Politics, Community & Society > Children Placed in Adult Mental Institutions

Children Placed in Adult Mental Institutions

Published: May 24, 2009


The Council of Australian Governments (COAG) endorsed the “National Framework for Protecting Australia’s Children” on April 30, 2009. They say it is “an ambitious, long term national approach to ensuring the safety and well-being of Australian children”.

One absolutely essential element of reducing child abuse and neglect is ceasing the practice of placing children with adults in health care settings, particularly in mental health facilities.

While many are working towards resolving the problem of co-location of children with adults in Australian mental health facilities, there is still a long way to go.

Tasmanian government officials recently admitted it may be years before they have a separate mental health unit for children. There was a great deal of recent publicity over the fact that children were being kept at the centre where Martin Bryant, who is infamous for the Port Arthur massacre, is a prisoner.

The opposition revealed 58 children and adolescents were admitted to adult psychiatric wards in Tasmania last year.

This is happening soon after the Greens pledged to work towards an apology to children abused and neglected in Willow Court, otherwise called the New Norfolk Mental Hospital, or Lachlan Park.

The Children’s Hospitals Association has been working towards the development of the Australian Service Framework for Children and Young People, akin to those developed in the UK in 2004 and in Canada in 2007. They say, “There appears to be a relative paucity of funding and attention,” (to children’s mental health).

Former Peer Leader of the Historical Abuse Network, Sue Treweek, has lobbied the Queensland Government for many years about issuing an apology to those who, as children under the care of the state, were placed in adult mental hospitals during the last century.

As a state ward, at thirteen years of age, Sue was placed in the notorious Osler House, maximum security ward of Wolston Park Mental Hospital. It was designed as a ward for the criminally insane, but she was one of many state wards who were placed there. She was there until the age of twenty-three, without an education, family support, or anything of the “normal” environment many take for granted. She was in an ancient, locked ward, surrounded by high fences and razor wire, incarcerated with those who were too mentally unstable to be held in prison.

Sue is a true survivor and has not needed medication or hospitalization since she was released. Despite the trauma she experienced as a child in institutions, she now runs her own successful business.

She knows from personal experience how vulnerable young children are in such a situation.

“It is a disgusting practice that should stop,” Sue says. “The only reason it hasn’t is for lack of resources.”

Many would find it incredible that children were being physically, sexually, emotionally and psychologically abused in these barbaric settings as recently as the 1970’s, 80’s and 90’s.

Queensland’s Forde Inquiry refers to the transfer of children to adult mental institutions as “systems abuse”.

The Queensland Government is currently working out the wording of a formal apology to Sue and others in her position.

Despite several Inquiries in Australia like the Forde Inquiry and the Senate Inquiry that led to the Forgotten Australians report, focus has mainly been on abuse in children’s institutions, and those children who suffered in adult mental hospitals have consistently fallen through gaps in the terms of reference of the inquiries.

But have things changed very much?

Professor David Bennett is national president of the Association for the Wellbeing of Children in Healthcare, who conducted a survey of about 200 hospitals. The survey found that the number of children’s wards fell by 30% between 1992 and 2004 and that 35% of hospitals did not routinely house children separately from adults.

Children have their own particular educational, social and emotional needs and are at risk, when left without parental support in hospitals, of physical, sexual, emotional and psychological abuse by adult patients.

Concern about the issue of co-location of children with adults in health-care settings has resulted in the development of a National Standards policy led by The Royal Australasian College of Physicians (RACP), Paediatrics and Child Health Division; Children’s Hospitals Australasia and The Association for the Wellbeing of Children in Healthcare.

It is never best practice for children to be hospitalized with adults but it is vital that those vulnerable children in need of in-patient mental health care are not further traumatized by being inappropriately placed at the mercy of unstable adult mental patients.


1. Sue Treweek on May 31, 2009

Thank you it is refreshing to see that this is being kept alive by such a well written paper, i thing it is important to add about the horriffic abuse dished out by the verry staff and doctors paid to care for us, the insidiouse nursing culture that bred such evil power trippers and others outside the settings of mental institutions would be charged and labled serial killers/sex offenders +++.

the fact that as children we have no rights as far as the mental health tribunal which could have granted us our freedom if we were ever aloud or capable of putting our case forward to be heard.

You did a great job Barb i just dont ever want them evil brstrds to get off without exposure.

We must do more than seperate institutions we must wipe out the staff culture and make sure only new blood uninfected by the old system get to work with kids.

