Skip to main content

Mental Health in Australia, 1788–2015: A History of Responses to Cultural and Social Challenges

  • Chapter
  • First Online:
Mental Health in Asia and the Pacific

Part of the book series: International and Cultural Psychology ((ICUP))

  • 4948 Accesses

Abstract

The history of mental health in Australia may be usefully viewed as responses to a succession of cultural and social challenges. The earliest challenge involved development of a colonial psychiatry from the 1800s when psychiatry itself was just emerging in Europe as a branch of medicine. This was the era of public asylums that commenced with optimism but ended with pessimism as they became custodial rather than therapeutic. Basic reform in Australia was delayed until the 1950s when the challenge of developing an independent Australian psychiatry began to be answered. From the 1960s, new factors came into play including effective medications, recognition of patient rights and deinstitutionalisation. A new, cultural and social challenge presented with the massive, post-war inflow of non-British, European immigrants and, later, Asian immigrants. Cross-cultural competence was now essential. From the 1970s, refugees arrived in growing numbers, and from the 1990s, mental health professionals made public the adverse effects of their detention in isolated camps. Another challenge to present in this period was how best to remediate the mental disorders of Indigenous Australians; again cross-cultural competence was necessary. Recently, Indigenous researchers have been developing culture-specific, diagnostic and treatment approaches. The latest challenge is how might Australia best assist in reducing the burden of untreated mental disorders in low- and middle-income countries (LAMIC). This fundamentally cross-cultural enterprise of global dimensions has evoked a vigorous, international, epistemic and policy debate. While the debate has been located mainly in Europe and North America, some Australian psychiatrists have been very active participants.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in via an institution to check access.

Access this chapter

Subscribe and save

Springer+ Basic
EUR 32.99 /Month
  • Get 10 units per month
  • Download Article/Chapter or Ebook
  • 1 Unit = 1 Article or 1 Chapter
  • Cancel anytime
Subscribe now

Buy Now

Chapter
USD 29.95
Price excludes VAT (USA)
  • Available as PDF
  • Read on any device
  • Instant download
  • Own it forever
eBook
USD 84.99
Price excludes VAT (USA)
  • Available as EPUB and PDF
  • Read on any device
  • Instant download
  • Own it forever
Softcover Book
USD 109.99
Price excludes VAT (USA)
  • Compact, lightweight edition
  • Dispatched in 3 to 5 business days
  • Free shipping worldwide - see info
Hardcover Book
USD 159.99
Price excludes VAT (USA)
  • Durable hardcover edition
  • Dispatched in 3 to 5 business days
  • Free shipping worldwide - see info

Tax calculation will be finalised at checkout

Purchases are for personal use only

Institutional subscriptions

Similar content being viewed by others

References

  • American Psychiatric Association. (1980). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (3rd ed.). Washington DC: American Psychiatric Association.

    Google Scholar 

  • Andrews, G. (1991). The changing nature of psychiatry. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry, 25(4), 453–459.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Australian Human Rights Commission. (2014). The forgotten children: National inquiry into children in immigration detention. Sydney: Australian Human Rights Commission.

    Google Scholar 

  • Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. (2009). Measuring the social and emotional wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Canberra: Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.

    Google Scholar 

  • Beinecke, R., Minas, H., Goldsack, S., & Peters, J. (2010). Global mental health leadership training programmes. International Journal of Leadership in Public Services., 6(Supplement), 63–72.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Bostock, J. (1968). The dawn of Australian psychiatry. Glebe: Australasian Medical Publishing Company.

    Google Scholar 

  • Brown, T. M., Cueto, M., & Fee, E. (2006). The World Health Organization and the transition from ‘international’ to ‘global’ public health. American Journal of Public Health, 96(1), 62–72.

