main Asylum/Mental Hospital at Kew. The Cottages maintained its own record keeping system for the majority of its patient records, and it has always been listed as a separate agency, rather than a ward of Kew, in the Lists of Public Servants. However it probably relied on the main Asylum for some administrative support. Patients at the Cottages are included in the Annual Examination Registers and the Post Mortem Registers of the main Asylum for example. Therefore the exact relationship between the main Asylum and the Cottages has been difficult to define.

In 1982 responsibility for the Cottages was transferred from the Mental Health Division to the Mental Retardation Division of the Health Commission (VA 652). In 1985 responsibility for the Cottages was transferred from the Mental Retardation Division of the Health Department II to the Office of Intellectual Disability Services, a division of Community Services Victoria.