Goolugatup Point Heathcote
Goolugatup is an Noongar word meaning the place of the children. Also referred to as Guleegatup or Gooleegatup, Point Heathcote was a permanent lookout, fishing and camping ground for the Noongar Beeliar people particularly Midgegooroo, Yagan and Mundy because the “Moondaap” (the blackness of the riverbank) was an excellent fishing ground. Also, the Point is where the men passed through their level two initiation ceremonies. The area was also known as “Kooyagoordup” (the place of the “Kooyar”- a species of frog).
Point Heathcote was one of the landing and camp sites of Captain James Stirling during his exploration of the Swan River in 1827. His intention was to assess the potential of the district for settlement. The area was named after one of Stirling’s crew members, Midshipman G.C. Heathcote, said to have been the first European to set foot on the site.
From the 1840s Pt Heathcote was used for grazing horses and cattle. During the mid 1890s, Mr Alexander Matheson subdivided the surrounding area for residential development, but Point Heathcote remained virgin bushland. In 1918 the Catholic Church Christian Brothers finally secured the land with the intention of establishing a boy’s school. The land was used as a holiday retreat until 1923.
Point Heathcote Mental Reception Home
The need for a new mental institution in Perth had arisen in the early 1920s. This was due to an increasing number of patients and the deteriorating conditions at the Claremont Mental Hospital. Eight hectares of land were purchased from the Catholic Church in 1923. Point Heathcote, situated at the junction of the Swan and Canning Rivers, was considered to be most suitable for patients. It offered peace, tranquility and beneficial sea breezes.
The Point Heathcote Reception Centre marked a new attitude towards mental health. It broke away from the traditional way of treating and housing the mentally ill. The site was developed to be harmonious and aesthetically pleasing. It offered both communal and private spaces for patients and staff. The Centre was used as a home for ‘mildly afflicted’ patients. Patients considered to be more acute were sent to Claremont.
The original site consisted of male and female blocks, an administration block, staff quarters, kitchen block, storage rooms and boiler house. There were also tennis courts, sports areas and extensive gardens and lawns. The Water Clock Tower was designed in 1928 by architect J. Tait. It contained water for the Home and an electronically operated clock.
The Point Heathcote Reception Centre was completed in 1929 at a cost of 55,675 pounds and initially provided for 76 patients (male and female). Additional buildings and alterations were constructed between 1940 and 1980 to cater for the changing needs of mental treatments. This included Swan House, built in 1940 as the admission and treatment wards. Swan House is now home to the Museum and Gallery.
Heathcote closed in 1994. In 1997 the City of Melville commenced discussions with the State Government to restore the site for the people of Western Australia. The land is part of a heritage precinct of conserved and reused buildings. A comprehensive historical timeline is available below.
Researching your Family History at Heathcote
At Goolugatup Heathcote, we often receive questions about patients or staff connected to the former hospital. We have produced a booklet that contains a list of sources to help research family history through mental health records in Western Australia.
The Heathcote Museum is being redeveloped and is not currently on public display.
The Heathcote Museum Collection includes photographs, historical artifacts, newspaper articles, maps and plans, oral histories and documents that relate to the site's history. The complete collection is digitally archived and accessible on the City of Melville Library Catalogue. Search the Museums and Local History Collections
Heathcote Historical Timeline
PRE 1827 Part of the tribal lands where the Beeliar people lived and hunted.
1827 Point Heathcote became a camp base for Captain James Stirling and his crew. It was assessed for settlement possibilities and a garden was established to test the soil. Heathcote named by Stirling after Midshipman G.C. Heathcote - said to be the first European to set foot there.
1829 Captain Fremantle visits Heathcote in May. Captain Stirling considers Heathcote as the site for the capital city but finally chooses Perth, as it was seen as being better endowed with suitable resources and more favourable for communications.
1830, May 28 Lionel Lukin acquires 300 hectares at Point Heathcote (Swan Location 61), later increased to 400 hectares.
1830s - Mid 1885 Heathcote mainly used for horse and cattle grazing.