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  • Burvill, P. W. (1973). Immigration and mental disease. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry, 7(3), 155–162.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Campbell, C., & Burgess, R. (2012). The role of communities in advancing the goals of the Movement for Global Mental Health. Transcultural Psychiatry, 49(3–4), 379–395. doi:10.1177/1363461512454643tps.sagepub.com

  • Cawte, J., & Kamien, M. (1974). The doctor as social change agent in Bourke, New South Wales. In B. S. Hetzel, M. Dobbin, L. Lippmann, & E. Eggleston (Eds.) Better health for Aborigines? Report of a national seminar at Monash university (pp. 151–160). St Lucia: University of Queensland Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Chesters, J. (2005). Deinstitutionalisation: An unrealised desire. Health Sociology Review, 14(3), 272–282.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Cohen, A. (1999). The mental health of Indigenous peoples. An international overview. Geneva: World Health Organization.

    Google Scholar 

  • Coleborne, C. (2010). Madness in the family: Insanity and institutions in the Australasian colonial world, 1860–1914. Basingstoke: Palgrave.

    Book  Google Scholar 

  • Coleborne, C. (2012). Locating ethnicity in the hospitals for the insane. Revisiting case books as sites of knowledge production about colonial identities in Victoria, Australia, 1873–1910. In C. Coleborne & A. McCarthy (Eds.), Migration, ethnicity and mental health: International perspectives, 1840–1910 (pp. 73–90). New York: Routledge.

    Google Scholar 

  • Coleborne, C., & Mackinnon, D. (2006). Psychiatry and its institutions in Australia and New Zealand. International Review of Psychiatry, 18(4), 371–380.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Colucci, E., Minas, H., Szwarc, J., Guerra, C., & Paxton, G. (2015). In or out? Barriers and facilitators to refugee-background young people accessing mental health services. Transcultural Psychiatry, 52(6), 766–790.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Colucci, E., Szwarc, J., Minas, H., Paxton, G., & Guerra, C. (2014). The utilisation of mental health services by children and young people from a refugee background: A systematic literature review. International Journal of Culture & Mental Health, 7(1), 86–108.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Conolly, J. (1856, 1973). Treatment of the insane without mechanical restraints (reprint of 1856 edition). Folkestone: Dawsons.

    Google Scholar 

  • Council of Australian Governments. (2012). The roadmap for national mental health reform 2012–2022. An initiative of the council of Australian government. http://www.coag.gov.au/node/482. Accessed December 15, 2014.

  • D’Abbs, P. H. N. (2011). Alcohol restrictions in indigenous communities: Necessary but not sufficient. MJA, 194(10), 507.

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Damousi, J. (2006). Freud in the antipodes: A cultural history of psychoanalysis in Australia. Kensington, NSW: UNSW Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Duke, M. (2007). The dawn of Aboriginal psychiatry. Australasian Psychiatry, 15(4), 305–314.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Eaton, J., Kakuma, R., Wright, A., & Minas, H. (2014). A position statement on mental health in the post-2015 development agenda. International Journal of Mental Health Systems, 8, 28.

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  • Edwards, G. A. (1994). Psychiatric treatment and services in Australia, 1914–1994. Medical Journal of Australia, 161(1), 42–44.

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Ellis, R., & Kamien, M. (2012). John Ewart Cawte AO, MBBS, MD, DPM, PhD, FRANZCP, FRC Psych, FAPA. MJA, 196(4), 279.

    Google Scholar 

  • Foucault, M. (1965). Madness and civilization: A history of insanity in the age of reason. New York: Pantheon Books.

    Google Scholar 

  • Garton, S. (1988). Medicine and madness: A social history of insanity in New South Wales, 1880–1940. Kensington: UNSW Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Garton, S. (1996). The cost of war: Australians return. Melbourne: Oxford University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Garton, S. (2009). Seeking asylum: Why the asylum might still have a role in mental health care. Health & History, 11(1), 25–45.