2. Deborah Harris on December 8, 2009

I was one of these children who got abuse in the system.It was in the 70's when this happen because I know I had depression they was trying to figure out what I had and came up with all kinds of mess.Right now im writting a book called behind these walls of a mental institution.I was rapped and robbed of my child hood,luckly im a survivor who is still standing,but it was hard really hard for many years and still is @ times.How ever these events happen here right in the good USA.My mom was told me it was for 3day evualation and I ended up staying for two years in a adult mental ward being the youngest to ever been in there.Trust me it was a haunted experience for me,nnothing good came out of it at all.If you need to speak with me you can call me at 702-616-3310 for any futher questions.

3. barbara on January 28, 2010

I was put in Goodna adult mental institution when i was a young girl and i am now 65 and i will never ever forget the brutality i experienced in that place, that the qld govt overlooked this place when they were apologising to the forgotten children i will never understand but then again no apology can ever make up 4 what i suffered in this absolute hell hole of a place apparently they have heritage this torture hole it should b razed 2 the ground .I would love if some of these people who mouth these platitudes of saying sorry could have spent just 1 week in that place see how they would have liked it HA theywould have been screaming 2 get out but it was ok 2 leave young girls there, i saw things and had things done 2 me that no young person should have 2 suffer, i was fed all kinds of drugd that kept me doped up 4 days and i was put in straitjackets so many times it became the normal thing 4 me, i was attacked by much older women than me eho were mentally retarded and then told it was my fault it happened and i was given paraldahyde via injection and locked in a room 4 days on end, i saw old women put into baths of freezing water in the middle of winter and a wooden part put around their necks so they could not get out , i have seen younh girls having shock treatment because they would not behave according 2 them, monsters the whole lot of them, nothing can make up 4 what they did barbara

4. Rona Seabrook on April 3, 2010

They did not care then and they do not care now

They were worse than the nazi and their concentration camps. All they can give all harmed children is a paltry sorry and I wonder if they know that sorry is admitting to their [Governments and churches ] crimes of abuse, murder,and just plain barbaricism.Goodna was hell on earth my sister was put through that and she was a child like many more. You are a mob of sadists that will not acknowledge the crimes you have committed I hope you burn in hell. Rona

5. Olive on April 12, 2010

When I was 14 years of age. I was sent to an adult psychiatric hosptial in Ireland. I am now 40 and am attending counselling to try to deal with the dreadful way I was treated. I was drugged, sexually abused and generally ill treated. But the worst thing they did was they took my dignity. I was a slight child and yet was placed in a locked adult ward. Almost all the other patients were adults. Physical fights would break out between some of the more disturbed adult patients.

6. globespinner on April 14, 2010

Please keep sending in your comments so that we can keep this issue alive and prevent the continuation of this practice. Too many children in too many countries have suffered horrific abuse in adult mental institutions.

The Queensland Government issued an apology on at Parliament House on 24/3/10. This is a positive step as a part of a reconciliation strategy but needs to be followed up with compensation for survivors.

There are many governments and communities that have not even recognised it as a problem yet, so thanks to all who send in comments.

7. maureen cordwell on August 15, 2010

iwas put in lachland park in 1961 i was so druged up most of the time of my 4 yrs theire

8. globespinner on August 18, 2010

It's hard to imagine how a correct diagnosis or assessment can be made with a person drugged to the eyeballs, isn't it?

But drugging CHILDREN to that extent is just disgusting!

9. Christine Waite on April 26, 2011

My sister was dumped into Goodna Mental Asylum 1965 & 66 for adolesecent rebellion [to nuns abuse and systems of abuse]and suposing bad behavour.

Children were classified as naughty if they didnt obey nuns/carers abusive authority,or if you ran away from orphanages due to the extreme abnormal environment.

Nuns agressivly shoved 8/9 yr old children into the pitch black dungeon for hours given bread and water telling them they were the devil, nuns believed they were following government policies "corporal punishment".

For standing up to nuns and running away from systems of abuse, my sister was dumped by the government into Goodna Mental Asylum for her rebellion at 13 yrs of age for 2 yrs.

For her "rebellion", she was given 10/12 electric shock treatments causing memory loss, drugged worse than a zombie, placed in straight jackets for standing up to bully nursers.

I asked a FA that was in Goodna asylum with my sister why they gave my sister shock treatment.She couldnt understand why they picked on her , as she was a kind girl who cared for others and always defended others that were treated bad by bully nursers.She also said, many girls were threatened to have shock treatment and many others given shock treatment under duress and one time 6 girls were sent for shock treatment and only 3 returned and never saw the other 3 again.