1830s - 1896 Swan Location 61 has numerous owners, namely Lionel Lukin (1830-1842), Alfred Waylen (1842-1856), John Wellard (1856-1865), Silas and George Pearse(1865-1886), William McMillan (1886-1892), London and Western Australian Land Company (1892- 1896).
1862 A Working Men’s Association picnic held at Point Heathcote - possibly its first documented use for public recreation.
1896 Alexander Matheson obtains a major part of Swan Location 61 from the London and Western Australian Investment Company.
1896 Heathcote subdivided for residential development by the Melville Water Park Estate Company (Matheson was a director).
1896 Eleanor Matheson gains ownership of the tip of Point Heathcote from her husband Alexander.
1906 Much of the land on which Heathcote Hospital is now to be found was transferred to Eleanor Matheson from the Perth Trust Ltd.
1918 Lady Eleanor Matheson sells some land to the Christian Brothers for £3,000 (Christian Brothers initially show an interest in 1909). Lady Eleanor Matheson and the London and Western Australian Investment Company retain an interest in parts of the Heathcote site until 1927.
1920 Christian Brothers also buy the 1.6-hectare block on which Matheson’s house still stood. At this time the Christian Brothers used Matheson’s old house as a retreat called ‘Killarney’.
1921 Applecross Progress Association desire to see Point Heathcote become a recreation reserve.
1922 Melville Roads Board protests at the possibility of a Catholic Boys School being built on the Heathcote site and request that the State Government resume the land for use as public open space. The Public Works Department requests a title search on Swan Location 61.
1922 - 1925 Debate occurs as to where a new Reception Home is to be located. It is eventually decided that Heathcote is the best place.
1923 - 1927 The State Government purchases land from the Christian Brothers, Lady Eleanor Matheson, N.S. Bartlett and Harold Redcliffe with a view to building a Reception Home and the Applecross Reservoir (Lot 6 of Swan Location 61 resumed from the Christian Brothers by the Metropolitan Water Supply).
1924 Plans are submitted for a Reception Home (an institution for the ‘mildly mentally afflicted’) with the condition that costs are kept down. Inspection of Heathcote site conducted, Cabinet approves funding for a Reception Home.
1926 Amended plans submitted after debate over the cost and size of the project. (1) The design was under the direction of the Government Architect of the time, W.B. Hardwick. Construction of Heathcote Hospital commences 1926.
1927 June Lot 8 of the Heathcote site is resumed from the London and Western Australian Investment Company (the Mathesons had an interest in this company).1928 Plans for a Water and Clock Tower are designed by the Principal Architect J.M. Tait and approved the same year.
1929 Point Heathcote Reception Home completed and opened on 22 February by the Lieutenant Governor, Sir Robert McMillan.
1935 Fears of overcrowding and the mentally ill in general cause the Melville Roads Board to request that the Government move the Hospital elsewhere. Inspector General for the Insane responds by accusing the Board of ignorance and
1938 Royal Commission appointed to inquire into The Heathcote Mental Reception Home and the Administration of Mental Hospitals generally.
1940 Additions added due to overcrowding – namely a treatment block (Swan House) for an additional 26 patients and costing £15,000.
1952 A new boiler house is built.
1954 Administration block extended northwards and the kitchen upgraded.
1955 A dental surgery is started.
1957 Superintendent’s quarters extended and converted to a Day Centre.
1958 A matron’s flat constructed.
1960 Friends of Heathcote started – a voluntary organization to champion the cause of the mentally ill. The first full time occupational therapist is employed. Occupational therapy conducted in one of the dining rooms.
1962 The Social Therapy Department is built after lobbying from the Friends of Heathcote. It had an occupational therapy wing, a hall and a canteen.
1963 Extension of administration.
1968 Friends of Heathcote provide the hospital with a new swimming pool.
1970s Large treatment ward constructed.
1972 Avon House is opened for more patients and for administrative purposes.
1977 Existing nurses quarters turned into an MDD Hostel.
1981 A report commissioned by the State Government recommends that Heathcote should be closed.
1989 State Cabinet announces that Heathcote is to be closed.
1990 In September, a public meeting results in the establishment of a committee to prevent redevelopment of the site for residential purposes.
