Jackson, L. 2020. The Last Resort: the experience of First World War returned soldiers in the Dunwich Benevolent Asylum and the Dunwich Inebriate Institution. Memoirs of the Queensland Museum – Culture 11: 155–170. https://doi.org/10.17082/j.2205-3188.8.131.520.2020-11
returned soldiers, First World War, Dunwich Benevolent Asylum
Over 450 men who returned from fighting overseas during the First World War were admitted to the Dunwich Benevolent Asylum on North Stradbroke Island. The Asylum had been established at Dunwich in the 1860s to house and care for people who were unable to provide for themselves. Many returned soldiers who were suffering from the long-term effects of wounds, trauma, shell shock, gas, tuberculosis, venereal disease, and enduring mental illness sought shelter and support at Dunwich. Almost all the veterans who were admitted to the Asylum became inmates of the Inebriate Institution, which was part of the Asylum at the time. This was not necessarily because they were alcoholics, although some were, but also to create an illusion that the soldiers were receiving better treatment than the general population of the Asylum. Despite public concern and expectations that returned solders would be looked after well, the facilities at Dunwich provided the men with only their basic needs, and not the specialised medical care, psychological support and rehabilitation the returned soldiers required. Many soldiers died as inmates and were buried in the Dunwich cemetery in graves that are now unmarked. The experiences of these returned soldiers demonstrates the impact that a lack of understanding of war trauma had on the veterans who did not have the security and stability of family life to provide the environment necessary for recovery from wartime experiences. For men without families to nurture and support their return to civilian life, the Asylum was a place of last resort.