Observatory Clinic

One of the things I always recalled, was leaving school on Monday afternoons while in Grade 4. I’m aware that I did this regularly, but I dont have many memories of it. I was happy about leaving that class because I really hated my Grade 4 teacher, and she hated me.

My stepmother would drive, sometimes with my stepsister along, to The Domain in inner Melbourne. There I went to a clinic of some kind. There were people in white lab coats. I went there so often, yet I cant recall much about being there.

I can recall being dropped off, once. I recall the building that the clinic was held in. It had some play equipment outside and I recall playing on the monkey bars. I recall one time when I was in a doctors office, talking to him and he went out for a bit to do something and suggested I play darts while I waited. I got a bullseye after a few tries, and left it in place to tell him when he returned shortly after. He brushed off my claim as unimportant and unlikely, showing me his attitude to me. I dont know if this was a setup to test me or not. I reacted with resentment that he didnt believe me. Another time I recall being in the play room with a few other children, and I was playing by myself with some toys. Another time, by step-parents visited the clinic and I was sent out of the office. I went outside to the window and tried to jump up to see inside, but the sill was too high, and the ground floor was a few steps above the surroundings. and the stone wall base didnt have anything to climb up on.

I clearly recall that it was in grade 4 that I went to this place, because of my teacher. Yet when I later asked my stepmother about going to some kind of clinic, she told me that I never did. Not satisfied with her answer, I later traveled to Melbourne and went to the Domain to find that building. And I did. Its was painted a cream color. The buildings had become part of the Botanic gardens and they had no information about their use, except from long ago when it was an astronomical observatory (The Melbourne Observatory). I went to the state library and did more research and discovered that a government administered child psychiatry clinic called “The observatory Clinic” used those buildings form the 1950s to the 1970s.

I had enough information to apply for information about my treatment through FoI, and I was sent a few pages of medical records. However, I was surprised to see that the records released to me were for the previous years, when I was in grade 2 and 3. Not grade 4.

I have no memory of going to that place before grade 4. Actually, I have hardly any memory at all from grade 3 or earlier. its almost a complete blank. I have a memory or 2 of my Grade 3 teacher, who I really liked. And no memory at all from grade 1.

My treatment at the clinic

As a result of library research and a Freedom of Information (FoI) application, I found out some information about the treatment I received as a child. Records of treatment at the Observatory Clinic in 1975/6 were obtained through Freedom of Information from the “Archives Unit” of the “Dept. of Human Services”. This was arranged via the Dept switchboard (ph 03 9616 7777).

According to the FoI documents:

  • I was sent to this clinic in 1975 and 1976 due to the recommendation of a teacher at a catholic primary school, in order to address disruptive behavior.
  • Referring school: St Pauls’ School, Jasper Rd, Bentleigh VIC 3204
  • At the age of six, in 1975, I was prescribed and given psychiatric medication. Imipramine 25mg x2 per day, and later Meleral?

The focus of the records returned by the FoI application was of family dynamics. There was information about medication prescribed, but the primary focus and content of the observations regarded the relationship between myself and my (step)parents, and other members of my (step)family. There is the suggestion from these records that this relationship was the primary source of my behavioral problems.

References at the State Library of Victoria

  1. Mental Hygiene Authority Clinics
    • call# SLV P362.2209945 V66M
    • April 1961 Brochure
    • From the brochure: “Metro clinics” The Domian, South Yarra, ph 63 7621.
      1. Functions
      2. Children¬†” to treat families in which the usual child problems occur, with the exception of the intellectually retarded (Travancore) and children with antisocial behavior (Children’s).
      3. Limited day care is also available. Treatment is provided by psychotherapy, occupational activities and the various physical therapies.
      4. Provision of group therapy for childrens parents, slow readers, etc.”
  2. Index to Victorian Parliamentary Papers, 1950-92
    • call# LTR 015.9450532 ST8I
    • p121-A few significant dates in the history of mental health administration.
    • other papers presented to parliament relevant to mental health administration in Victoria are also recorded in this publication
    • see also- 1st annual report of the Health Commission of Victoria, 1978, presented to parliament 1979 – see above reference for location.
  3. 1st annual report of the Health Commission of Victoria
    • refers to the “Observatory, South Yarra”, and “childrens clinics”
    • Papers presented to the Parliament of Victoria – Session 1979-80, vol 6
  4. Annual report of the Mental Hygiene Authority Victoria
    • Year ending 31 December 1977
    • Papers presented to the Parliament of Victoria – Session 1979-80, vol4#7, p42 onward.
    • From p42: ” ‘the year was a particularly difficult one, owing to the considerable staff turnover and associated organizational problems at Observatory Clinic,’ “
    • Refers to “the recommendations of the Norgard Committee of Enquiry into Childcare Services in Victoria.” (1976). The enquiry enabled “Mental Health Branch” child psychiatric expertise to be available to the “Central Implementation Committee of the Social Welfare Department”.
  5. Committee of Enquiry into Child Care Services in Victoria  РNorgard report
    • Papers presented to the Parliament of Victoria – Session 1976-78, vol3#107
  6. The Investigative Task force’s Findings on the Aradale Psychiatric Hospital and Residential Institution. – Stephens report
    • Findings, Nov 1991#198
    • Papers presented to the Parliament of Victoria – #198 1988-91
    • Nov 1991. Includes mention of unsupported allegations of prostitution rackets, sexual offences by staff and management cover-ups.

observatory clinic extension plaque