Publication Date: Jun 2023
RRP: $39.99
ISBN: 9781922633781
Format: Paperback
Size: 153mm x 234mm
Pages: 352
Category: Australian History, Coming Soon

Failed Ambitions

Kew Cottages and Changing Ideas of Intellectual Disabilities

Lee-Ann Monk and David Henderson

This item will be released June 1, 2023

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.

Lee-Ann Monk

Lee-Ann Monk is adjunct research fellow in the Department of Archaeology and History at La Trobe University. She has published nationally and internationally on the histories of mental health, disability and work.
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David Henderson

David Henderson was a researcher in the Living with Disability Research Centre at La Trobe University for eight years. He now works as a researcher in the disability area of the Victorian Department of Families, Fairness and Housing.
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