Photo: Rear of the Ararat Lunatic Asylum, 1880. State Library of Victoria.

The Eminence Beyond the Flint Hill is a large format, fully illustrated, comprehensive history of the former Ararat Lunatic Asylum, aka Ararat Hospital for the Insane, aka Ararat Mental Hospital, aka Ararat Psychiatric Hospital and Training Centre, aka Aradale, which first opened its doors to patients at 9am on Saturday, 19th October, 1867.

For the most part decommissioned on the 10th of December 1993, one ward – the Ararat Forensic Psychiatric Centre – remained active until August of 1997, enabling Aradale to claim title to being both the oldest and longest-running extant Victorian psychiatric institution.

Aradale is also the most intact of those institutions:

  • The Yarra Bend (opened 1848 – closed 1925 and almostly completely demolished by 1929): Only one artefact – one of the two (1849) entrance gate pillars – remains. This pillar, which formed part of the front gates of the Fairlea Prison (1956 – 1996), was (in March 1997) relocated some 240 metres distant from its original site.
  • Ararat, aka Aradale (opened Saturday 19th October 1867 – closed August 1997): 63 of the original 78 + buildings remain intact. Some – specifically the single-storey cottage and pavilion wards (1887-9, 1890 and 1959) – are falling into disrepair.
  • Beechworth, aka Mayday Hills (opened 24th October 1867 – closed 1995): The second storey of the male division at Beechworth was completely gutted by fire in 1954 and was not refurbished. The site is currently being redeveloped.
  • Kew, aka Willsmere (which opened as an annexe to the Yarra Bend asylum in November 1871 and closed in 1988): During the period 1997-2009 Willsmere was redeveloped as a complex of one and two-bedroom apartments.
  • Ballarat, aka Lakeside (a repurposed Industrial School for girls), which briefly (1875 – 1877) functioned as a lunatic asylum for idiots and imbeciles. In 1877 the building became a Reformatory School for boys before it was again repurposed, in 1893, as a lunatic asylum. Lakeside closed its doors to patients in 1995. The (modified) Industrial School has been preserved, but most of Lakeside was demolished to make way for the Lake Gardens housing estate.
  • Sunbury, aka Jackson’s Hill aka “The Hill”, aka Caloola: Originally, like Ballarat, an Industrial School which was repurposed (in 1887) as a lunatic asylum. Caloola closed in 1995 and remains largely intact. Most of the buildings are currently being used for education purposes.


  • Large format (12 x 16 inch) soft cover and hard cover “coffee table” style;
  • Approximately 120 (colour, sepia and black and white) photographs;
  • Approximately 80 architectural plans;
  • hundreds of patient histories;
  • scores of interviews with former staff;
  • 500 + pages, fully indexed and foot-noted;
  • reference lists, appendices, bibliography &c.

Estimated RRP:  [Aus] $ 55 (soft cover), $ 85 (hard cover).

Estimated date of publication:  February 2017

17 thoughts on “The Eminence Beyond the Flint Hill: A Comprehensive History of Aradale aka the Ararat Lunatic Asylum.

    1. Hi Belinda – the book is rapidly approaching completion and will be published early next year to coincide with the 150th anniversary of the opening of the Ararat Lunatic Asylum. Publishing and preorder details will be announced soon on this site.


  1. A message for John Stephenson: My name is Ross Dyall. Last weekend, a work colleague of mine (Wayne Van Der Vlist) went on a guided tour of Aradale (he was accompanied by Tom, a Stroke sufferer – you may remember them). On the tour you indicated that it was possible to obtain the records of relatives who had been patients at Aradale. I know that one of my great grandmothers, Grace Gertrude Hunter (nee Robinson), was at Ararat Mental Hospital from 1935 until her death in 1953 (prior to this she had been at Sunbury Mental Hospital from 1929). I would very much appreciate it if you could let me know if Grace’s records are available (I do already have copies of her death certificate and a brief Coroners Inquest). Best regards, Ross Dyall.


    1. Hi Ross – patient records for Aradale (and Sunbury) are held at the Victorian Archives Centre, 99 Shiel Street, North Melbourne. The VAC is open M – F from 10.00am to 4.30pm (excluding public holidays) and on the 2nd and last Saturday of every month.

      You can apply for access to Grace’s records via Freedom of information using this link …

      Or, you can print out the PROV General Enquiry form …
      … and mail it to:

      Reference Services
      Public Record Office Victoria
      PO Box 2100
      North Melbourne VIC 3051

      Type of records held: admission warrants / medical reports (and police reports, where applicable); clinical notes; post-mortem results (which I believe you already have acquired), &c.



    1. Hi Alessandro – apologies for not replying sooner. There is still no firm date for publication, but the book will be available in or around October of 2017.


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