Digging up our gold rush roots

This year marks 120 years since the second St John of God Hospital was established for the Sisters of St John of God to care for the sick and injured in Western Australia’s goldfields.

21 Mar 2017

St John of God Health Care history

Images above: St John of God Kalgoorlie Hospital and Sisters of St John of God 1905 to 1910

21 March 2017

When thousands rushed to Kalgoorlie in the hope of finding gold in the 1890s, the resulting overcrowding, poor sanitation and inadequate water supplies led to breakouts of typhoid and other illness.

This prompted the Goldfields community to raise funds for a hospital, which opened in 1897, with the Sisters of St John of God given the responsibility to manage the facility and care for the sick and injured.

St John of God Health Care Group Heritage Coordinator Jacqui Sherriff said through their work at this hospital, their first hospital in Coolgardie and community nursing work in Perth, the Sisters’ developed a reputation for providing excellent health care.

“The effort required to care for the sick in the 1890s particularly those with typhoid, who needed unremitting nursing care, was extraordinary,” Jacqui said.

“Several Sisters succumbed to typhoid while caring for the community, which highlights not only the risks to themselves but their commitment to caring for the sick.”

The Sisters bought the hospital in about 1913 and upgraded the facility over the years, including an entire rebuild in the 1960s, before eventually closing it in the 1980s.

“While the hospital no longer exists, the work of these Sisters continues to inspire the care we provide today at our St John of God Health Care facilities across Australia,” Jacqui said.

St John of God Health Care heritage

Image above: St John of God Kalgoorlie Hospital 1930 to 1980

The original hospital

The original hospital, which opened on 21 March 1987 comprised:

  • An administration block including the Sisters’ rooms, a small chapel, laundry, scullery and bathrooms
  • A 32-bed ward block
  • Brick building including one operating room, dispensary, consulting room and quarters for wardsmen and kitchen staff

The hospital site today:

  • The hospital buildings were sold in the 1980s and initially repurposed for use as a nursing home. The site is now incorporated into St Mary’s Primary School.