CARE THAT WAS
The Care That Was
The author has spent his
professional life in the mental health service in the State of Victoria,
Australia. In this book he deals with the development of this service. In
order to put it into perspective, a brief history of Australias first
lunatic asylum at Castle Hill (NSW) is given.
From the mid-1800s Victoria
started to provide its own service. From here the author concentrates on the
Victorian scene Merri Creek Lunatic Asylum, later renamed Yarra Bend
Lunatic Asylum, the first public inquiry, effects of the goldrush, the first
attempt to integrate mental and general hospitals in the 1860s. A despatch to
the Colonial Secretary (UK) provides an opportunity to compare hospitals of
the British Colonies. Then a gradual evolution, spanning many decades, from
purely custodial care to remedial care, and later to normalisation and
integration into the community.
In Store Price: $AU22.00
Online Price: $AU21.00
920699 06 8
Number of pages:
Publisher: Poseidon Books
Date Published: October 2003
Johann Reischel was born in 1930, the second son of a forester in a tiny
mountain hamlet in North Bohemia, Central Europe.
After escaping from the aftermath of WW II, he arrived in Port Melbourne,
Australia, in 1951 on board the Greek steamer Cyrenia
as an immigrant.
In 1954, he chose a career in health care, specialising in mental health nursing
In 1970 he
was commissioned by the Victorian Nursing Council to write a new training scheme
for psychiatric nurses. His training scheme became accepted internationally and
remained in use for over 20 years.
general and mental health nurse, holder of the Diploma in Nurse Education and
Fellow of the Royal College of Nursing, Australia.
Deakin University created an award in his name to honour his work in nurse
regarded a leading nurse educationist of the 20th century in Australia.
This book should be read by all psychiatric
nurses and especially those who have responsibility for planning the future of
This is not an account without humour, there
is a rich tapestry here which keeps ones interest. By orchestrating the many
different elements of this account, as he does, the reader is drawn into the
drama starting off with the provision of mental health care [or lack of it] with
the first settlers and ending in modern times with de-institutionalization and
the closing of the asylums. For myself, largely ignorant of the history of
psychiatric nursing in Victoria, I find Harald Reischel’s account a very helpful
Clayton Community Mental Health Service
for Psychiatric Nursing Research and Practice, School of Postgraduate Nursing,
The University of Melbourne. Printed in ‘carillon’ vol 3 Issue 8 March 2002
This book is a response to requests from many of my
former students and colleagues. I gained my experiences in the field of mental
health in Victoria, hence this is where I have concentrated my coverage of
events. To put the Victorian development into perspective, I have included the
initial developments in the Penal Colony of New South Wales.
Source material from early years is rather sparse
and mostly contained in colonial despatches and government reports. I have tried
much to draw on samples from a wider field such as newspapers, popular
magazines, journals and earlier authors.
From the middle of the 20th century onwards,
material is in such abundance, hampering research through overload. Departmental
and government reports are much more voluminous and frequent, but say little
about hospital matrons, principal nurses and nursing staff, except for in-house
newsletters. These newsletters and individual hospital newspapers are a valuable
Mental nurses were the largest staff component and
carried the greatest workload. They had yet to assert themselves just as their
medical colleagues had when they finally shook off the label ‘alienists’, that
had been awarded them through the orthodoxy of their profession.
A huge reservoir of local history is yet to be
tapped, mainly of individual mental asylums of earlier years. History is so
fugitive by nature that unless we capture it in time it soon becomes lost.
From the 1950s to the 80s we witnessed an era in
mental health care that by comparison with earlier years can only be described
in laudable terms. It was an era of unprecedented emancipation coupled with
From the late 1980s onwards changes were
implemented to affect the closure of mental hospitals, following similar moves
in the US and UK. High expectations were raised by strongly appealing to social
justice and human rights.
Mental hospitals were closed without adequate
alternative services being in place. The community was unaware of the impact of
such a move. Likewise, it confused many discharged mental patients who did not
know what the future held in store for them. In the overall confusion the police
picked up many. Some had obtained dangerous weapons. In encounters with police,
four were fatally wounded. The police had not been trained to deal with mental
patients, nor were they sufficiently forewarned. Social justice and human rights
were gravely compromised.
Advice not to act too hastily was regarded as
reactionary. The whole scheme needed more planning. There is now a spillover of
problems into areas of housing, homelessness, welfare and charitable
organisations, family breakdown, law enforcement, volunteer effort, and more.
Care is fragmented and is by many regarded wanting, but still high by present
world standards, especially when compared with the still existing asylums
in some third world countries.
Three years into the 21st century, health care
reforms were overtaken by external and internal events. Australias
participation in two wars, Afghanistan and Iraq, East Timor peacekeeping, global
terrorism, illegal immigration and people smuggling, the Solomon Islands
military intervention, and the greatest drought and bushfires in Australias
Harald Johann Reischel, Warburton, August