Latest News

Public tours of historic Aradale Asylum to start

06 Apr 2009

Creating a greater understanding of how psychiatric patients were treated in Victoria in the late 1800s is the motivation behind the launch of public tours of historic Aradale, Ararat.

The tours are the joint initiative of The Friends of J Ward (Ararat) and NMIT (Northern Melbourne Institute of TAFE), and are scheduled to commence on May 3.

Aradale and its two sister asylums - Kew and Beechworth, were commissioned to accommodate the “growing number of lunatics in Victoria”.

Construction of Aradale, originally known as the Ararat Lunatic Asylum, started in 1863 and it was officially opened in 1867. It operated as a mental hospital and training centre until 1993.

At its peak, Aradale employed about 500 staff and accommodated approximately 900 patients. The majority of staff lived in and around Ararat.

NMIT, one of Victoria's largest TAFE organisations, acquired Aradale in 2002 and now operates its Ararat campus from the site.

The Friends of J Ward is a group of volunteers committed to preserving the history of the Old Ararat County Goal following its acquisition by the Lunacy Department for housing the criminally insane from the 1880s. This facility became J Ward of the Ararat Lunatic Asylum.

The Friends of J Ward in conjunction with NMIT will conduct a function to launch the Aradale tours:

Date: Wednesday April 22, 2009

Time: 11:00 am

Place: Aradale - entry to Aradale via Heath Street, off Western Highway

Note: The function will be open to the media and invited guests only, and will conclude with a tour of the historic Aradale facilities.

Further information and media enquiries:

Karen Foster, 02 Media - 0407 312 836
John Mason, President, The Friends of J Ward - 03 5352 5450
James Gardener, NMIT - 03 9269 1579


The public tours of Aradale

The public tours of Aradale will be conducted each Sunday at 11:00 am and 2:00 pm. They will take approximately 90 minutes.
Tours will be guided by experienced J Ward tour guides
Tour bookings can only be made through the Ararat Visitor Information Centre - Tel: 1800 657 158
The tours will incorporate Aradale's Chapel, dining room, hospital wards, morgue, kitchen, forensic unit, “Ha Ha” Wall and landscaping features of the site.
More about Aradale

Aradale was built as a town within a town. It had its own market gardens, orchard, vineyard, piggery and other livestock were kept on site.
As it stands today, the Aradale complex comprises 63 buildings, which span a period from the 1860s to 1991. The forensic unit was the latest having been built in 1991 - just two years before the facility closed.
Despite being closed as an asylum, Aradale continued to house female prisoners during the building/renovation of the Dame Phyllis Frost Centre (until 2001).
About NMIT

NMIT is the largest vocational education and training institute in Melbourne's northern region.
In recognition of NMITs significant contribution to the development and delivery of viticulture and winemaking programs, the State Government awarded the Institute a grant to establish a campus on the Aradale site to expand its wine college operations.
NMIT opened an education and research centre at Aradale in August 2002.
Since assuming responsibility for the site, NMIT has established the following facilities at Aradale:
30ha vineyard
250 tonne winery
Extensive training facilities
4ha lavender farm


Interview / Photo Opportunity

Media enquiries should be directed to the NMIT Communications Officer, James Gardener, on (03) 92691579, 0413 483 182 or

NMIT (Northern Melbourne Institute of TAFE) - Situated on seven campuses and six training centres throughout Melbourne's north, NMIT delivers vocational training, higher education and lifelong learning capabilities for a global workforce. NMIT forges partnerships with community, industry and government to produce practical, solution orientated graduates capable of making meaningful contributions to their chosen field of endeavour.