Founding Story

The Children’s Hospital Foundation helps sick and injured kids by funding life-saving medical research, investing in vital new equipment, and providing support and entertainment for children and their families. We are committed to making a difference in the fight against childhood illness and injury so every child can grow up as happy and healthy as possible.


A timeline of children’s healthcare in Queensland –
A history of firsts, dedication and perseverance

Queensland was no place for a child to live. There was no children’s hospital, and little ones under five were not allowed admission to the general hospital. Fifty per cent of all children under five died.

Mrs Mary Mcconnel formed a committee and began a newspaper campaign to establish a better way to care for sick children.

On 11 March, Mrs McConnel’s dream became reality when she opened a temporary 15 bed Hospital for Sick Children in rented premises in Leichhardt Street, Brisbane. In the first year alone, 105 children were admitted.

The committee put a case for a new Children’s Hospital to Parliament. The Government agreed to subsidise the £1,000 building, pound for pound, which enabled a two-storey hospital to be built on the former Royal Children’s Hospital site at Herston. It was known as the Hospital for Sick Children.

After a diphtheria epidemic killed 76 per cent of children under two, the first injection of diphtheria antitoxin in Australia was given at the Hospital for Sick Children.

Slowly the Hospital expanded in response to epidemics and the huge numbers of children being admitted. The Courier Building opened. It was named after the Brisbane Courier newspaper (today’s Courier-Mail), which ran a fundraising appeal for its construction. (This building lasted more than 80 years and was demolished in 1993.)

Fundraising proved to be very tough so the State Government took over control and funding of the hospital from the voluntary committee.

Hospital for Sick Children became a teaching hospital within the University of Queensland.

On October 21, the hospital name was formally changed to the Brisbane Children’s Hospital.

The University of Queensland established a Department of Child Health at the Hospital to teach student and graduate doctors and to increase research.

The Brisbane Children’s Hospital Women’s Auxiliary was formed. This committee, now called the Cressbrook Committee, continues the tradition of voluntary service and support for the hospital begun with Mrs Mary McConnel.

After almost 90 years of outstanding achievements, the Queen honoured the Brisbane Children’s Hospital by bestowing the “Royal” prefix on the Children’s Hospital.

The Children’s Hospitals Appeal was started by The Courier-Mail and Telegraph newspapers to rally community support. Outpatients and casualty wards were renovated. The famous appeal raised $5 million over 15 years for the Royal Children’s and Mater Children’s with help from the Channel 7 Telethon and 4BK.

The Queensland Poisons Information Centre was opened, staffed by pharmacists of the Royal Children’s Hospital Pharmacy. The centre still serves the community in northern Australia and South Pacific.

The Royal Children’s gained its own Board, splitting from the North Brisbane Hospital Board. This triggered a renewed desire to make the Royal Children’s Hospital a world class centre of excellence.

The Parents’ Lodge opened, funded by the Children’s Hospitals Appeal and the Royal Children’s Hospital Women’s Auxiliary. Now known as Leonard Lodge, this service provides short-term accommodation for parents and families of little patients.

Royal Children’s Hospital Foundation is established for the express purpose of raising funds for the benefit of sick Queensland children.

The first paediatric liver transplantation in Australia was performed at the Hospital. The Queensland Liver Transplantation Service (QLTS) made historical and seminal advances in paediatric liver transplantation, including the world’s first successful living related-donor liver transplant, and the development in 1989 of the liver cut-down technique now universally known as the “Brisbane Technique”.

The Sakzewski Virus Research Centre opened after a $500,000 grant from the Sir Albert Sakzewski Foundation.

A $20 million Surgical Wing opened. The Foundation launched the first of its successful CARE FOR KIDS Appeals.

The Foundation ran a ground-breaking cause-marketing promotion through Woolworths, Jack-the-Slasher and BCC stores, raising $211,934.

The first liver transplant performed on a Japanese child was carried out at the Children’s Hospital.

