THERE has been widespread outcry over a decision that will see public tours of the historic Aradale asylum at Ararat cease.
The Friends of J Ward confirmed that the last tour of the former lunatic asylum was on Sunday.
Tours of the site began in May of 2009 under a joint arrangement between The Friends of J Ward and the Northern Melbourne Institute of TAFE, now known as Melbourne Polytechnic, which leases Aradale from the state government.
“Melbourne Polytechnic regrets the need to suspend public tours of Aradale,” a spokeswoman said.
“We have not taken the decision lightly, but feel that this step was required to ensure the safety of the public after issues with building safety were brought to our attention.
We have not taken the decision lightly, but feel that this step was required to ensure the safety of the public after issues with building safety were brought to our attention.Melbourne Polytechnic
“We regret that this has impacted on a local business and have been communicating with the local tour companies regularly while we considered the available options.
“At this stage we do not have a scheduled date for reopening the buildings to the public.”
Construction of Aradale, originally known as the Ararat Lunatic Asylum, started in 1863. It was officially opened in 1867 and operated as a mental hospital and training centre until 1993.
The secretary of The Friends of J Ward Alex Beveridge said up to 1600 people toured the Aradale site each year with the group.
“The tours bring a lot of people into Ararat,” he said.
“I’m really concerned about the flow-on affects to the town this decision will have.”
People took to social media to show their dismay at the decision.
“I think that is a great pity. There must be some way to get around the safety issues. History will be lost if the tours do not resume - such a waste. Aradale is a huge part of Ararat’s history and worth salvaging by people with insight and vision,” Caz Hamilton posted on the Ararat Advertiser’s Facebook page.
“That’s just such a waste of a very good way off bringing in the money to a town that is already struggling to find ways to get people through. Silly, silly move people,” Susan Ash commented.
Eerie Tours conducted ghost tours at the site every Friday and Saturday night.
Tour operator Nathaniel Buchanan said all ghost tour bookings at Aradale had been cancelled.
“We had 200 people booked for a Halloween tour this weekend. Halloween is one of the biggest days of the year for us,” he said.
Mr Beveridge said J Ward tours were not affected by the Aradale closure and would continue as per normal.