Our history

St Vincent's has always been the people's hospital. From our humble beginnings in a Fitzroy cottage to our contemporary place as a leading public hospital, it's been a fascinating and rewarding journey.

Our history is one of extraordinary individuals working together to provide the best possible patient care to people from all walks of life, especially those in need. In 1889, five Sisters of Charity arrived in Melbourne with the dream of establishing a hospital. Four years later, having worked tirelessly to raise funds and garner support, the Sisters opened a small cottage hospital in converted terraces on Victoria Parade in Fitzroy.

Melbourne was a city of just under 500,000 people at that time, and the inner-city was home to many slums, poor santitation and a population suffering from ailments of all kinds. The need for a community hospital was great.

St Vincents Hospital Melbourne - fundraising postcard 1905
An early call for community support - a St Vincent's postcard from 1905

In the early days the cottage hospital had about 30 beds and treated almost 2,500 patients in its first year alone. The Sisters had a small number of trained nurses and trainees assisting them, while unpaid medical staff provided medical and surgical services. Community involvement and fundraising played a central role in the hospital’s growth, with all sorts of imaginative fundraisers staged – from a bazaar in the Royal Exhibition Building that saw thousands of Melbournians gather, to small local auxiliaries in neighbouring suburbs that met regularly to support the growing needs of the hospital. The selection of stories from our Archives below provide some insight into over a century of ongoing fantastic community fundraising and support.

Our history

In 1899 St Vincent's held an amazing month-long fundraising bazaar in the Royal Exhibition Building.

The Little Green Shop proved a popular means for people to support the hospital from the 1920s onwards.

Strange but true - Young Apollo used his teeth to pull a bus in support of St Vincent's in 1940s Fitzroy

More unusual early donations included everything from tinned apricots to feather pillows and lino for the hospital hall.

 Our major milestones


St Vincent's Hospital Melbourne opens on 6 November


St Vincent's receives its first government grant


A new hospital building is opened at the rear of the present Healy Wing


The St Vincent's Clinical School opens


The Almoner's (now Social Work) Department is inaugurated


Caritas Christi Hospice established in Studley Park Road, Kew, to provide care for the terminally ill 


Chair of Medicine established. Its Professors have been John Hayden, Carl de Gruchy, David Penington, Jack Martin, James Best and Mark Cook


Foundation of the Home Care Extension Service, providing home-based care linked to hospital services (now known as St Vincent's at Home)


The Daly and Aikenhead Wings are formally opened 


Australia’s first Intensive Care Unit (IC) is opened and a specialist postgraduate course in intensive care nursing developed


The Hugh Devine Chair of Surgery is established. Its Professors have been Richard Bennett, Wayne Morrison and Peter Choong


foundation of the Microsurgery Research Centre with Bernard O’Brien as Director


Prague House established in Sackville Street, Kew, to provide residential services for older men with particular health needs who have experienced homelessness. Prague House moved to a new purpose-built facility adjacent to St George’s at Cotham Road in 2006 and now houses both men and women.


Celebrations are held to mark the Hospital's centenary


Opening of a $160 million Inpatient Services (IPS) building on the Fitzroy campus


St George’s Health Service becomes an integral part of St Vincent’s, providing specialised aged care and rehabilitation services


Opening of a state-of-the-art health education centre in the Healy Wing 


Opening of the Orthopaedic Surgical Centre


Official opening of the new state-of-the-art St Vincent's Cancer Centre 


Our rich historical archives

St Vincent’s Archives collects and preserves records and artefacts that tell the story of St Vincent’s, from its foundation in 1893 to the present day. Highlights of the collection include a wide array of photos, publications, annual reports, papers of hospital historians and records from the Nurses’ Training School. You can contact the Archives on (03) 9288 3040 (Wed–Fri) or email our resident Archivist, Barbara Cytowicz at barbara.cytowicz@svhm.org.au.

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