    Google Scholar 

  • Garton, S. (2010). Australia and New Zealand: Laboratories of racial science. In A. Bashford & P. Levine (Eds.), Oxford handbook of the history of eugenics (pp. 243–257). New York: Oxford University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Hastings, J. (1977). Adaptation problems of Asian migrants. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry, 11(4), 219–221.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Henderson, J. (2008). Biological psychiatry and changing ideas about ‘mental health prevention’ in Australian psychiatry: Risk and individualism. Health Sociology Review, 17(1), 4–17.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Hunter, E. (1997). Double talk: Changing and conflicting constructions of Indigenous mental health. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry, 31(6), 820–827.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Hunter, E. (2013). Indicators of psychoses or psychoses as indicators: The relationship between Indigenous social disadvantage and serious mental illness. Australasian Psychiatry, 21(1), 22–26.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Institute of Medicine. (1997). America’s vital interest in global health: Protecting our people, enhancing our economy, and advancing our national interests. Washington DC: National Academy Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Izutsu, T., Tsutsumi, A., Minas, H., Thornicroft, G., Patel, V., & Ito, A. (2015). Mental health and wellbeing in the sustainable development goals. Lancet Psychiatry, 2(12), 1052–1054.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Jayasuriya, L., Sang, D. L., & Fielding, A. (1992). Ethnicity, immigration and mental health: A critical review of Australian research. Canberra: AGPS.

    Google Scholar 

  • Jorm, A. F., Bourchier, S. J., Cvetkovski, S., & Stewart, G. (2012). Mental health of Indigenous Australians: A review of findings from community surveys. MJA, 196(2), 118–123.

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Jupp, J. (1990). Two hundred years of immigration. In J. Reid & P. Trompf (Eds.), The health of immigrant Australia. A social perspective (pp. 1–38). Sydney: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich.

    Google Scholar 

  • Kahn, M. W., Henry, J., & Cawte, J. (1976). Mental health services by and for Australian Aborigines. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry, 10(3), 221–228.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Kessler, R. C., Aguilar-Gaxiola, S., Alonso, J., Chatterji, S., Lee, S., Levinson, D., et al. (2011). The burden of mental disorders worldwide. The results from the world mental health surveys. In N. Cohen & S. Galea (Eds.), Population mental health. Evidence, policy, and public health practice (pp. 9–37). London/New York: Routledge.

    Google Scholar 

  • Kirmayer, L. J., & Minas, H. (2000). The future of cultural psychiatry: An international perspective. Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, 45(5), 438–446.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Krupinski, J., & Burrows, G. (1986). The price of freedom: Young Indochinese refugees in Australia. Sydney: Pergamon Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Larsson, M. (2009). Shattered Anzacs: Living with the scars of war. Kensington: New South Books.

    Google Scholar 

  • Lee, K. S. K., Clough, A. R., & Conigrave, K. M. (2007). High levels of cannabis use persist in Aboriginal communities in Arnhem Land. Northern Territory. MJA, 187(10), 594.

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Lewis, M. (1988). Managing madness: Psychiatry and society in Australia, 1788–1980. Canberra: AGPS.

    Google Scholar 

  • Lewis, M. (1992). A rum state. Alcohol and state policy in Australia 1788–1988. Canberra: AGPS Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Lewis, M. J. (2001). From colonial dependence to independent centre: Australian psychiatry, 1788–1980. In D. Bhugra & R. Littlewood (Eds.), Colonialism and psychiatry (pp. 105–130). New Delhi: Oxford University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Lewis, M. J. (2003a). The people’s health: Public health in Australia, 1788–1950. Westport CT & London: Praeger.

    Google Scholar 

  • Lewis, M. J. (2003b). The people’s health: Public health in Australia, 1950 to the present. Westport CT & London: Praeger.

    Google Scholar 

  • Lewis, M. J., & Leeder, S. R. (2013). Two health transitions in Australia: The Western and the Indigenous. In M. J. Lewis & K. L. MacPherson (Eds.), Health transitions and the double disease burden in Asia and the Pacific: Histories of responses to non-communicable and communicable diseases (pp. 15–46). London: Routledge.

