5 Oct 2021
It's a day steeped in history and one that acknowledges the hard work of the people responsible for establishing the order of St John of God. An order which would eventually be brought to the shores of Australia and one that would consequently result in the foundation of one of Australia's largest private health care providers - St John of God Health Care.
On that cold October day in 1871, in the 'workhouses' where the sisters ministered the sick, impoverished and destitute of Ireland, tiny seeds of the Sisters of St John of God congregation would begin to take root. From a desperate place of suffering and sadness, a legacy was born. And for the next 150 years, the remarkable work of the Sisters of St John of God would go on to span three continents, providing services and support to people in need in the areas of healthcare, education, pastoral care and spirituality throughout Ireland, Australia and Pakistan.
The journey that gave birth to St John of God Health Care
In 1895, Ireland's Sisters of St John God order embarked on a six week voyage over treacherous seas, and endured, oftentimes, squalid living conditions on board the RSM Orizaba in an effort to reach Australia. Answering the call from Bishop Matthew Gibney to help the sick, poor and needy who were facing a Typhoid epidemic in the goldfields of Western Australia, eight pioneering sisters would eventually dock in Albany, WA on November 23, that same year.
The sisters wasted no time in setting up a residence in Perth - which doubled as a hospital to nurse the sick within the community. And like ripples in a pond, the sisters soon spread their congregation further afield and their first hospital on Adelaide Terrace, spawn several more hospitals across Western Australia. By 1915 the sisters had ventured as far as Victoria, establishing their first hospital in Ballarat -a hospital that still stands proud under the St John of God banner today.
More than 100 years after those first tiny seeds were sewn in the workhouses of Ireland, the sisters gave their blessing to the formation of the St John of God Health Care Group. Since then, the sisters' vision to provide compassionate healthcare in a not-for-profit setting has grown to encompass 24 health care facilities across Victoria, New South Wales and Western Australia. From the humble beginnings of eight pioneering sisters, St John of God Health Care is now widely recognised as not only one of the largest private hospital operators in the country, but the biggest Catholic not-for-profit health care provider within Australia, employing more than 14,500 people nationwide.
The sisters continue to be represented on the Board of Trustees, providing religious guidance to the organisation when needed and helping St John of God Health Care stay grounded and aligned to the mission, culture and values of the founding sisters. Their selflessness, dedication and commitment to bettering the lives of those in need has given us the platform to continue to provide compassionate care for countless others over the past 150 years, and for that our hospitals, patients and caregivers are truly grateful.
150 years on
While Foundation Day provides us the opportunity to reflect on the history and humble beginnings of St John of God Health Care, it also affords us the ability to recognise, through the hard work and dedication of our own long-serving caregivers across SEM, how we continue to uphold the vision and mission of our foremothers. This Foundation Day, 150 years on, we ironically celebrate the service of almost 150 caregivers across our SEM sites who work tirelessly to improve the lives of others - this year reaching a milestone in their long-standing commitment to the St John of God Health Care Group.