This is Willow Court. A three-sided building with verandah, surrounding a central quadrangle. It dates back to 1830.
Originally, it was a barracks for sick and infirm convicts. Other buildings were added to the site, 23 in total between 1830 and 1968.
Over the years, the name of the institution housed here changed … invalid depot … lunatic asylum … hospital for the insane … mental diseases hospital. These names reflected changes in the community and government attitude towards intellectual disability and mental illness.
In 2000 Willow Court closed its doors as patients were de-institutionalised and cared for within the community. Tasmania was the first state in Australia to adopt the “social model of care”.
Communities were left with large empty buildings and equally large maintenance bills, often too much for small municipal councils or state governments to bear through their rate payer/tax payer base. Theft, arson and vandalism all added to already growing problems of natural decay.
Today, some buildings have been renovated and re-purposed. A popular restaurant, a motel, antique shops, sets for film and tv filming, for art installations. There is talk of a museum. The Antique Shop is a fitting companion, linking items from the past to these historical buildings,
Other buildings continue to decay whilst new owners are sought.
Willow Court is of national significance as an asylum that was in continuous use for 170 years and as the first to close. It is still used in the education of students in disability, aged care and mental health.