    Google Scholar 

  • Lickiss, J. N. (1974). The urban situation. In B. S. Hetzel, M. Dobbin, L. Lippmann, & E. Eggleston (Eds.), Better health for Aborigines? Report of a national seminar at Monash university (pp. 29–33). St Lucia: University of Queensland Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Manning, F. N. (1868). Report on lunatic asylums. Sydney: Government Printer.

    Google Scholar 

  • Matthews, J. J. (1984). Good and mad women: The historical construction of femininity in twentieth century Australia. North Sydney: Allen & Unwin.

    Google Scholar 

  • McClemens, J. H., & Bennett, J. M. (1962). Historical notes on the law of mental illness in New South Wales. Sydney Law Review, 4(1), 49–74.

    Google Scholar 

  • McGorry, P. D. (2015). Early intervention in psychosis: Obvious, effective, overdue. The Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, 203(5), 310–318.

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  • Mental Health First Aid. (2015). https://mhfa.com.au/. Accessed December 12, 2015.

  • MGMH (Movement for Global Mental Health). (2012). History. http://www.globalmentalhealth.org/about/history. Accessed September 17, 2012.

  • Minas, H. (2012). The Centre for International Mental Health approach to mental health system development. Harvard Review of Psychiatry, 20(1), 37–46.

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  • Minas, H., Izutsu, T., Tsutsumi, A., Kakuma, R., & Lopez, A. D. (2015). Asia-Pacific ready to act on mental health target in the SDGs. Lancet Psychiatry, 2(3), 199–201.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Minas, H., Kakuma, R., Too, L.S., Vayani, H., Orapeleng, S., Prasad-Ildes, R., et al. (2013). Mental health research and evaluation in multicultural Australia: Developing a culture of inclusion. International Journal of Mental Health Systems, 7, 23. http://www.ijmhs.com/7/1/23

  • Minas, H., Klimidis, S., & Kokanovic, R. (2007). Depression in multicultural Australia: Policies, search and services. Australia and New Zealand Health Policy, 8, 16. doi:10.1186/1743-8462-4-16

  • Minas, H., Lambert, T. J. R., Kostov, S., & Boranga, G. (1996). Mental health services for NESB migrants: Transforming policy into practice. Canberra: Australian Government Publishing Service.

    Google Scholar 

  • Minas, I. H. (1990). Mental health in a culturally diverse society. In J. Reid & P. Trompf (Eds.), The health of immigrant Australia. A social perspective (pp. 250–287). Sydney: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich.

    Google Scholar 

  • Minas, I. H., Silove, D., & Kunst, J.-P. (1993). Mental health for multicultural Australia: A national strategy. Victorian Transcultural Psychiatry Unit: Melbourne.

    Google Scholar 

  • Monk, L.-A. (2008). Attending madness: At work in the Australian colonial asylum. Rodopi: Amsterdam & New York.

    Book  Google Scholar 

  • National Mental Health Commission. (2014). Contributing lives, thriving communities: Report of the national review of mental health programmes and services. Canberra: National Mental Health Commission.

    Google Scholar 

  • Newman, L. K. (2012). Seeking asylum: Health and human rights in Australia. MJA, 197(11/12), 596–597.

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Parker, R. (2010). Australia’s Aboriginal population and mental health. Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, 198(1), 3–7.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Patel, V., Boyce, N., Collins, P. Y., Saxena, S., & Horton, R. (2011a). A renewed agenda for global mental health. Lancet, 378, 1441–1442. www.thelancet.com

  • Patel, V., Collins, P. Y., Copeland, J., Kakuma, R., Katontoka, S., Lamichhane, J., et al. (2011b). The movement for global mental health. British Journal of Psychiatry, 198(2), 88–90.

    Google Scholar 

  • Patel, V., Minas, H., Cohen, A., & Prince, M. (2014). Global mental health: Principles and practice. New York: Oxford University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Patel, V., & Prince, M. (2010). Global mental health. A new global health field comes of age. JAMA, 303(19), 1976–1977.

