Life was tough for children born into Melbourne’s inner-city slums at the turn of the nineteenth century. Lack of sanitation, overcrowding, poor housing and insufficient food created breeding grounds for infectious diseases, which resulted in many children requiring long hospital stays.
Children were admitted to hospital, treated, and once considered symptom free, were sent home. Still weak, their health would again quickly decline and often lead to death.
Staff at the Children’s Hospital in Carlton realised these children needed to build their strength before returning home. Some patients were sent to private homes for a restorative stay near the beach, which had good results. By 1883, a convalescent cottage was purchased by the Committee of Management in Brighton. The cottage was located close to the beach and the children could play in fresh sea air, eat nourishing food and regain their strength before returning home.
Hampton and Sherbrooke convalescent homes, and an entire hospital dedicated to orthopaedic illnesses in Mt Eliza, highlighted the need for long term care and rehabilitation facilities for children affected by chronic and disabling illnesses. These facilities also brought Allied Health and Ancillary Services departments to fruition; such as Occupational Therapy, Social Work, Physiotherapy, Speech Therapy, Audiology, Psychology, and Dietetics.
The demand for convalescent facilities diminished when childhood immunisation programs became commonplace. In 1957, Sherbrooke closed its doors for good and Hampton followed soon after.