By the late 1940s it became very apparent that the maze-like, antiquated and crowded Carlton hospital could no longer fulfil the needs of staff, patients or visitors. An idea was put forward by the Committee of Management to completely rebuild the hospital on a new site near The Royal Melbourne Hospital and The University of Melbourne, to develop a precinct of education and training. Unfortunately, the Second World War and a lack of government funding put dreams of new facilities on hold.

In 1948, ten acres of Royal Park was offered to the hospital. Professor Vernon Collins and Doctor Douglas Galbraith travelled overseas with architect Arthur Stephenson to research the latest concepts in modern hospital design. The rapid development of drug-based treatments meant hospital architecture no longer needed to be designed as a treatment in itself; long open-air heliotherapy balconies were becoming a thing of the past. Emphasis was placed on sterile, functional designs that promoted efficiency and modernity. Architectural firm Stephenson and Turner put forward hospital plans with small wards that grouped patients by age and sex.

The turning of the first sod ceremony was held in 1951 but it wasn’t until 1958 that the first building, the much-needed new Nurses’ Home, was completed. Construction on the main hospital buildings began in 1957 after numerous delays. In 1960 Dame Elisabeth Murdoch organised a massive public appeal to help fund the building project. The appeal raised £500,000 and ended up being the largest amount ever raised by a single charity, at the time.

On 25 February 1963, Dame Elisabeth Murdoch and Sir Henry Bolte led Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip on a tour of the new buildings and the hospital was officially opened.

Funding cuts, and conflicting priorities and opinions meant not everyone got their requests met. However overall, staff, patients and visitors viewed the new RCH Parkville hospital as a place of refreshing modernity and innovation. This online exhibition highlights the building journey – from construction to the first visitors enjoying the hospital.

Related Videos:

Getting Up, Going to Bed,

Film Title: The first visitors to the new Parkville hospital
Production Date: 1962-63
Location: The Royal Children’s Hospital; Parkville, Victoria
Media: 16mm colour film, silent
Measurement: 2:01 minutes
Maker: The Royal Children’s Hospital
Rights: Film courtesy of The Royal Children’s Hospital
Accession Number: 2018.2461 A (edited from this title)

This film may have been edited to comply with privacy laws and ethics guidelines.
Any opinions, social attitudes and medical advice contained in this film reflect the society and medical practice accepted at the time the film was made. Attitudes, community standards, and medical opinions change over time with societal and medical advances. Please view this film with a historical perspective in mind, and be aware that any opinions, attitudes, and advice depicted are no longer representative of The Royal Children’s Hospital.