The "Melbourne Free Hospital for Sick Children" is opened by Dr William Smith and Dr John Singleton with just six rooms, located at 39 Stephen Street (now 49 Exhibition Street) and treated more than 1,000 children in its first year of operation.
In colonial times, Australian children were particularly vulnerable to unhygienic living conditions. The chances of infants surviving decreased in the overcrowded and insanitary industrial inner-suburbs, where people lived in appalling conditions and knowledge of nutrition and hygiene was poor.
The Children's Hospital was established as a charitable institution for children of the poor. The infants and children of middle and upper-class families, also susceptible to the diseases of the period, were attended by doctors who were paid a fee. Only later, as medicine and nursing became more sophisticated, did it cater for sick children of all classes.
Melbourne Free Hospital for Sick Children, 1870
39 Stephen Street, Victoria