Oral History Award

Out of the Madhouse. From Asylums to Caring Community?

Sandy Jeffs and Margaret Leggatt

Arcadia, Melbourne, 2020


Out of the Madhouse is an outstanding history, in every regard. The ‘madhouse’ was Larundel Psychiatric Hospital, a Melbourne institution from 1953 to 1999. 


Drawing upon 71 interviews with former inmates, their family and friends, nurses, doctors, allied health workers and other staff, Out of the Madhouse brings to life the shocking consequences of mental ill-health and the equally shocking treatments; a community where inmates and health workers struggled with ill-understood conditions; a place of stigma and fear yet also of asylum and friendship. 


The authors, a former inmate and writer and a sociologist and occupational therapist, weave their own stories alongside the interview testimony into a profound social history of madness and its treatment. They conclude that ‘forgetting the past may be dangerous because old wrongs are perpetuated and what was good is lost…The lost history of Larundel is lost wisdom.’ This is a book of invaluable wisdom for our troubled times.