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Our hospital

John Fawkner Private Hospital, formerly Sacred Heart Hospital, was built by the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart and opened its doors in September 1939. At that time it was a 155 bed not-for-profit hospital.

The hospital is now a fully accredited 147 bed major acute medical and surgical hospital which provides a 24 hour Emergency Department supported by a five bed Intensive Care Unit, six bed Coronary Care Unit and 24 hour on-site medical cover.

Our dedicated team provide a high standard of healthcare and we pride ourselves on making you feel at home, giving you personal attention and, most importantly, listening to and responding to your needs.

As our community has a high percentage of non-English speaking residents, and is comprised of many nationalities and religions, we realise that our services must be sensitive to the cultural needs of these groups.

We demonstrate this by providing access to an interpreter service, foreign language advertising, accredited private specialists from a diverse range of cultural groups, accredited or employed health care staff who reflect the cultural diversity of the north-western suburbs, pastoral care and chaplaincy services across most religions and food services and menu selections sensitive to the needs of all nationalities and religious backgrounds.


For over 50 years, what we now know as John Fawkner Private Hospital, was called the Sacred Heart Hospital and it was administered by the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart. The hospital was widely known for the important role it played in the community and the high standards of health care and services it provided.

The ‘Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart’ commenced in Hiltrup, Germany.

After the First World War (1914-18) it was decided that their work could best continue if they established a congregation of sisters in Australia.

Mother Mary Liboria was chosen to head the Melbourne congregation and in 1928 five sisters left Germany to travel to Melbourne on the cargo steamer Franken.

They arrived in Melbourne on 21 May 1928, and were welcomed by Archbishop Mannix. As there was no accommodation available for them in Melbourne, the sisters lived in wooden cottages behind the main college building of the Salesian College (Rupertswood) at Sunbury for three years.

In 1931 the sisters purchased Mena House, a private hospital in Simpson Street, East Melbourne.

Mena House was small and capable of holding only 35 beds. In 1934, when a patient left the sisters £4,000 ($8,000), Mother Liboria resolved to purchase land with the money so that the sisters could build a bigger hospital and expand their work.

At first she intended to purchase land in Brighton, but felt that the area already had sufficient hospital facilities.

She then looked north of Melbourne. Here she discovered medical facilities were scarce and that there was a great need among the working families of the community to have access to a modern hospital.

John Pascoe Fawkner is considered by many historians to be the co-founder of Melbourne along with John Batman. Both sailed from Launceston, Tasmania in 1835 to settle the new area of Port Phillip.

Batman came to graze sheep, but died within four years of arriving.

Fawkner, on the other hand, was a jack of all trades with tremendous energy and enthusiasm. He wrote Melbourne’s first newspaper by hand, opened the first hotel and even started a lending library – activities which earned him the title ‘the Father of Melbourne’.

Melbourne prospered, largely because the land around it was suitable for grazing sheep.

The early settlers established farms and Fawkner moved out to Pascoe Vale where he was said to have ‘the best garden of the district’. The land to the south of Fawkner’s was owned by another early settler, Dr Farquhar McCrae.

Following the death of McCrae his trustees divided the land into ‘farm lots’ and ‘town lots’, then offered them for sale under the title of the ‘Moreland Estate’. Dividing the estate down the middle, they cleared a track and called it Moreland Road. One of the larger ‘town lots’, numbered 44, consisted of 5.5 acres and was offered for auction on 6 January 1858.

Lot 44 passed through many owners. From 1888 to 1925 it housed a flock mill. Later it was used for concrete storage.

The land on Moreland Road was purchased by the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart on 24 June 1936. A five storey hospital was designed and construction commenced two years later. On 10 October 1939, the first group of sisters, led by Sister Servatia, left Mena House to begin preparing the hospital for its first patients.

The first Mass was celebrated in the new hospital on 27 October 1939 and a day later the first baby (Kevin Dirou) was born. The formal blessing and opening took place two weeks later.

Perhaps the most difficult problem in the early years was the sisters’ lack of recognised nursing training. Despite the fact that many of the sisters had undergone training in Europe, they were not formally qualified to nurse in Australia. The sisters had to undergo further training, while nurses had to be attracted to the hospital.

By the beginning of January 1940 there were 32 patients in the hospital. In the same month the first operation was performed and the house next door was purchased as a nurses’ home.

Two years later, the 1942 annual report showed that there were eight registered nurses and 20 trainee nurses on staff. The report also stated that on average 67 beds were occupied each day and that in the preceding 12 months 248 ‘major’ and 535 ‘minor’ operations had been performed.

