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“The Old Hospital” in Palmer Street, Oakleigh

This is one of a series of articles based on Taking Its Place:  A History of Oakleigh 2004 and on additional information provided by its author, H.G. Gobbi.

Many people in Oakleigh were born at the “old hospital”, as they call it; that is, the Palmer Street Hospital.  Perhaps, like some of us, you have memories of being denied admission by a stern matron when a younger sibling was born there?

Originally a private house built in the 1870s, this important Oakleigh institution next became a convalescent home.  Around 1912, it changed to a private hospital known as St Albans, attracting medical practices to the adjacent Atkinson Street hill. St Albans was sold in 1918 after the death of its founder, Dr Dunkley, but its new management upgraded the facility and included a modern operating theatre.  Medical, surgical and maternity patients were treated here.[1]

In 1938 the hospital was put up for sale because its then owner, Sister Emily Dilnot, had returned to England. The Oakleigh City Council held a meeting at the Town Hall in 1939 to gauge public interest in its purchase as a community hospital, but World War Two intervened before a decision was made.  The matter was revived in 1944, when the Charities Board of Victoria began to look for a site for a suburban hospital in Oakleigh.  There was considerable local resistance to the Board’s idea of building a new hospital in Atkinson Street and eventually, with Sister Dilnot wanting closure on the Palmer Street hospital, the Council suggested that the Charities Board consider this existing facility instead. The State Government bought the hospital in 1948 and Sister Mulligan, who had been matron at St Albans for many years, was appointed in charge.  As Helen Gobbi notes, “In its first year as the Oakleigh District Community Hospital, staff treated just over 550 general and maternity patients, primarily from Oakleigh, Mulgrave and Caulfield.”[2]

In 1983 the Victorian Ministry of Health announced that the Oakleigh District Community Hospital, which had become primarily a maternity hospital, would close. This was partly because of the cost of necessary upgrades, and partly because of lower numbers of patients.

After its closure as a hospital, the house had varied uses, including as boarding house; headquarters for the Tipping Foundation; [3] and as a Transport Accident Commission facility.  It has returned to private ownership in recent years and has been listed on the local planning scheme for protection of heritage places.


H.G. Gobbi:  Taking Its Place:  A History of Oakleigh  2004


[1] Gobbi, H.G.:  Taking its Place:  A History of Oakleigh 2004 p. 171

[2] ibid p. 218

[3] The Tipping Foundation, now Aruma, was a disability services provider.