1991, March 6 Heathcote Hospital and associated site passed for classification by the National Trust.
1993 June Heathcote Hospital placed on the interim register in the State Register of Heritage Places.
1994 Heathcote Hospital is officially closed on Friday, 21 October.
1997 The State Government and the City of Melville come to an agreement that the upper lands of Heathcote be set aside for public use and the lower lands for housing.
2000 Heathcote Hospital site opened to the public Sunday, 19 March by Premier Richard Court after a $6 million refurbishment by the City of Melville.
2001 In January, the Liberal State Government (soon to lose office) and the City of Melville sign the Heathcote Coordination Agreement (HCA) to save the lower lands and rezone it for parks and recreation.
2001-2002 Fears and rumours abound over the possibility that the State Labor Government may sell off the lower land of Heathcote for housing.
2002 State Government announces that Duncraig House (originally a nurses quarters for Heathcote Hospital) is to be sold.
2003 Work begins on the Canning House café, kiosk, restaurant and function room at Heathcote. Duncraig House is sold to an Applecross businessman for more than $4 million.
2003 - 2015 Heathcote Cultural Precinct was home to Challenger Tafe, Blue Water Grill, City of Melville's Heathcote Museum & Gallery, Melville Toy Library & Playgroup, artist studios and a state classed playground.
2015 - 2020 Heathcote Cultural Precinct becomes home to a range of artists, creatives and not for profit organisations. The museum and gallery continued to flourish.
2019 After extensive renovations the gallery entrance is moved to the original hospital entrance and becomes the administrative bub of the site.
2020 - The site is renamed Goolugatup Heathcote in order to better represent the significant Indigenous history of the site.
For any research enquiries regarding Heathcote site history or the museum collection, please contact City of Melville Museums & Local History team on 9364 0158 or Wireless.Hill@melville.wa.gov.au
1 Cooper, W.S. and McDonald, G.M. (1989) A City For All Seasons: The Story of Melville. City of Melville, Western Australia. Page 169 – commencement of construction for Point Heathcote Reception & Mental Home is given as 1928.
City of Melville Online Press Statement (2003) ‘Work Commences on Canning House Restaurant at
Heathcote.’ Released Tuesday, 8 April 2003.
Cooper, W.S. and McDonald, G.M. (1989) A City For All Seasons: The Story of Melville. City of
Melville, Western Australia.
History Notes (Date Unknown) Heritage-Heathcote Hospital. M000131.
Hocking Planning & Architecture Pty Ltd (1994) Conservation Plan for Heathcote Hospital Complex.
Volumes 1 & 2.
Hunter, T. (2000) ‘Open Day for Heathcote Site’. The West Australian. Thursday, March 16 2000, page 37.
Low, C. (2003) ‘Businessman picks up historic house.’ The West Australian. Wednesday, October 1, 2003, page 65.
McLea, S. (2002) ‘Site Steeped in History’. Melville Times Community. April 30-May 6 2002, page 6.
Mental Health Services (1979?) Heathcote Hospital 50 years on. Industrial Rehabilitation Division, Mental Health Services, Perth, Western Australia.
National Trust of Australia (WA) (1991) Heathcote: A Co-ordinated Assessment by the Built Environ-ment, Landscape and Historic Sites and Archaeology Committees of the National Trust of Australia
(WA). In Hocking Planning & Architecture Pty Ltd (1994) Conservation Plan for Heathcote
Hospital Complex. Volume 2.
Paech, K (2002) ‘Duncraig House – it’s yours for about $4m’ Melville City Herald. Volume 13, No 42,
Saturday, October 19 2002, page 2.
Stella, L. (1990) Heathcote Hospital: Historical Survey of Grounds and Buildings. In Hocking
Planning &Architecture Pty Ltd (1994) Conservation Plan for Heathcote Hospital Complex. Volume 2.
West, M. (Date Unknown) ‘A Brief History of Heathcote Hospital.’