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Book launch: Failed Ambitions Kew Cottages and Changing Ideas of Intellectual Disabilities

June 13 @ 5:30 pm - 7:00 pm


La Trobe University and

the Royal Historical Society of Victoria invite you to the launch of

written by Lee-Ann Monk and David Henderson

With Christine Bigby, Richard Broome and Katie Holmes

Published by Monash University Publishing


to be launched by Dr Colleen Pearce

The Public Advocate, Victoria

A gripping history, both topical and timely

The 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.

Those with an intellectual disability were historically the most vulnerable in our society and the least protected. Governments continually failed them by underdelivering on ambitious promises of reform. Failed Ambitions traces the development of Kew Cottages and the broader themes it gives rise to, including changing social ideas about intellectual disability. Australia saw a shift from a belief that those with intellectual disabilities were educatable to a view, which took hold in the 1920s, that the ‘feebleminded’ were unreclaimable and a menace to society. It took until the 1980s to formally recognise the rights of disabled peoples, and demanded dismantling institutions like Kew and associated ideas of disability.

Throughout Kew Cottages’ history, a cohort of journalists, parents, activists and residents fought for and finally gained greater rights and respect. This is a moving and powerful story that deserves to be read by all policymakers so we can avoid repeating the mistakes of the past.

The RHSV Gallery Downstairs is a fully-accessible venue. 



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June 13
5:30 pm - 7:00 pm
Event Category:


Royal Historical Society of Victoria
03 9326 9288


RHSV Gallery Downstairs
239 A'Beckett St
Melbourne, Victoria 3000 Australia
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03 9326 9288