James Fletcher Complex

Local history is on the menu at Monet’s

Monet’s Functions and Catering is located in the old Military Hospital Building, dating from 1843, in the grounds of the James Fletcher Hospital in Watt Street, Newcastle. In addition to hosting functions ranging from day training courses to weddings, Monet’s also provides catering services to businesses located in and around Newcastle.

An agency of the Samaritans, Monet’s (soon to be renamed Samaritans Functions and Catering) offers employment to supported employees whose lives have been touched by mental illness. Their mission is to promote social responsibility by maximising access, participation and employment outcomes for people with a mental disability in conjunction with providing high quality and worthwhile accredited vocational training.

Samaritans has been operating locally for nearly 30 years offering support to many in need in the community including struggling families, children with additional needs, people with disability and those with mental health challenges.

Samaritans began running Monet’s as a restaurant in 2009 as a way of offering employment and training to people with mental health issues. It has since evolved into a successful catering and functions business and has recently started manufacturing relish and preserves.

A number of people have come to Monet’s for work and generated enough experience to go and work in mainstream employment. Monet’s is a successful project for people struggling with their mental health as through the program, they are able to be trained and in many cases, take a step into the workforce.

On the last Friday of each month, Monet’s holds a Historical Talk and Lunch, drawing from its location at one of Newcastle’s richest sites in terms of historical significance. Heritage listed by the New South Wales Government in 2010, the James Fletcher site was used for government farming and as a military compound and barracks before becoming a mental health centre.

Staff member Simon Swinson will take his audience into the history and historical values of the James Fletcher complex, including the convict, military and police history of the site.

“Generally speaking, people find the talk interesting,” says Simon, “especially as it deals with broader issues like the relationship of the asylum to the Newcastle Council and community.”

Simon has a background in classical history. His interest in the James Fletcher Complex is part of an area of personal interest in the historical treatment of the mentally ill in Australia and elsewhere.

“I have started reading up on the history of psychiatry in Australia, and the treatments employed historically,” says Simon. “I think a second talk may arise from this topic.”

A wide range of visitors have attended the talks, from locals to visitors from outside the region.

The Historical Talks and Lunch cost $20 per person. For enquiries or bookings contact Monet’s on 4924 6851 or visit their website.

Image courtesy of University of Newcastle Cultural Collections.

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