Friends of J Ward recently received a 2019 Victorian Museum Award for their volunteer work in establishing and maintaining J Ward as a museum and an on-going tourist destination. The award was presented on 26 June 2019 at NGV International.
The Friends of J Ward were nominated for this Award for their success in administering the development of J Ward over 26 years. The Ararat Old Gaol opened in 1861 to cater for the district’s goldrush and closed in 1886. In 1887 the building was reopened as a hospital for the ‘criminally insane’ and was known as J Ward. J Ward closed in 1991 and in 1993 the Friends of J Ward was formed as a volunteer organisation. Currently a group of 70 volunteers conduct daily tours in one of the few intact old gaols in Victoria. J Ward is a successful tourism enterprise, averaging 11,000 visitors a year. The volunteers undertake tasks including tour guiding, accounts, administration, computing, ticketing, catering, gardening, maintenance, marketing and promotion. Participation as a volunteer at J Ward allows members to develop a greater empathy and understanding of mental health and its history.