ARADALE asylum will re-open to public tours this weekend.
Friends of J Ward secretary Alex Beveridge said the first daylight tour of the former asylum site would be this Sunday at 11am. He said the two-hour tour would be unchanged from that previously offered by the group and would explore the history of the site, which operated as an asylum for 130 years.
Mr Beveridge said the group had not had any restrictions placed on the areas of the asylum it visited by site managers Melbourne Polytechnic.
“It will be the same rooms and the same areas we visited before it was shut to the public,” he said. “The tour will be a daytime history tour of the asylum that will last approximately two hours. There will be two tours on Sundays at 11am and 2pm and two on Wednesdays at 11am and 2pm.”
Mr Beveridge said interest in the tours had been high since the announcement the asylum would reopen to the public late last month.
“We’ve had so many emails coming in from people asking when they can join a tour,” he said. “There’s not doubt that when Aradale was closed there was an impact on the town.”
The Aradale asylum was closed to public tours in October 2015 after Melbourne Polytechnic said there were safety issues at the site that needed to be resolved.
In a statement released at the start of February, Melbourne Polytechnic said it was “confident that the safety issues are now resolved and better emergency management processes have been implemented for visitors to the facility”.
Aradale is Australia’s largest abandoned lunatic asylum. Opened in 1867 as Ararat Lunatic Asylum, the building housed thousands of patients in a period spanning more than a century.
More than 3000 people are reported to have died at Aradale in the 130 years the facility was in operation. Aradale operated as a mental hospital and training centre until 1993. At its height, Aradale consisted of 68 buildings and was home to nearly 1000 patients and staff, making it a self-sufficient town.
Ararat mayor Paul Hooper earlier this month said the historic facility was a major attraction for visitors to Ararat.
“I don’t think people realise how much the tours meant to the town,” Cr Hooper said. “They contributed enormously to the economy.”
Groups conducting asylum tours were required to complete a risk assessment before public visits could restart. People wishing to participate in a tour could contact the Ararat Visitor Information Centre on 1800 657 158. Eerie Tours is also expected to hold the first of its night tours this weekend.