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  • Porter, R. (1995). The eighteenth century. In L. I. Conrad, M. Neve, V. Nutton, R. Porter, & A. Wear (Eds.), The Western medical tradition 800 BC to AD 1800 (pp. 371–475), Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Porter, R. (1997). The greatest benefit to mankind. A medical history of humanity from antiquity to the present. London: HarperCollins Publishers.

    Google Scholar 

  • Porter, R. (2003). Introduction. In R. Porter & D. Wright (Eds.), The confinement of the insane. International perspectives, 1800–1965 (pp. 1–19). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Rubinstein, W. D., & Rubinstein, H. L. (1996). Menders of the mind: A history of the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists, 1946–1996. Melbourne: Oxford University Press Australia.

    Google Scholar 

  • Shorter, E. (2005). A historical dictionary of psychiatry. New York: Oxford University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Silove, D., Austin, P., & Steel, Z. (2007). No refuge from terror; the impact of detention on the mental health of trauma-affected refugees seeking asylum in Australia. Transcultural Psychiatry, 44(3), 359–393.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Singh, B. (2006). Community services ascendant for almost half a century. In G. Meadows, B. Singh, & M. Grigg (Eds.), Mental health in Australia (pp. 67–69). South Melbourne: Oxford University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Stolk, Y., Minas, H., & Klimidis, S. (2008). Access to mental health services in Victoria: A focus on ethnic communities. Melbourne: Victorian Transcultural Psychiatry Unit.

    Google Scholar 

  • Summerfield, D. (2012). Afterword: Against ‘global mental health’. Transcultural Psychiatry, 49(3–4), 519–530.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Tsutsumi, A., Izutsu, T., Ito, A., Thornicroft, G., Patel, V., & Minas, H. (2015). Mental health mainstreamed in new UN disaster framework. Lancet Psychiatry, 2(8), 679–680.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Tuke, S. (1813, 1964). Description of the retreat, an institution near York for insane persons of the Society of Friends: Containing an account of its origins and progress, the modes of treatment, and a statement of cases (first published in 1813). London: Dawsons.

    Google Scholar 

  • Van Wyk, S., Schweitzer, R., Brough, M., Vromans, L., & Murray, K. (2012). A longitudinal study of mental health in refugees from Burma. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry, 46(10), 995–1003.

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  • WFMH (World Federation for Mental Health). (2012a). Who we are. http://www.wfmh.org/00about.htm. Accessed September 17, 2012.

  • WFMH. (2012b). Great push for mental health. http://www.wfmh.org/00GreatPush.htm. Accessed September 17, 2012.

  • Whiteford, H., Degenhardt, A. L., Rehm, J., Baxter, A. J., Ferrari, A. J., Erskine, H. E., et al. (2013). Global burden of disease attributable to mental and substance use disorders: Findings from the Global Burden of Disease Study 2010. Lancet, 382(9904), 1575–1586.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • World Health Organization. (2001). The world health report 2001. Mental health: New understanding, new hope. Geneva: World Health Organization.

    Google Scholar 

  • World Health Organization. (2002). Mental health global action programme: Close the gap, dare to care. Geneva: World Health Organization.

    Google Scholar 

  • Wyndham, D. (2003). Eugenics in Australia: Striving for national fitness. London: Galton Institute.

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Milton Lewis .

Editor information

Editors and Affiliations

Rights and permissions

Reprints and permissions

Copyright information

© 2017 Springer Science+Business Media New York

About this chapter

Cite this chapter

Lewis, M., Garton, S. (2017). Mental Health in Australia, 1788–2015: A History of Responses to Cultural and Social Challenges. In: Minas, H., Lewis, M. (eds) Mental Health in Asia and the Pacific. International and Cultural Psychology. Springer, Boston, MA. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4899-7999-5_19

Download citation

Publish with us

Policies and ethics