Bundoora Homestead Logo
Bundoora Homestead Logo

Coming Home

3 October 2014 - 7 December 2014

Coming Home commemorates the history of Bundoora Homestead as a convalescent farm and repatriation mental hospital from 1920-1993. It reveals a little known chapter in the care and management of veterans suffering from psychiatric disorders as a result of their war service. For some, the burden of the horrors of war - be it in battle or in a prison camp - simply became too much and resulted in significant psychological trauma. For those veterans, and their families, sacrifice came in many forms and more personal battles were the reality of coming home.

Included in the exhibition are historical photographs and memorabilia from public and private collections including the Department of Veterans’ Affairs, Red Cross Australia, National Archives of Australia, Australian War Memorial, State Library of Victoria, Medical History Museum and the City of Darebin Art and History.

After the First World War (1914-1918), the Commonwealth Government identified Bundoora Park estate, an 1899 Queen Anne style federation mansion and its grounds, as a suitable site for a convalescent farm for the rehabilitation of ex-servicemen suffering psychiatric and behavioral disorders as a result of their military service. In 1924, the site became a repatriation mental hospital and was the first psychiatric facility established in Victoria to provide on-going care and rehabilitation for veterans with an accepted psychiatric illness due to their war service.

Coming Home features the stories of two long-term patients at Bundoora Repatriation Hospital; Gunner Wilfred Collinson (1895-1972), a WWI veteran who served at Gallipoli and the Western Front, and Sergeant Harry ‘Lofty’ Cannon (1914-1980), a medical orderly with the 2/9 Field Ambulance who was a Changi POW. The exhibition highlights the very substantial contribution of Dr John Cade AO (1912-1980), medical superintendent and psychiatrist at Bundoora and former major with the 2/9 Field Ambulance and Changi POW. Dr Cade’s pioneering research into the effects of lithium carbonate as a mood stabiliser in the treatment of chronic mania, known now as bipolar disorder, is internationally acclaimed.

Coming Home surveys the extensive role played by the Australian Red Cross Society throughout the hospital’s history. The unwavering commitment and dedication of Red Cross members added greatly to the social, recreational and therapeutic welfare of the Bundoora

In 1985, the Review Committee of the Repatriation Hospital System foreshadowed considerable changes to the way in which hospital and medical care for ex-servicemen would be delivered and a shift towards decentralisation and integration of these services gained considerable momentum. In 1993, after operating for more than 70 years as a repatriation facility, the hospital was formally de-commissioned and the remaining patients at Bundoora were transferred to alternative accommodation.

Subsequently, the Urban Land Authority became responsible for redeveloping the hospital site for residential housing. The original plan was to demolish Bundoora Homestead along with all of the hospital buildings. Through the combined efforts of Darebin City Council, La Trobe University and Preston Historical Society the building was saved. In 2001, Bundoora Homestead Art Centre was opened as a cultural and heritage facility for the community funded and managed by Darebin City Council.

Coming Home also profiles significant military personnel associated with the Darebin area including Able Seaman William Williams (1885-1914), the first recorded Australian service fatality for WWI, Victoria Cross winners Sergeant William ‘Rusty’ Ruthven (1893-1970) (WWI), and Private Bruce Kingsbury (1918-1942) (WWII), and Corporal Rodney Breavington (1904-1942), a Changi POW who was executed during the Selarang Barracks Incident in WWII.

Bundoora Homestead Art Centre exhibition
Supported by the Anzac Centenary Local Grants Program

This film was created for the Culture Victoria Website www.cv.vic.gov.au and was supported by the Victorian Government through Arts Victoria.

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