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The hospital we built: how community support brought the vision of a children’s hospital to life


Community support has been the lifeblood of The Royal Children’s Hospital (RCH) since the very beginning, ensuring it can provide the very best care to sick children and their families for 150 years.

Before its establishment in 1870, Australian children were particularly vulnerable to illness and disease. Many families were living in overcrowded and unsanitary industrial inner-suburbs of Melbourne and had limited access to information about proper nutrition and hygiene.

Founding doctors William Smith and John Singleton saw this and had a vision “to help sick and injured children free of charge”. With the support of a volunteer Ladies Committee of Management who worked tirelessly to raise the funds needed to establish the hospital, they brought their vision to life. The Melbourne Free Hospital for Sick Children opened its doors on 9 September 1870 with just six beds at 39 Stephen Street (now 49 Exhibition Street).

The volunteer Ladies Committee of Management was instrumental in the establishment of the hospital, led by Mrs Frances Perry as the inaugural President. The committee was in charge of all day-to-day activity including fundraising, staffing and eligibility for patient admissions.

1870: The "Melbourne Free Hospital for Sick Children" - 39 Stephen Street (now 49 Exhibition Street) Melbourne