One hundred and fifty years ago the inaugural Committee of Management voted to establish the first hospital in Victoria dedicated to providing free healthcare for children. The Melbourne Free Hospital for Sick Children opened with just six beds and a government grant of £50. These humble beginnings set in motion 150 years of caring for the children of Victoria, Australia and beyond. Today, The Royal Children’s Hospital (RCH) is a major specialist paediatric hospital with 350 beds.
Read more about the founding years here.
The story of the RCH is the story of thousands of heart-warming moments that our hospital has contributed to each and every year since September 1870. Our milestone is an opportunity to celebrate that story, with an eye to what’s ahead.
The Archives and Collections team has produced this online exhibition to highlight 150 years of festivities and celebrations at the RCH.
As an organisation, we encourage staff, patients and families to celebrate all of our victories, large and small – it all matters. This exhibition explores how we celebrate these wins and milestones by going above and beyond to create fun, laughter and a sense of community within the hospital.
We are living in challenging and uncertain times as we reflect on 150 years of great care. We hope these photographs are a reminder that happy and joyful times are never too far away.
It also appears that the RCH has always known how to throw a great party… Happy Birthday RCH!
A patient at The Children's Orthopaedic Hospital in Mt Eliza cutting his birthday cake with friends. Celebrating important childhood milestones such as birthdays are never forgotten, patients connect with friends and family, encouraging a sense of normality.
Birthday Cheers! Circa 1937
Children admitted to The Children's Orthopaedic Hospital in Mt Eliza stayed for long periods of time, sometimes years. Through routine, schooling, play time and of course celebrating important milestones such as birthdays, the hospital helped to give patients a home away from home.
Birthday Celebrations, circa 1928
Handmade hats and a new drum, a patient celebrates his birthday with a bedside party at The Children's Hospital, Carlton. You can also view the long balcony wards common to this campus.
A patient celebrates turning two with a birthday portrait at The Children's Orthopaedic Hospital, Mt Eliza.
A Nurse on her Wedding Day
This photograph was taken on the steps of The Children's Orthopaedic Hopsital in Mt Eliza. It was rumoured the gardener trimmed some of his prized roses for the bride to use as her bouquet.
The Winifred Grimwade Hall was a much loved addition to The Children's Orthopaedic Hospital in Mt Eliza. This purpose-built space allowed the children to put on pantomimes, performances and it was a great event space when special guests came to visit.
Flowers on the Ward, circa 1945
Beautiful flower arrangements filled the wards at Christmas time.
Collecting Christmas Flowers, circa 1943
At Christmas time staff would fill the wards with flowers and decorations to ensure patients that couldn't go home were able to experience the joys and wonders of this special time.
Christmas Day, 1936
Father Christmas never misses a visit. Here he is seen at The Children's Orthopaedic Hospital, Mt Eliza
The Once a Year Club Arrives with Father Christmas
From the mid 1930s firemen and retired firemen began visiting the Carlton hospital on Christmas day. A Resident Doctor would play Father Christmas, climbing the fire engines ladder up to the balcony to great applause.
The Once a Year Club
The Once a Year Club in action at the old Parkville Hospital.
Fireman and Patient, circa 1943
Firemen and retired firemen make a special visits to the hospital on Christmas day to celebrate with the patients.
A traditional Christmas dinner is usually on the menu with poultry, green peas, potatoes and a special plum pudding served with ice cream.
Christmas Party Spread, circa 1970
The RCH catering department in the old Parkville hospital sure knew how to put on a great Christmas lunch.
Swan Ice Sculpture, circa 1970
If this ice sculpture is anything to go by, it is clear the RCH knows how to throw a stylish Christmas party.
RCH Centenary, 1970
The RCH celebrated 100 years serving the Victorian community in 1970. To celebrate a program of events was held, including medical and surgical conferences which attracted leading paediatric figures from around the world, a paediatric nursing conference, children's film festival, art exhibition, thanksgiving services at St. Paul's and St. Patrick's Cathedrals, and the publication of the centenary history.
Centenary Reunion of Former RMOs, 1970
Luncheons, afternoon teas, picnics and light refreshments are never too far away from any occasion.
Centenary Celebrity Dinner, 1970
Throughout the RCH photography collection, scenes of laughter, camaraderie and fun can be seen.
R.C.H. Centenary Barbeque, Coolart, 1970
Mr. Reg Hooper documented this staff barbeque in Coolart to celebrate the RCH turning 100 years.
A Student Nurse on her Graduation Day
The final class of student nurses graduated from the RCH Mackinnon School of Nursing in 1987, representing the shift to university accredited training programs. Graduations are a proud moment for young graduates and their families.
Elaine Orr with Nursing Graduates
Elaine Orr was a much loved, vivacious and outgoing Matron and Director of Nursing at the RCH from 1953 - 1983. Here she is seen celebrating with nurse graduates.
A Graduate Nurse and her Family
A proud moment for nurse graduates and their families.
Queen Elizabeth II Opening the Parkville Hospital, 1963
There has been no shortage of amazing visitors to the RCH over the years, with Queen Elizabeth II one of the most special.
The Crowd Eagerly Awaits Queen Elizabeth II & Prince Philip, 1963
An afternoon of hats, heels, handbags and suits, lucky guests definitely dressed to the occasion for such a momentous event. The RCH put its best foot forward when the royal couple officially opened the hospital on February 25.
Nat King Cole Visits the Hospital, 1956
By the look on this patient's face, he was pretty chuffed to have a dinner time visit by the legendary jazz singer and pianist Nat King Cole.
Nat King Cole Visits the Hospital, 1956
Appears Mr Cole was a hit with all the patients.
Humphrey B. Bear Visits the Hospital
There has been no shortage of visits to our patients by giant fluffy animals. The Royal Children's Hospital, Parkville.
The Princess and Prince of Wales Visiting the Child Accident Prevention Centre, 1985
Dating back to 1901 when the Duchess of York visited The Melbourne Free Hospital for Sick Children, the RCH has had a number of royal visitors.
An Elephant Visits the Hospital, Circa 1970s
A flat bed truck and a few handlers is all you need to bring an elephant to the hospital.
Mickey Mouse Visits the Hospital
Finishing our celebratory show with a firm favourite, the one and only Mickey Mouse.