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130 years of health

Thursday, 27th April, 2017

The rotunda in Central Reserve (now known as Sturt Park) was built for the Hospital Sunday folk. The rotunda in Central Reserve (now known as Sturt Park) was built for the Hospital Sunday folk.

By Christine Adams

One hundred and thirty years of continual health service by hospitals within Broken Hill and District will be celebrated on Sunday, May 7 at the Broken Hill Hospital Museum within the Sulphide Street Railway & Historical Museum Complex.

Entry to the museum complex will be free from 10am. Proceedings will commence at 1pm.

As in days gone by entertainment will be supplied by a Broken Hill Band-in this instance the Burke Ward Fife Band followed by the Broken Hill Singers. Afternoon tea will be available.

In keeping with Hospital Sunday donation tins will be available for those that would like to contribute to the upkeep of the hospital museum.

It is fitting that we acknowledge our hospital history in that special place where surgical instruments of the past will perhaps make us shudder and remind us all of how much more we are advanced today and where we, through the photographic exhibition, can reminisce and honour so many that served this community over the years.

The 1888 Silverton Tramway Company Engineers’ Office building was provided to the Retired Graduate Nurses’ Association by the Railway Museum Trust in 1983 as a contribution to the Centenary of Broken Hill celebrations.

The group set up the hospital museum and it was in their exceptional care until around 2012 when the group handed the museum back to the Railway Museum Trust.

You will recognise many of the nursing group that created the museum in the photographs hanging from the walls.

In 2017, we have honoured their dedication by revamping the old building and adding an annexe to continue their good work and we acknowledge the local Health Service for their generous financial contribution towards the re-framing of the photographs.

We are also proud of a small new addition to the museum. An exhibition recognising 100 years of pharmaceutical service in Broken Hill honouring those household family names: Peoples, Harvey and Temby. Our sincere gratitude for Outback Pharmacies in collating the photographs and collection.

The Broken Hill Hospitals, with the exception of the present day hospital, were built with the financial support of our people.

Events such as Hospital Sunday were strongly supported in the early years. In later years more structured financial support was provided through the Broken Hill Hospital Contribution Fund.


Hospital Sunday


The concept of Hospital Sunday was being discussed within the Broken Hill community as early as 1890.

The original idea was for churches to dedicate one Sunday a month’s collection to the hospital cause. Apparently this was not all successful as churches were experiencing their own financial difficulties. This rather unsatisfactory method of support for the hospital continued until 1895 when the first fully community supported event took place.

But there was a little controversial moment that rather tickles one’s fancy. There was a motion presented at a council meeting that a rotunda be immediately erected in Central Reserve (later named Sturt Park). When asked why the urgency the mayor stated he wanted it completed “for the Hospital Sunday folk”.

An alderman replied the 100 pounds quoted for the erection of the rotunda would be better spent on roads and footpaths. The mayor replied the money spent on the rotunda would be the best 100 pounds spent by any Broken Hill Council. He added that if local bands were willing to give their ability and time for benevolent purposes, the council should at least give them shelter! Well done Mr Mayor of 1895.

And so on Sunday, June 9, 1895 a rotunda in Central Reserve gave shelter to bandsmen who entertained over 2000 people. The suggestion was that 8000 were expected but foul weather kept many away. The entertainment at the reserve was preceded by a procession which included: Broken Hill Band, Silverton Tramway Band, Fire Brigade, the Hospital Committee, and then the Friendly Societies Members and school children.

Hospital Sunday was celebrated for many years with the total support of the community.

The report of Hospital Sunday in the Barrier Miner dated 12 May 1904 reminds us just how important union leadership and support was for our city.

It is also interesting to read the number of Friendly Societies active in our city at that time.

The order of that year’s celebration was:


Cyclists’ Corps

Scottish Pipers’ Band

Engine Drivers and Firemen Union

A.M.A. (Amalgamated Miners’ Association) Band 

A.M.A. (Amalgamated Miners’ Association) Members

Broken Hill Brass Band

I.O.O.F. (Independent Order of Odd Fellows)

Public Schools’ Drum and Fife Band 

Public Schools’ Cadet Corps 

L.O. Brass Band

U.A.O.D. (Ancient Order of Druids)

H.A.C.B.S. (Hibernian Australian Catholic Benefit Society)

Irish National Foresters 

City Band


G.U.O.O.F. (Grand United order of Oddfellows)

Victoria Ambulance Carriage (Housed in the Ron Carter Transport Pavilion)

Friendly Societies or Lodges

The importance of membership in the early days was to safeguard family interests in times of sickness and adversity, as such protection was not provided by the State at the time.

There were several Friendly Societies formed in Broken Hill within the first five years.

In 1890 delegates from each Lodge decided to amalgamate into an association: Broken Hill Friendly Societies Council.

The Societies’ principal benefits were sickness and funeral cover, simple health and whole of life insurance schemes. Each society, quite often linked to religious groups, worked successfully until post Second World War when government began to provide basic social services.

The Introduction of Medibank in 1975 influenced the modern day societies and was largely responsible for the demise of others.

During the building of the 1889 hospital, workers on site entered into an agreement where they committed six-pence a week to a hospital fund.

In 1896, when the hospital was facing financial difficulties a Workers’ Contribution Fund was established.

Workers paid a halfpenny in the one pound per week to cover free hospital treatment. At that time the mining companies refused to deduct the contributions and would not subsidise payments.

This proved to be a bone of contention for many years and in 1913  prompted Mr W E Wainwright, General Manager of Broken Hill South Ltd to state “the companies had not stood up to their moral obligation”.

The Barrier Industrial Council was instrumental in forming the Broken Hill Hospital Trust Fund which in 1974, following the introduction of Medibank was changed to the Broken Hill Contribution Fund.

The Trustees of this fund have been very diligent.

The Fund financially contributed to the building of the pool in the present hospital and around 2002 provided $40,000 for the purchase of a cataract removal machine.

Since then, around 75,000 Broken Hill citizens have received treatment locally. The Fund still continues to assist the hospital and the community.

I am sure as interested people read this series there will arise names of persons with long hospital service be it medical or administrative.

Time and limited information prevents us acknowledging everyone. I hope the series is reflective of the many we honour today.

* The information within this series has been obtained from Trove-Digitised Barrier Miner Issues, Oral History of Matron Vance and Sister Thomson and records held by the hospital museum. Special thanks to Kevin Sinclair for information on the Broken Contribution Fund and our sincere thanks for assistance generously supplied by the Broken Hill Health Service. 

KEEP YOUR EYE ON BDT FOR PART TWO: Broken Hill and District Health Service - 1887-2017

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