On 3 July 1868 premises at Darlinghurst were appointed to be a Lunatic Reception House (1), under the provisions of the Lunacy (Amendment) Act 1867 (2), which allowed Justices to commit persons direct to a reception house instead of the usual practice of committing them first to a gaol.(3) The Reception House was opened for the reception of patients on 24 July 1868.(4)
The intended use of the Reception House was for the temporary detention of persons believed to be insane pending a determination of the nature of their illness, to avoid the admission to Hospitals for the Insane of persons who may prove not to be insane, and also the remaining at large and without proper control of those whose insanity was not sufficiently pronounced to be certifiable, but who may, perhaps, be dangerous. The Darlinghurst Reception House was considered to be of greatest value in dealing with persons whose insanity was in doubt, preventing the stigma of hospital treatment for those who recovered within a day or two, or who proved not to be insane. The institution also intercepted a large number of cases of "acute alcoholic insanity", obviating the necessity of sending them to hospitals for the insane, where they were not considered desirable inmates.(5)
The Lunacy Act 1898 specified that patients could not be detained in a reception house beyond a period of 14 days, unless written certification from a medical officer that they were not in a fit state to be removed, or would benefit from remaining was provided.(6) Usually patients requiring treatment for longer periods were transferred and formally admitted to other hospitals.
In May 1908 the Reception House opened a "Mental Ward" for more extended treatment of patients considered to be in early and curable stages, who were not certified. The ward was able to accommodate only male patients, and those considered incurable, chronic, or requiring restraint were not admitted.(7) It was hoped that this would demonstrate to general hospitals that the provision of such a ward was possible and eminently desirable.(8) In 1922 the Mental Ward was closed since the service it offered for voluntary patients had become available at Broughton Hall Psychiatric Clinic.(9)
Specific provision for admission of voluntary patients to hospitals, licensed houses and reception houses was provided by the Lunacy (Amendment) Act 1934 (Act No 39, 1934). From 1958 provisions for admission, care, treatment, and control of mentally ill persons were provided for by the Mental Health Act 1958 (Act No 45, 1958), which intended a more therapeutic, and less custodial, role for hospitals.
In November 1961 an Admission Centre was opened at North Ryde Psychiatric Centre, replacing the Admission Centre at Darlinghurst, which was closed.(10)
1.NSW Government Gazette, 3 July 1868, p.1899
2.Lunacy (Amendment) Act, 1867 (31 Victoria, Act No 19) s.1
4.Inspector of the Insane, Report for 1876, in Votes and Proceedings 1876-77, Vol 4, p.766
5.Inspector General of the Insane, Report for the year 1901, in Votes and Proceedings 1902, Vol 3, p.1274
6.Lunacy Act, 1898 (Act No 45, 1898) s.57
7.Inspector General of the Insane, Report for the year 1909, in Parliamentary Papers 1910, 1st Session, Vol 1, p.472-3
8.Inspector General of the Insane, Report for the year 1914, in Parliamentary Papers 1915-16, Vol 1, p.999
9.Inspector General of Mental Hospitals, Report for the year ended 30 June 1922, in Parliamentary Papers 1922, Second Session, Vol 2, p.954
10.Director of State Psychiatric Services, Report for the year ended 30 June 1962, in Parliamentary Papers 1962-63-64, Second Session, Vol 4, p.564