A book about the history of mental health during the gold rush in Victoria has been awarded top prize at the Victorian Community History Awards today.
Melbourne clinical psychologist and writer Jill Giese was awarded the Victorian Premier’s History Award for her book The Maddest Place on Earth in a ceremony at the Arts Centre Melbourne.
In the 19th century, Victoria had the highest rate of what was then referred to as insanity in Australia. Jill Giese’s book reveals amid rich historical detail the local explanations for the record number of people being held in the state’s asylums, using a brilliant fusion of serious scholarship and imaginative writing.
Other winning entries included the online documentary series Migrant Stories from Medea Films, the book A Secondary Education for All? by John Andrews and Deborah Towns and the Judges’ Special Prize was awarded to Jennifer Bantow and Ros Lewis for their self-published book Barro-abil providing the fascinating history of Barrabool sandstone.
Among the commendations were histories about Melbourne Football Club, Alfred Deakin, Pentridge, vagrants and murderesses, and the Royal Agricultural Society of Victoria’s Show Girls. Local area histories also got commended including those for Kilmore, Linton, Yarra Valley, Warrnambool, Ballarat, Lancefield, Castlemaine and Torquay.
The Victorian Community History Awards are presented by Public Record Office Victoria in partnership with the Royal Historical Society of Victoria, and are funded by the Victorian Government.
A major event of History Week, the annual Victorian Community History Awards recognise the work of individuals and organisations committed to telling stories of local history. This year marked the 20th year of the Awards.