LiDs Online Seminar 14 June

Event status:

Event page for June 2023 LiDs Seminar

Wednesday 14 June 2023 03:00 pm until Wednesday 14 June 2023 05:00 pm (Add to calendar)
James Pilbrow
Presented by:
Living with Disability Research Centre
Type of Event:
Public Lecture; Seminar/Workshop/Training

The legacy of the Kew Cottages and changing ideas of intellectual disabilities

Our June Online Seminar features Dr Lee-Ann Monk and Dr David Henderson, the co-authors of a new book, Failed Ambitions: Kew Cottages and Changing Ideas of Intellectual Disabilities. They will be followed by LiDs Director Christine Bigby who authored the book’s epilogue.

A gripping history, both topical and timely, this history of Melbourne’s Kew Children’s Cottages (1887–2008) is the challenging story of an institution that failed its residents – and it is vividly relevant to today, when the rights of people with disabilities are the subject of a royal commission.

Please email to register for the seminar.

'A Distinct Advance on Anything Yet Done for the Feeble-minded Children of Australia’? Kew Children’s Cottages 1887-1905
Dr Lee-Ann Monk, Department of Archaeology and History, La Trobe University

Kew Cottages was Australia’s first purpose-built institution for people with intellectual disabilities. Opened in 1887, its establishment reflected new ideas about the potential of children with intellectual disabilities which overturned the traditional belief that ‘idiots’ were ineducable. Reflecting this new optimism, the Cottages were established as ‘an institution for the care and training of feebleminded children’. The new institution attracted considerable interest and praise, one contemporary declaring it ‘a distinct advance on anything yet done for the feebleminded children of Australia’. This paper will discuss the ideas which lead to the establishment of the Cottages, the system of education and training developed in its first two decades of existence and, finally, whether the contemporary claims made for its success were in fact justified.

‘The boy tied to the stake’: The Tipping campaign and reform at the Kew Cottages in the 1950s
Dr David Henderson, Adjunct Research Fellow, Living with Disability Research Centre, La Trobe University

This presentation explores the Tipping Appeal that raised almost 50,000 pounds for renovations at the Kew Cottages in 1952 (roughly equivalent to $500,000 today.  It will analyse and explore the various recollections of people who were there at the time. By looking at one iconic episode in the history of the Kew Cottages, this seminar seeks to show the layered nature of historical reconstruction and how meaning can accrue around such episodes.

Connecting the past and the present
Professor Christine Bigby, Director, Living with Disability Research Centre, La Trobe University

This presentation draws on the epilogue of the book Failed Ambitions. It will reflect on changes since the closure of Kew Cottages in 2008 and the successes of deinstitutionalisation for former Kew residents. It will also consider some of the enduring themes evident in the lives of people with intellectual disabilities that were identified throughout the history of Kew and continue into the present day. These include, the disproportionately high experiences of stigma and abuse, the significance of family as their staunchest allies and recurrence of ambitious but unfulfilled promises of successive governments to support a good life for people with intellectual disabilities.



29 May 2023 7:57 am

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