The General Nursing Training School began in 1944 and it was indicative of the high standard of training, and the dedication of the trainees, that within two years two graduates of the school had topped the state examinations. In 1947, a Midwifery Training School and a pathology service commenced.

Fifteen years after it had opened, the hospital had cared for 84,000 patients and helped deliver 15,000 babies. In the same year extensions to the South-West and South-East Wings were completed and the bed capacity of the hospital was expanded to 130. The staff now comprised 22 Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart, as well as 16 trained nurses and 60 trainees.

From the time the first baby was delivered at the hospital by Dr O’Keefe on 28 October 1939, through to the time the midwifery service began to be phased out in 1979, the Sacred Heart Hospital was perhaps best known as a maternity hospital. For many years, the midwifery unit was the third busiest in Victoria (after the Queen Victoria and Royal Women’s Hospitals).

Today many thousands of residents in the area can proudly claim to have been a ‘Sacred Heart baby’.

Throughout the 1950s and the 1960s the work of the hospital continued to grow, as did its facilities. In 1957 a new Chapel was opened and blessed to cater for the increased staff and patient demand. In the following years expanded X-ray facilities, a physiotherapy department and an improved pathology unit were opened. A further extension increased the number of beds available and in 1970 the vehicle ramp was added to the front of the hospital.

By the 1970s, difficult decisions had to be made, the post-war ‘baby boom’ in the area was over. The Essendon and District Memorial Hospital opened as a maternity hospital in 1964, which meant that less women came to the Sacred Heart Hospital to give birth. The state government introduced changes to nursing training, so the School of Nursing had to be gradually phased out. The last nurse graduated in 1979. The number of babies born at the hospital had declined sharply and the midwifery service also ceased in the same year.

From the time it opened, the Sacred Heart Hospital was supported by the many doctors in the area who could confidently trust the care of their patients to the sisters.

From the late 1940s, until 1974, Mr E J Grieve acted as honorary medical superintendent. On his retirement, the position was filled by Dr J O’Sullivan, who became the chairman of the first medical advisory committee in 1980 and later the first co-ordinator of medical services.

To keep abreast of the advances in professional hospital management, the Sacred Heart Hospital appointed an executive director in 1972. In 1976 the hospital was incorporated as a company and a board of directors formed to administer it.

The caring work of the hospital continued throughout the 1980s. New private rooms were developed and the renovated operating suite opened in 1985. A high dependency unit followed in 1986.

The hospital continued to be administered by a sister administrator who was ably assisted by lay executives. In 1988 the first lay chief executive officer was appointed to run the hospital. During the 1980s, the number of sisters declined, while many of those who were still working were ageing. Increasingly the work at the hospital had to be shared by fewer sisters.

By the 1990s, it became obvious to the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart that for their hospital to continue its fine work in the community, its ownership should pass to administrators who were able to ensure its viability in the current-day health and medical environment. In 1991 Health Care of Australia (HCoA), the largest administrator of private hospitals in Australia, purchased Sacred Heart Hospital and officially took over the hospital in January 1992. Not being a Roman Catholic organisation, it was deemed unsuitable for the hospital to retain the name ‘Sacred Heart’. It was renamed John Fawkner Hospital to commemorate the ‘Father of Melbourne’ who pioneered the area.

Accommodation was upgraded by providing more single rooms to meet the demands of patients. Diagnostic and support services were extended to include a wide range of cardiac services with a coronary angiography unit, a Living With Cancer program, a 24-hour emergency service, a 24-hour resident doctor and a mobile intensive care ambulance unit stationed at the hospital.

Today, the hospital is owned by Healthscope Operations Pty Ltd. John Fawkner Private Hospital combines the traditions of the past with the technology of the future to provide the very best in hospital care for the community it serves.

John Fawkner Private Hospital Redevelopment

About the redevelopement:

The development will commence in February 2017 and will comprise of

  • Multi-deck car park for staff and visiting doctors to alleviate pressure on parking in the locality.
  • Additional Operating Theatres, fully renovated patient holding and recovery areas and a new Central Sterile Supplies Department
  • New surgical ward
  • New Critical Care Unit including Intensive Care and Coronary Care beds.
  • Fully renovated Main Reception and Patient Administration area
  • Renovated Emergency Department including new patient registration, waiting and triage areas plus additional treatment cubicles
  • New inpatient ward beds.

Coming soon.

If you have any queries in regards to this exciting project, please go to our Contact Us page and submit an enquiry under the category "John Fawkner Redevelopment" .

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