Our History

3 - Heathcote buildings 1945 pg 1.jpg

Located on Goolugatup - Point Heathcote , Heathcote Cultural Precinct is situated within the historic and heritage protected site of the old Point Heathcote Reception Home, later called Heathcote Hospital.


Most of Heathcote's buildings were built between the 1920s & 1940's. The site now known as Heathcote Cultural Precinct  has a long and fascinating history.

The Heathcote Collection has now been digitised and is available to view online.


Heathcote buildings 1945

Heathcote Historical Timeline

Heathcote Cultural Precinct acknowledges the Beeliar people of the Noongar Nation on which Heathcote is built. We recognise their continuing connection to the land, waters and community of this area and pay our respects to their elders past, present and future in the spirit of reconciliation.

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).

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).

Heathcote Tower 1980s A733.jpg

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.

Clock Tower 1980

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.

Nurses Quaters c1960.jpg

Nurses Quarters c1960

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.

13 - Three nurses Duncraig House  1946 pg 2.tif

Three nurse 1946

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.’