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June 2019

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Associate Professor Susan Donath and Dr Lisa Amir view the exhibition.

RWH’s rich history in the spotlight

The rich history of The Royal Women’s Hospital is on show at the University of Melbourne’s Medical History Museum.

The display highlights some of the great historical events, people, philosophies and achievements over 160-plus years.

The collection gives an insight into the advancements made in women’s and newborn health from the humble beginnings of the Melbourne Lying-In Hospital and Infirmary for the Diseases Peculiar to Women and Children in an East Melbourne terrace house in 1856, to the world-class tertiary hospital that The Women’s is today.

Chair of The Women’s history, archives and alumni committee Leslie Reti, said the exhibition was a ‘treasure to savour.’

‘The personal nature of these exhibits and essays makes them a great primary source for people wanting to discover more about a certain event or era,’ Associate Professor Reti said.

RWH board chair Lyn Swinburne launched the exhibition, paying tribute to the generations of individuals who over the decades had kept, catalogued and preserved the unique items now on display.

‘It acknowledges our hospital’s diverse role in the very early days of our city, as a place of care and respite for some of Melbourne’s women during a time of great inequity, through to the second half of the 20th century when more women gave birth at The Women’s than in any other hospital in the Commonwealth,’ Ms Swinburne said.

‘It documents our work advancing healthcare for women and advocating for social, legal, educational and policy changes to improve health outcomes.

‘And it tells us that, by the end of the 20th century, The Women’s had built a reputation for its expertise in areas such as antenatal care, maternal and neonatal infection control, gynaecological disease diagnosis and treatment, family planning, newborn intensive care and infertility management.’