Kew Cottages (1887-2008)


  • Auspice: Hospitals for the Insane Branch 1887–1905; Lunacy Department (1905–34); Department of Mental Hygiene (1937–44); Department of Health (1944–52);  Mental Hygiene Authority (1952–62); Mental Health Authority (1962–78); Health Commission of Victoria (1978–85); Community Services Victoria (1985–92); Department of Health and Community Services (1992–96); Department of Human Services (1996–2010)
  • Name:Kew Cottages (1887
  • Other names: Kew Idiot Ward/Asylum (1887–1929) ; Kew Children’s Cottages (1929–62) ; Kew Training Centre (1962–c.97) ; Kew Residential Services (c.1997–2008)
  • Address: Princess Street and Yarra Boulevard, Kew

Kew Cottages history in brief 

The Children's Cottages at Kew were first opened in 1887, established as a ward of the Kew Asylum. They provided separate accommodation and educational instruction for children with intellectual disabilities and some wards of the state. 

The Cottages were known as the Kew Idiot Asylum from 1887 until c.1929. The Cottages only admitted children as patients, but many still remained in residence after becoming adults.

From 1929, the facility was known as the Children's Cottages or Kew Cottages Training Centre. 

Also in 1929, the Department of Education established the Kew Cottages Special School, the first school in Victoria for children with intellectual disabilities which remained in operation until the end of 1991.

In 1945, Kew Cottages had 361 residents; in 1953, 414 residents; and in 1955, 501 residents.

In 1962 the Cottages were proclaimed a training centre under the provisions of the Mental Health Act 1959 (No.6605). 

It appears that the Cottages functioned independently from the main Asylum/Mental Hospital at Kew. The Cottages maintained its own recordkeeping system for the majority of its patient records, and it has always been listed as a separate agency, rather than a ward of Kew. Despite this, it probably relied on the main Asylum for a degree of administrative support. For example, patients at the Cottages are included in the Annual Examination Registers and the Post Mortem Registers of the main Asylum. These outliers make it difficult to define the exact relationship between the main Asylum and the Cottages.

In 1982, responsibility for the Cottages transferred from the Mental Health Division to the Mental Retardation Division of the Health Commission. In 1985, responsibility for the Cottages transferred to the Office of Intellectual Disability Services, a division of Community Services Victoria. In 2001, the Victorian government announced its intention to close Kew Cottages. It closed in 2008.


  • Lunacy Statute 1867
  • Lunacy Act 1888
  • Lunacy Act 1890
  • Lunacy Act 1903
  • Lunacy Act 1915
  • Lunacy Act 1928
  • Mental Hygiene Act 1933
  • Mental Health Act 1959
  • Health Commission Act 1977

Warning about distressing information

This guide contains information that some people may find distressing. If you experienced abuse as a child or young person in an institution mentioned in this guide, it may be a difficult reading experience. Guides may also contain references to previous views, policies and practices that are regrettable and do not reflect the current views, policies or practices of the department or the State of Victoria.  If you find this content distressing, please consult with a support person either from the Department of Health and Human Services or another agency.


Please note that the content of this administrative history is provided for general information only and does not purport to be comprehensive. The department does not guarantee the accuracy of this administrative history. For more information on the history of child welfare in Australia, see Find & Connect .


Kew Cottages collection guide

Reviewed 06 October 2016