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Larundel Mental Asylum was closed in 1999 after almost 50 years as one of Melbourne’s main psychiatric institutions. Located in the centre of Bundoora, the buildings of Larundel still (barely) stand. Seen by locals as disgusting and useless, Larundel, in many eyes seems to taint a beautiful new estate. The development of the surrounding areas started several years ago welcoming many new residents, and their only problem is that Larundel still stands. It has housed thousands of patients between 1953 and 1999, and many believe that it is haunted by ghosts of patients past. Currently, 5 of the original 8 buildings are derelict, and are home to hundreds of litres of spray paint, a ridiculous amount of broken glass, collapsing ceiling beams and missing floor sections. It is renowned as the perfect place for ghost hunters and thrillseekers alike, and the amount of rubbish within each set of walls is astounding, showing any visitors just how many others there are with the same curiosity. What is so special about Larundel?

In this piece of work, I have set out to capture the true character of Larundel Mental Asylum, and in doing so, have developed a great understanding of it’s history before opening, during, and the fifteen years that have passed since it’s closure. These images tell you the story of the time at Larundel, and highlight the damage that has been inflicted on this eerie suburban playground in the time since.

Larundel Mental Asylum was conceived in 1938 to replace the outdated Kew Mental Hospital. However, due to World War II, the R.A.A.F took it over in 1942 to use as a W.A.A.F training depot.

Only in 1953 was Larundel officially opened as a mental institution. It housed 387 patients.

In the last 5 years or so, the 3 main buildings of Larundel have been heritage listed by Heritage Victoria. These buildings were the largest of the lot, the General Administration building, Hospital/Nursing area and the Kitchen/Dining blocks. Heritage Victoria were unable to give any information on why only these three buildings were listed, or when this may have happened, as apparently they have no records of Larundel whatsoever.

Since the closing of Larundel in 1999, there has been extensive fire damage in almost all of the buildings caused by visitors, however none of these instances have led to any arrests. There is one building in particular, which seems to have been one of the living blocks, that has the most damage. Walls are scoured, ceilings are burnt through, and whole rooms have been severely damaged. Often the locals say that teenage hooligans are to blame, but others suggest that this damage is fuelled by relatives of past patients of Larundel who hold a grudge against the former psychiatric facility.

With one building already completely refurbished and being lived in, two other buildings are currently being stripped, while keeping the original structure of the buildings intact for apartments. These apartments are tailored for students from LaTrobe University because the main campus is nearby. The other target market seems to be young families, as the location is right in the middle of a new estate, and within the next twelve months, Larundel as we currently know it will be nothing more than the old exterior of these structures housing an estimated 550 new residents accross all 8 buildings.

The construction workers would not allow me to take photos of them while working, but told me that they have been contracted to strip each of these buildings one by one until all of the buildings that were originally Larundel are completed and ready for new residents to call home.

In all of the buildings, there are rooms such as these, where whole sections of ceiling litter the floor. How was this damage caused?

Despite very poor attempts at fencing off Larundel from the general public, many explorers still find a way through the fence, often by damaged sections or hole that has been cut in the wire.

These images show you just how bad some of the fire damage has been at Larundel. This room in particular has virtually the whole ceiling peeling and is scorched with black marks. The lights may have been shattered by vandals or even from the heat of the fires that have torn through this area of the living quarters.

Have you ever heard about the little girl who died at Larundel? Let me tell you about her. For many years, there have been rumours that this little girl has haunted the third floor of the main building. Before she passed away, she would always carry her music box around, the soft music often filling the halls of the asylum as she walked through it’s corridors. Many explorers have claimed that around midnight each night, you can hear her music box playing, even from outside the building. Possibly the spirit of the girl lingers on or maybe the hospital itself plays back the familiar sounds from times past.

Others say that these sounds are a prank that was set-up by students from LaTrobe University many years ago.

The Victorian Government seems to have a substantial lack of information in regards to Larundel. Through many attempts to contact various departments, I have been re-directed countless times, and was even told that the speaker on the phone didn’t have the required access to open the Heritage Listing files about Larundel. Another very often presented rumour is that there was once a basement under one of the living quarter’s buildings, and that upon the closure of Larundel, it was filled in with cement. It has been reported that patients there were being used as guinea pigs for electro-shock therapy. It was also reported that the Department of Human Services were required to step in and close Larundel to ensure the safety of the patients. Several other psychiatric institutions were closed around the same time, however there is a large amount of public information on the others, some of which were smaller and housed less patients. With the severe lack of public records regarding Larundel and it’s closure, one can only wonder whether any of these tales may be partly based on fact. No evidence of the alleged basement has been publicly recorded.

The shopping complex that shares much of the block that Larundel does has been open for 18 months. Although locals know very little about the origin of the area that they now reside in, they are sure that they don’t like the former asylum. With Larundel being currently re-developed, some of the buildings cannot be entered, and one of the other buildings has had construction workers inside stripping it out to prepare for their refurbishing of the old buildings.

At Larundel, there is a building that has no roof whatsoever, and virtually no floor, and has now been taken over by Mother Nature. It’s not clear how this building’s roof met it’s peril, but what is clear is the beauty that appears when 15 years of grass, trees and other wildlife take over the inside of a building. This building, like all the others has been severely damaged by fire, it is not known whether this is the cause of the roof no longer existing.

In several of these rooms, there are large trees dominating these vacant rooms.

“Most former Larundel and Mont Park patients are at home or in self-contained nurse-supervised units in the suburbs, as part of the deinstitutionalisation of Victoria’s psychiatric services. Staff say the site’s demise is the end of an era - a good end, as the mentally ill are now seen less as incurable lunatics than as human beings who should be given at least a chance, as well as the skills that are needed, to rejoin society.”

Carolyn Webb (The Age) Saturday July 17, 1999

This piece of work could not have been done without the help of my teachers Rob Gale and Jessie Di Blasi, who have lent an enormous hand to me in regards to this project. To classmates who offered advice, knowledge or further sources in relation to this project. To my drivers, assistants, tag-alongs, Morgan Stoneham, Giulia Di Sipio and Jessie Shaw. To the people who visited Larundel before me and made my trespassing experience easier by cutting holes in the wire fence. Thank you.

Bundoora's Finest: Larundel  
Bundoora's Finest: Larundel  

One of Melbourne's largest mental asylums was closed in 1999 and since then has been left for explorers and thrill seekers. Experience Larun...