The Royal Children’s Hospital, Melbourne: 150 Years of Caring

Medical History Museum

4 January 2022 to 26 November 2022.

Melbourne. Jan. 1895. Summer Ward. M.C.H. Children’s Hospital, January 1895, photograph, 15.0 × 20.0 cm. MHMA0837.3, Medical History Museum, University of Melbourne. From the photo album of Nurse Edith Florence Ochiltree.

In 1870 the Melbourne Hospital for Sick Children was founded by Drs William Smith and John Singleton. They were motivated by the mortality rate of young children in Victoria, which was significantly higher even than London’s at the time. Mrs Frances Perry, wife of the first Anglican Bishop of Melbourne, was elected as the first president of a ladies’ committee of management.

The University of Melbourne’s teaching connection with the hospital began formally in 1879 when the hospital began offering medical students access to its wards. Yet there was an even earlier connection: the university had supported the establishment of the hospital in 1870, and Professor Halford was among the original appointments, as consulting surgeon. Halford had also employed Dr Smith, soon after his arrival in Australia, as a demonstrator at the medical school.

In 2020 the Royal Children’s Hospital celebrated its 150th anniversary. But, like many other public and private events, celebrations were affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, causing the rescheduling of some commemorations to 2021. The Royal Children’s Hospital, Melbourne: 150 years of caring publication and exhibition (in the museum and online) present items from the RCH Archives and Collections Department and the Australian Medical Association Collection of the Medical History Museum, University of Melbourne. They explore the roles of important individuals, turning points, and changing responses to community needs—from the hospital’s first modest house to the extensive campus of today. Importantly, the stories and expertise of the traditional owners are acknowledged, through artworks commissioned by RCH for the anniversary