Aradale represents untapped potential
If there was ever a grand project waiting to happen then it must surely be Ararat’s historic Aradale ‘village’.
The former psychiatric hospital and asylum, much of it built with stone, is staggering in sheer grandeur, aspect, history and… potential.
The primary structures rising from within the grounds take pride of place over the Ararat landscape.
It seems ridiculous that, apart from entertaining tours and the use of a section of the site for a wine-making training centre, many of the primary buildings sit dormant – all the while deteriorating.
The efforts to promote the historical significance of Aradale through spooky or informative tours are a wonderful example of initiative.
But surely this represents only the tip of the iceberg.
The former self-contained psychiatric hospital, originally known as Ararat Lunatic Asylum, had its 150th anniversary at the weekend, and has so much more to offer.
The state owns Aradale, including all of its 60-odd buildings and has a responsibility to the people of Ararat district, the region, Victoria and beyond to extract it from the too-hard basket.
When you stand in the grounds and look up at the site’s grand main buildings it is easy to understand why some children catching a glimpse of the site while travelling on the Western Highway refer to it as the Ararat ‘castle’. It is significant. Most Ararat families have some connection with the former asylum – it closed in the 1990s after opening for patients in 1865 – and Ararat Rural City Council, driven by community expectation to see the site used in an adequate, appropriate and productive way, has spent considerable time and effort lobbying for and exploring ideas.
But the sheer size of the site, its infrastructure, the nature of the facility and significance of the buildings means it is a project probably well beyond local government level.
Let’s not beat around bush.
Estimates are that to bring the buildings up to scratch might cost somewhere between $50-million and $60-million.
But as the enterprising tourism-based historical and ghost tours of the site have revealed, there are lots of ways to skin a cat.
Aradale is a state asset of national significance – it is one of only three of its type ever built – and while, in many ways it had a dark past, surely it can present a bright future.
To do nothing at state and even federal levels would be an act of historic negligence and we need ideas to allow this untapped jewel to sparkle. the