Northcote Inebriate Asylum

Public Record Office Victoria
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The exact date of establishment of the Northcote Inebriate Asylum is unknown. A notice appeared in the Victoria Government Gazette in July 1890 which announced that the Northcote Inebriate Asylum was open for a limited number of female patients who were unable to contribute towards their maintenance. Conceivably, however, it may have only been open to those who could contribute to their own maintenance prior to this date. Records in custody at the Public Record Office date from 1890 so this would seem to suggest that the agency commenced in that year. A formal gazettal establishing the agency has not been found.

According to C.R.D. Brothers in his book Early Victorian Psychiatry the Northcote Inebriate Asylum opened in 1873 as a "semi-" venture under the direction of Dr Charles McCarthy. He financed the institution through donations from citizens and this fund was supplemented by a Government grant. The Asylum was situated in St George's Road Northcote. The Asylum (or Retreat) was established as a result of the Inebriate Act 1872 (No.449). This Act repealed the 17th section of the Lunacy Statute 1867 (No.309) which had empowered the Master-in-Lunacy to commit inebriates to an asylum for any period up to twelve months. This new institution was to be specifically for the care and treatment of inebriates. However the asylum was not successful as the majority of inebriates could not afford to pay the maintenance fees Dr McCarthy demanded.

After the Zox Commission into Asylums into 1888 all asylums were abolished under the provisions of the Inebriate Asylums Act 1888 (No.1009). This act also provide for the establishment of public inebriate asylums. The Northcote Inebriate Retreat was taken over by the Government in 1890 and became the "Asylum for Inebriates at Northcote" under the provisions of the Inebriates Act 1890, s.4. This may account for the notice in the Government Gazette mentioned above and the commencement date of records in the custody of the Public Record Office.

To be committed to be an inebriate asylum inebriates could make applications to the Master-in-Lunacy or to any Judge of the County or to a Police Magistrate or to any Justice. If that person was satisfied that the applicant had habitually used excessive quantities of intoxicating drinks and was sober at the time of the application and fully understood the nature of the application, the justice could make an order for his/her reception, detention and curative treatment for any term not exceeding three months.

If a person was certified by two medical practitioners as an inebriate the Master-in-Lunacy, Judge or Police Magistrate could order their apprehension.

The Northcote Inebriate Asylum was closed in October 1892 by order of the Governor-in-Council as published in the Victoria Government Gazette under the provisions of the Inebriates Act 1890, s.4.


Lunacy Statute 1867, s.17
Inebriates Act 1872
Inebriates Asylums Act 1888
Inebriates Act 1890

Location of Records

Some records are held. See below.

Data time period: [1890 TO 1892]

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