Summary

Wrist shackle used to chain patients to the wall at Yarra Bend Lunatic Asylum, Victoria Australia, circa 1850. Shackle is displayed on a pink-painted plaster-cast of a hand and wrist. Was used for a historical display by Charles Brothers.

Physical restraint was an acceptable and routine technique in the management of lunatics in colonial Victoria. Having been certified insane and admitted to the asylum, lunatics were regarded as merely one of a number of forms of deviants from which Victorian society should be protected by their segregation. In the early days of the colony, the concept of offering therapy for those afflicted with a mental illness did not exist, and physical restraint was employed as a custodial measure, consistent with the penal origins of the colony.

Dr Charles Brothers was the Vice-Chairman of the Victorian Mental Health Authority (MHA) during the 1950s and served under Chairman Dr Eric Cunningham-Dax. During his time with the MHA, Dr Brothers collected artefacts from the various psychiatric institutions he visited as part of his role. Eventually his collection of psychiatric paraphernalia, including artefacts, records, photographs, and interviews, was displayed in the Charles Brothers’ Mental Health Museum at the Mental Health Library, part of the Office of Psychiatric Services in Parkville. When the Museum closed in 1987, the collection was dispersed among a number of organizations - the artefacts were transferred to Museum Victoria, the Public Records Office of Victoria (PROV) took on the collection's clinical files, and the Royal Melbourne Hospital (RMH) now holds most of the photographs.

Physical Description

Wrist shackle is a broad, wrap-around brown leather bracelet with a flat piece of steel with a slot in it rivetted to one end and a hollow oblong- shaped steel handle protruding at right-angles, rivetted to the other. This fits through the slot and would be locked in place with a padlock and chains attached. The bracelet is cut in scallops along one side, probably to ease chafing on the wearer's wrist. Shackle is displayed on a pink- painted plaster-cast of a hand and wrist.

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