RCH Auxiliaries celebrate 95 years

This year, the RCH Auxiliaries celebrate 95 years of supporting the hospital.

From establishing the first hospital canteen and supplying bed linens for the wards, to founding the RCH Opportunity Shop and being acknowledged by the Victorian State Government for their contribution to the hospital, Auxiliaries are woven into the fabric of the hospital.

In 1920, Miss Mary Guthrie raised concerns with the Hospital Committee of Management about the financial capacity of the hospital to continue to deliver the services needed within the budget they had been allocated from the Government.  As a solution, Miss Guthrie formed the Auxiliary movement to fundraise for and supply articles to the hospital. To establish this, Members of the Committee of Management were encouraged to invite women from their local community to a meeting at the Melbourne Town Hall. From here, 10 Auxiliaries were formed, along with an Executive Council. In their first year, Auxiliaries saved the hospital more than £1,914. By the end of the decade, another 12 Auxiliaries had formed, supporting the establishment of a canteen in the outpatients department, supplying bed linen and garments along with fundraising to extend the babies ward.

Throughout the 1930s Auxiliaries grew steadily, making substantial contributions to the hospital through the provision of goods. As the prospect of another World War loomed, Auxiliary members gained their first aid certificates and were trained as ‘internal nurses’ should existing nurses be sent to care for wounded soldiers. The Waste Products Fundraiser was established, by collecting tubes, wrapping from X-Ray films, whiskey and wine bottle tops to sell, with proceeds supporting the hospital. The number of Auxiliaries continued to grow and by the late 1930s there were 37 groups with over 4,000 members

By the 1940s the Waste Products Fundraiser was raising £107 per month. Despite war time rationing, Auxiliaries recorded increasing donations each year.  1946 also saw the establishment of the first cause related Auxiliary, The Railways Employee Orthopaedic Hospital Auxiliary. In 1949 the Auxiliaries Opportunity Shop was opened in the outpatients area of the hospital. The Miss Children’s Hospital competition also commenced.

In 1955, for the first time the funds raised by Auxiliaries were presented on Good Friday as part of the annual Appeal. Many new Auxiliaries were established, particularly in the rapidly expanding outer suburbs. New fundraising initiatives were also created and for the first time Christmas Cards were sold, generating £125 for the hospital. Shortly after her Coronation, Queen Elizabeth II visited Australia. Four Auxiliary members were fortunate enough to be drawn from a ballot to represent the hospital at a luncheon, tendered to Her Majesty by the Women’s Organisations of Victoria.

The start of the decade saw the opening of another Auxiliaries Opportunity Shop, this time in Nicholson St and the launch of a public Appeal to help finance the building of a new hospital. Auxiliaries provided the funds to furnish 39 nurses bedrooms, two libraries and a writing room in the new nurse’s home.  In 1965, Dame Elisabeth Murdoch retired as President of the Children’s Hospital Committee of Management and became the first patron of Auxiliaries. Throughout this decade many new special interest Auxiliaries opened, fundraising for a single department in the hospital.


The 1970s saw large changes in Auxiliaries, prompted by the increasing proportion of women entering and remaining in the workforce after marriage. During this time, Auxiliaries continued to take on new challenges, including packing 60,000 show bags to sell at The Royal Melbourne Show. Along with their tireless work in the canteen and opportunity shops, members continued to assist the hospital in many ways, providing magazines, toys, books and knitted goods. Auxiliaries also took on the role of driving patients from their homes to the hospital.

Fundraising throughout the 1980s continued, with Auxiliaries joining forces with the Girl Guides Association for the Book A Bed fundraiser. This successful venture raised more than $9,000 to purchase books for the children’s library. The first of the Annual Seminars was also instigated, providing a forum for medical and allied health professionals to share their knowledge and expertise with Auxiliary members. The 1980s did see some challenges, with the Auxiliaries no longer needed to assist in the Canteen, seeing the end to an almost life-long tradition for some members.

With the recession upon us and reduced funding for the hospital, Auxiliaries rose to the challenge, raising a record $553,170 for the hospital. Auxiliaries continued their fundraising efforts with the establishment of Cuppa for Kids, raising $22,000 in its first year. Coordinated fundraising also saw the establishment of the St Patrick’s Day Market at the hospital and a range of children’s clothes developed to sell in the gift shop. In 1994, the inaugural Madge Tate Service Awards was given to Maude Ham, recognising 60 years of service to Broadmeadows Auxiliary. This Award was established in honour of the founding member of Croydon Auxiliary, Madge Tate.

The start of the decade saw Auxiliaries acknowledged for their efforts and contributions to the hospital, receiving a Certificate of Appreciate from the State Government during the United Nations Year of Volunteers. Andy’s market was introduced at the hospital, along with the establishment of many externally based market stalls. A range of Auxiliaries branded goods were developed for sale, including tote bags, towels, aprons, baby goods and gardening gloves. The Dame Elisabeth Murdoch Nursing Development Scholarship was also launched in 2009 and still remains the largest Scholarship offered to a member of the RCH team. Fundraising continued to grow, with more than 50 new Auxiliaries created.

Throughout the last seven years, Auxiliaries fundraising has continued to grow. The markets and stalls have increasingly developed, with Auxiliaries now taking part in many iconic Melbourne events including Kids Day Out on Good Friday and the Melbourne International Flower and Garden Show. In 2010, the Auxiliaries officially joined The Royal Children’s Hospital Foundation, a partnership which continues to flourish.

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Celebrating 95 Years of Auxiliaries