Made Within

Crafting Children’s Toys at Morisset Hospital

The recorded histories of institutions such as Morisset Hospital are rarely given by its patients. Through the 1900s, the hospital, once known as an insane asylum or mental hospital, cared for people with a variety of needs: disability, alcohol addiction, mental illness, those experiencing the late-stage impacts of sexually-transmitted diseases, and criminals considered unsuitable for prison.

Countless people who were considered too difficult to integrate into society were placed in the wards and forgotten by everyone, except the workers who attended to them. Sifting through the history of such a place, it becomes clear that half the story is missing or forgotten.

These wooden children’s toys were made by patients within the Industrial Rehabilitation Department of the hospital. Crafts like these toys were made as a form of occupational therapy and sold to help facilitate the hospital’s reform program. They became a popular item for hospital workers to purchase for children in the area, especially as Christmas gifts.

Staff fondly remember how the nurses became competitive in decorating their ward for the festive period. On the day, staff and their relatives celebrated by visiting the hospital and eating pork from the onsite piggery.

It was rare for the family of patients to visit due to the stigma associated with having a family member institutionalised. As a result, these toys have become small reminders of how patients still managed to contribute joy to the local community of Morisset despite their removal from it.