Government dumping FAs into adult mental asylums for adolesecent rebellion, torturing them through shock treatment etc as above is criminal abuse. Why give TREATMENT for rebellion?

Forgotten Australians that had GOD given ability to stand up to abuse, were abused futher by government dumping them into asylums.

They didnt need treatment for rebellion,the

treatment they needed was not mental asylums, but love understanding kindness careness.

10. globespinner on April 28, 2011

It is true that shock treatment was regularly threatened for non-compliance or "misbehaviour". It is incredibly sad that children were treated in this way.

11. maureen cordwell on August 7, 2011

i still have nightmares about my 4 years at laclan park mental hosiptal its something that i will take to my grave maureen

12. maureen cordwell on August 8, 2011

i cannot for get what happen to me in the 4 years iwas at lachlan park mental hosiptal being so drugged up on largactil my eyes used to roll to the of my head and i got so fat because of the largactil needles and tablets im still seeing a psychiatrist because of what happend to me .I hope someone elese adds a comment too

13. Anonymous on August 17, 2011


14. Aragana Sumitri-Mills. Psychologist on August 21, 2011

Re Maureen Cordwell. I have permission to write the following about MAureen Cordwell.

I am Maureen's Pscyhologist and Maureen has attempted to change her life around after years of forced residence in the Mental Institution in Tasmania. Maureen is a remarkable lady which so much courage to over come the treatment AS A CHILD in a totally inappropriate institution which was for ADULTs.

She has suffered greatly and still suffers today from terrifying memories of the abuse she suffered as a child through no fault of her own. I admire her courage to speak out for herself and the children she was with .

15. maureen cordwell on January 10, 2012

i have found my sister havent seen her since i was put in a mental hosiptal in new norfolk tasmania she was 12 i was 14 she is 58 now im 64 we were split up throught no fault of how own it was the tasmania gov,t maureen

16. Sandra Robinson on August 16, 2012

I just found this website and I to was one of those sent to Goodna Mental Institution as a Ward of the State. I never committed a crime and have never been diagnosed with a mental problem but I was sent there for being an absconder, an habitual run-away it says in my files, and I to had largactil and paraldahyde and other drugs on many occassions. The things that I saw and had done to me,at such a young age, were horriffic and have always remained with me. An Apology means nothing without a follow up of some sort of help for a better quality of life. I wonder how many of the people in Government today would of survived if they had been locked in with the Criminally Insane and gone through what we have. There is not a big survival rate of us that were placed there. Why does the Government fight so hard not to help us as maybe there are some guilty among them with having knowledge.

17. Christine Waite on August 18, 2012

Australias Holocaust

Members of Parliament and members of the medical professions making the decisions at the conference table to have State Ward Children placed into Goodna Mental Asylum as a form of punishment [supposedly]for behavour problems such as absconding from orphanages, bed wetting, etc , no crimes committed had sadomasochistic minds. They showed no concern neither care for innocent children/adolescents, but science projects was more important to them.

We would love to know how many deaths occured from the failed electric shock treatments , and multiple drug/vaccines experiments and other psycholigical programs these children were put through in the "Name of Science', by the likes of Drs Harry Bailey [Aust.] and Dr Ewen Cameron [Canada , Duplessis Orphans scandal ]

where their bodies were burried.Torture of young people in our Nation Australia is criminal even if it was approved by the medical Psychiatrists.

According to the 410 page book Senate Committe Report on Forgotten Australians, thousands of orphans "went missing."?? One wonders how many of them ended up as "Guinea Pigs " for these sick Doctors experiments, and why our Politicians are so quiet about all of these things, they ended up in the Psychiatrists failed electric shock treatment hands. In the records of Wolston Park Goodna, all the mentions of children been given electric shock treatment has been removed-shredded "may be", but we have personal accounts by victims that electric shock treatment happened to them and many others daily.

18. barbara on August 23, 2012

may all those people who thought it was ok 2 place young girls in adult mental institutions rot in hell, why hasn,t this been bought out like the forde inquiry, because they dont want 2 accept any responsibility 4 it, they were all sadistic mongrels but mark my words we girls will not sit back and accept it shame on all of you barbara

19. Christine Waite on September 5, 2012

The drug Paraldehyde that was given to state ward children/adolescents in Goodna Mental Asylum had to be given in a glass shringe due to it melted plastic, just imagine the damage Paraldehyde did to childrens organs. Paraldehyde is to prevent seizures and if state ward children had no medical history of having fits,why give that drug. However,a drug had to be given prior to children having electric shock treatment to prevent seizures which many state ward children had multipal shock treatments for bad behaviour, if some didnt have shock treatment and were given Paraldehyde, perhaps they were on their hit list to have shock treatment. Electric shock treatment was given for behaviour modifications.

