Melbourne Retreat for the Cure of Inebriates

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(1873 - 1892)

The Northcote Inebriates Retreat first came into existence in October 1873 under the provisions of the inebriate act which allowed licensed retreats for the treatment and cure of inebriates. It was located between St George’s Road and Merri creek where the Northcote High School and Merri Park are located today.

Two buildings were situated on the 21 acre area next to Merri creek, the main building was a two story brick accommodation block, especially built to house the inebriates admitted to the retreat. Next to that was a wooden building which housed a meeting room, library and the private quarters of Dr. Charles McCarthy.

The Retreat was run by Dr. McCarthy and funded through donations from citizens and a Government grant. He went on to buy the property and planned to continue running it at his own cost but it was soon taken over by the Government after a legal dispute regarding ownership, and became run by the State in 1890. They retained Dr. McCarthy as superintendent. At this time attendance could not be enforced by the courts and so was voluntary. It was also now only available for female inebriates. Previously males had consistently outnumbered females four to one. In 1891 only 15 women attended the retreat, which was not worth the cost of keeping the retreat open and so it was closed down in 1892. The inebriate retreat buildings were demolished in 1926 when the Northcote High School first opened its doors. During the twenty years of operation, over 650 people were treated at the Northcote Inebriate Retreat.

Darebin Libraries. Local History File: Inebriate Retreat

Lemon, Andrew (1983). The Northcote Side of the River. North Melbourne: Hargreen.