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Western Australia - Event

Royal Commission appointed to inquire into alleged cases of brutality at the Claremont Mental Hospital (1950)

State of Western Australia

From
20 March 1950
To
6 April 1950

The 'Royal Commission appointed to inquire into alleged cases of brutality at the Claremont Mental Hospital' was appointed on 20 March 1950. It found children needed to be better segregated and recommended improvements to record-keeping, medical supervision and staffing.

Details

The Royal Commission was chaired by Mr Justice Adrian H. Curlewis of the Supreme Court of New South Wales. It had been stimulated by articles in the Sunday Times newspaper and was specifically required to 'inquire into and report upon…alleged cases of brutality at the Claremont Mental Hospital, as published by the Sunday Times newspaper in its issues of the 12th and 19th February, 1950…'

The Royal Commissioner found that:

  • 'Unkindness, roughness and violence had occurred' in the Claremont Mental Hospital
  • Punitive measures against the attendants mentioned in the incidents 'would not be warranted'
  • Remedial measures could be 'amply satisfied by proper instructions being given to attendants, by closer co-operation between the attendants and medical staff, and by a far greater supervision of the attendants …had the Medical Superintendent and the Inspector General properly carried out the duties cast upon them by the Lunacy Act, many aspects of the present inquiry would not have arisen'
  • If the evidence of the 'Chairman of the Board of Visitors , represented the views of his Board, then it is inescapable that the Board has also failed to carry out its duties under the Act.

These findings were hotly contested by the Inspector General and in large part were not accepted by the government of the day, who proceeded to prosecute (unsuccessfully) the attendants named in the incidents. The Royal Commission did, however, prompt the government to implement the changes to the Lunacy Act 1903 that the Inspector General had recommended in 1949.

Related Legislation

  • Lunacy Act 1903 (1903 - 1962)

    The Royal Commission stimulated the government to implement the Lunacy Act Amendment Act 1950, which had a greater impact on adults than on children in the mental health system. The amendments defined the terms 'restraint' and 'seclusion' and enhanced the role and responsibilities of the Board of Visitors, who were expected to be able to provide the Minister with detailed information about the operation of the Act within the State's mental health institutions.

Publications

Books

  • Ellis, A.S., Eloquent Testimony : the Story of the Mental Health Services in Western Australia, 1830-1975, University of Western Australia Press, Nedlands, Western Australia, 1984. pp.107-110. Details

Book Sections

  • Gillgren, Christina, 'Once a Defective, always a Defective: Public Sector Residential Care 1900-1965', in Errol Cocks (ed.), Under blue skies : the social construction of intellectual disability in Western Australia, Centre for Disability Research and Development, Faculty of Health and Human Sciences, Edith Cowan University, Perth, 1996, pp. 53-91. p.76. Details

Online Resources

Sources used to compile this entry: 'Government Gazette of Western Australia No. 31', in Western Australian Government Gazette Online Archive, State Law Publisher of Western Australia, 24 March 1950, https://www.legislation.wa.gov.au/legislation/prod/gazettestore.nsf/FileURL/gg1950_031.pdf/$FILE/Gg1950_031.pdf; 'Royal Commissioner's full report on Claremont Mental Hospital', Sunday Times, 25 June 1950, pp. 7-9, 19, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article59518171; Ellis, A.S., Eloquent Testimony : the Story of the Mental Health Services in Western Australia, 1830-1975, University of Western Australia Press, Nedlands, Western Australia, 1984. pp.107-110.; Gillgren, Christina, 'Once a Defective, always a Defective: Public Sector Residential Care 1900-1965', in Errol Cocks (ed.), Under blue skies : the social construction of intellectual disability in Western Australia, Centre for Disability Research and Development, Faculty of Health and Human Sciences, Edith Cowan University, Perth, 1996, pp. 53-91. p.76..

Prepared by: Debra Rosser