Placing state ward children in an adult Mental Asylum where the crinimally insane were housed was child abuse & placing them there because they absconded from orphanages adolescent rebellion or bad behaviour for treatment also was child abuse. The medical assosation benifted from the experiements they did on state ward children.Question, how many died from failed electric shock treatments and was their any police records of deaths and cause of deaths in Goodna Mental Asylum pre 80s.

children were placed in Goodna Mental Asylum as a form of punishment for their behaviour, not because they had a mental illness.

20. Christine Waite on September 8, 2012

Drugs given to State Ward Childern in Wolston Park Goodna Mental Asylum pre 80s. State Ward Children were placed into Wolston Park as a form of punishment for their behaviour, they were not placed there because they had a mental problem.

Paraldehyde melted plastic and the Australian Medical Assosation aproved that drug given to State Ward Children. Paraldehyde melting plastic, what desuction would it of done to childrens orgins. Many of the girls that was given Paraldehyde,lost their children before birth or their first born was born with brain turmors or brain damage. Who is game enough to answer the question, " who would be responsible for the birth defects."? In my sisters family their is no history of mental illness, our familys professions are

1. School Teachers

2. Commissoner of Police { J & D D....]

2. Inexpector of Police [ E. Mitchel

3. Police Officers

4. Nursers

5. Business Owners

5. Home Owners

6. Trades Persons

7. Farmers

None with mental deformaties, only my sister that was given dangerous drugs by the medical profession in Wolston Park.

21. Sandra Robinson on September 12, 2012

My family is like yours, Christine, as there is no mental illness either and yet I was given these psychotic drugs at a young age for no reason whatsoever as I have never ever been diagnosed with a mental illness nor have I taken fits as that is one of the reasons paraldehyde is given. I have a niece who is a practice manager at a Medical Centre who is in charge of 9 doctors, 2 nurses and approx. 6-8 Medical Receptionists. I have a sister who worked in Brisbane Childrens Hospital for over 30 years and various other family members who have had long term jobs and in responsible positions. No Mental Illness here. I also would like to know who is responsible for the defects that our children suffer. My son has a tumor in his brain and is on special medication for the rest of his life. I cannot find one other person in my family, past or present, with anything like this sort of thing, so where did it come from. I sat down one day and made a list of all the drugs that were given to me at Wolston Park Mental Hospital when I was just 14 and locked in with Criminally Insane which left me completely defenseless. My files say I was given Valium, Largactil, Haloperidol, Neulactil, Serenase, Melleril and Paraldehyde and for what. In one entry nurses put in my file it says " very drowsy-slurred voice from Haloperidol and to be woken every 1/2 hour." Seems to me they may have O.D. me on the stuff. Lucky I did not die. There are some out there who need to answer for what they have done and others for allowing it to happen. Those few of us that are left should be taken care of but I have yet to see anyone put their hand up and do it as they are too busy ducking for cover. There is an old saying that a catastrophe is not a catastrophe until it is your catastrophe.

22. barbara on November 29, 2012

what is the use of complaining no one takes any notice, porky lucas had the hide 2 say sorry, fat lot of good that was usless bastard he was and Karen Struthers also, her lackey Danny told me that woolston park came under the redress scheme usless prick he is too, i have just been told that while we were injected with paraldahyde that people came in and sexually abused us so i now feel like shit again i was sexually abused while i was in foster care by a neighbour i believe in karma and i believe what goes round comes round , every dog has their day a pox on all of them may they all rot in hell Barbara

23. maureen cordwell on June 1, 2013

How can I get to take the mentle health to court for dopping me to the eye balls

24. Rona Seabrook on July 7, 2013

SORRY what a bloody joke should more like be WHY. It's about time victims who were in these hell holes be accountable and that means the government. My sister Barbara was in Goodna and she has more intelligence then these HIGHLY PAID brains running the country. How many time do these people have to be demoralized. Wake up to yourselves they deserve a decent compensation so they can have some happiness in their lives. IT DID NOT HAPPEN TO YOU BEAUACRATS SO YOU DON'T CARE AND DON'T WANT TO. It happened I know my sister was there and I was a home kid. Rona

25. Christine Waite on September 25, 2013

Government guilty of child abuse

Any Comments?


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