01 May 100 years of good: Celebrating Uniting War Memorial Hospital
How would like to be remembered, and what legacy do you wish to leave?
In a culture where we are taught to ‘play it safe’, it can be hard to be brave enough to take steps of courageous action.
For one family, the decision to donate their family home 100 years ago has resulted in a century of good. This act has made sure thousands of Australians were born safely into this world, and many more thousands were cared for in their time of need.
A family legacy
On April 25, 1919 – the fourth ANZAC Day – the Vickery family of Waverley, Sydney offered their home, ‘Edina’, to their church for use as a community hospital.
Family matriarch and widow, Jane Ellen Vickery – known as Nellie – signed the letter of offer, together with her ten children – an idea conceived by her son E. Frank Vickery.
Frank resolved that if his two brothers returned from WWI – after both were wounded in France – he would convince the rest of the family to donate Edina in memory of their father, Ebenezer Vickery Jnr, who died in 1915.
In Frank’s words, “I decided that if my brothers returned, I would try to get my six sisters, three brothers and mother to give Edina as a War Memorial Hospital in memory of my father. The boys returned in 1919 and on 25 April, after much discussion, the eleven of us wrote to Rev. James Green offering Edina, which was duly accepted, and handed over to the Church.”
When the Church accepted the offer, the War Memorial Hospital was created.
Through many changes over the course of a century, the hospital’s purpose has always remained the same – to serve the community.
Now, 100 years on, Uniting is celebrating the Vickery family’s generous donation with the unveiling of a timeline that capture’s the of key events that shaped the history of this incredible community hospital.
A century of service
- Despite the hospital’s humble start – with only a matron and five nurses attending to 19 beds and four cots – well over 10 thousand patients were admitted and more than 3000 babies were born in the first eight years of operation.
- In 1936, a media write-up in Building Magazine stated the hospital had, “earned a reputation of being one of the most comfortable and efficient in NSW.”
- In 1939, as world war stirred once again, an air-raid shelter was built underneath the Vickery Building.
- During WWII, 18 of the hospital’s nurses joined the Australian Army Nursing Service. Tragically, Sister Winnie May Davis and Sister Florence Salmon lost their lives and two of the hospital’s former doctors, Lieutenant Colonel Archie Cunningham and Colonel William Kay, were killed in service.
- In 1941, the War Memorial Hospital had the third highest birth rate in NSW.
- In 1956, the hospital’s first chaplain was appointed – the much-loved Rev. John Sorrell.
- In 1960 the hospital’s founder, E. Frank Vickery, retired as Honorary Secretary after 40 years of service on the hospital’s council.
- In 1975 Edina House was granted heritage status, noted as an outstanding example of a Late Victorian Boom Style mansion – “One of the grandest ever built in Waverley and certainly the best surviving”.
- In 1979 – after 30,432 births – the midwifery unit was closed due to budget cuts and a declining birth rate.
- 1985 marked the start of the hospital’s new direction as a specialised rehabilitation and assessment service for older people – a mandate that continues to this day.
- In 1993 the hospital’s Day Centre is officially
- In 2000 – the year of the Sydney Olympic Games – Rev. Harry Herbert officially opened the hydrotherapy pool.
- In 2010 the Uniting Seniors Gym moves from Bondi Junction to its new home at War Memorial Hospital.
- 2014 marked the establishment of the Younger Onset Dementia
- In 2018 the Geriatric Flying Squad wins the Team Innovation award at the HESTA Aged Care Awards.
- 2019 marks centenary celebrations celebrating 100 years since the Vickery family gifted their home to the church.
Looking forward to the future
In the century since the Vickery family donated their estate, Uniting War Memorial Hospital has evolved into an accessible community hub, with its care and outreach now expanding beyond the gates.
The dedicated hospital team is keenly aware of the legacy of the Vickery family left.
“It’s an honour to work here at War Memorial Hospital, says Executive Manager, Ged Hyde. “There is a strong sense of pride amongst the staff and appreciation of the magnificent buildings and grounds.”
“Our vision is to create a restorative place and community where local people can access a range of services from early learning through to contemporary health and aged care services for the future.”
- Maintenance and restoration of heritage buildings and garden.
- Expansion of the Uniting Edina residential aged care home.
- Apartments offering a mix of seniors housing, and social and disability housing.
- Continuation of short-term accommodation for regional patients and carers.
- New services such as village shops, an early learning centre and a medical centre.