Callan Park heritage

Callan Park's landscapes and buildings are evocative legacies of a complex and layered history.

Exceptional cultural heritage

Callan Park is a place of exceptional cultural heritage significance.

Some 40,000 years ago, what we call Iron Cove today was in the valley of an ancient freshwater river much further from the coast and at a greater height above sea level. The ancient banks of this river, what we now call the Parramatta River, have provided some of the oldest Aboriginal objects in the Sydney region, evidence of the periodic and enduring visitation of Aboriginal people along the river.  

Most Aboriginal archaeological sites in Greater Sydney represent the last 5,000 years after sea levels settled into the coastline we know today. At Callan Point headland there are Aboriginal open midden sites and shelter sites from this period, evidence of the long history of Aboriginal custodianship of the Sydney area. 

Callan Park retains elements of 3 mid-1800s Victorian-era estates, including the Garry Owen and Broughton Hall estates purchased by the government for a ‘Hospital for the Insane’ in 1874. The site continued to operate as an institute for mental health care until 2008, initially as Callan Park Mental Hospital and Broughton Hall Psychiatric Clinic and later amalgamated into Rozelle Hospital. The grand Victorian houses of these 2 estates formed part of the later hospital building complexes that can be seen in the park today.  

Shell middens
Bonney view

Callan Park Mental Hospital was the first mental health institution designed to reflect and support the delivery of the new ‘moral therapy’ practices of that time. The landscape setting of the Kirkbride block was purposefully considered and planned as a recreational therapy space for patients, and the gardens, tended by the patients, produced food for the hospital. Several landscape plantings and features from this time remain around Kirkbride today. The practice of integrating landscape settings into patient treatments continued for a time at Callan Park. The Kirkbride Block and Garry Owen and Broughton Hall estates can only really be understood in the broader context of their consciously designed and used landscape settings. 

Callan Park Hospital and Broughton Hall Psychiatric Clinic were at the forefront of several developments in mental health care well into the 20th century, including in the areas of the classification and separation of patients, staff training, placement practices and war veteran repatriation. The hospital buildings and landscape features evident in the park today are the direct consequence of these revolutionary mental health practices and their outcomes.

Balmain gates

Learn about how we are bringing Callan Park's heritage to life through restoration.

Callan Park heritage restoration