The first Children’s Nutrition Research Centre in the southern hemisphere was opened by the Foundation, the University Department of Child Health and the Royal Children’s Hospital.

The $23 million building campaign launched for the new Medical Wing.

The Hospital Board disbanded due to restructuring within the Department of Health. The Royal Children’s becomes part of the administrative responsibilities of the Brisbane North Regional Health Authority (BNRHA).

Queensland’s first Bone Marrow Transplant Unit was established at the Hospital. The Foundation funded a research fellowship for a visiting specialist from the United Kingdom. In the same year, the Foundation became the first Australian organisation to obtain tax deductibility status in Japan. A strong relationship had been forged through the provision of paediatric liver transplantation to Japanese children unable to access this service in their own country, and much-needed funds were raised for the construction of the new medical building.
Phase One of the Japan Appeal to the community was launched in Tokyo in March.

One year later in March, Phase Two of the Japan Appeal to the Keidanren was underway.
On July 23, the Governor-General opened Stage One of the new Medical Wing and named it the Royal Children’s Hospital Woolworths Medical Building. Many wards and areas were named in honour of major sponsors and donors.
Australia’s first dedicated Transplant Care Unit for children opened in the Surgical Block, following the relocation of oncology to the Woolworths Medical Building.

In April, a historic alliance was formed between BNRHA and the Australian Catholic University to teach Australia’s first postgraduate course for nurses in Child Health Paediatrics.
The $32 million medical wing to be known as The Coles Hospital Services Building opened.

Telemedicine was introduced at the Hospital.

Foundation volunteers began staffing the information desks, to assist families within the Hospital.

The RCH Foundation Building was opened. The Foundation contributed $5.2 million to the project. In the same year the Rainbow Entertainment Centre was completed. Later known as Club Rainbow and then the Wonder Factory, this space was a source of delight and fun for patients and their siblings for more than a decade.

The Foundation introduced its Working Wonders brand, encapsulating its vision to ‘work wonders’ for sick kids through raising funds for additional medical research, equipment and services.

With Foundation funding, the ‘Bug Detectives’ developed a world-leading one-hour test to diagnose meningococcal disease. This work has now saved countless lives worldwide.

The Centre of Excellence for Research into Cerebral Palsy (now the Queensland Cerebral Palsy and Rehabilitation Research Centre) was established at the Hospital. Funding was made possible by an anonymous donor to the Foundation.

The Foundation helped to establish the Queensland Children’s Tumour Bank to support and promote research into childhood cancer.

After years of planning, the Queensland Children’s Medical Research Institute (QCMRI) was established, bringing together researchers in a range of key paediatric research areas. The then known Royal Children’s Hospital Foundation allocated a large portion of its annual grants budget to life-changing research conducted at QCMRI.
In the same year, when HlNl (swine flu) was at its peak, the Hospital’s infectious diseases experts developed an easy diagnostic test which is now recognised as the most effective in the world.

The Royal Children’s Hospital Foundation contributed to the establishment of the Children’s Hospital and Environment Program, led by internationally renowned respiratory researcher Professor Peter Sly.

The Royal Children’s Hospital Foundation amalgamated with the new Children’s Hospital Foundation Queensland in order to work even more wonders for children across the State.

The opening of the Queensland Children’s Hospital and the Centre for Children’s Health Research will set a new national benchmark for children’s healthcare and medical research.
While the new buildings will be the home for important patient care and medical research, the hospital precinct will become the hub for better health outcomes for children throughout Queensland and beyond. Other hospitals around Queensland, world class research institutions, paediatric specialists and many non-profit organisations that support children and families will all become part of this network.
The exceptional teams of research and clinical professionals from Children’s Health Queensland and the Queensland Children’s Medical Research Institute, have recently identified many new projects that will be crucial in transforming patient care, family support and medical research for children. Even with record government spending on children’s health, there are new research projects, expanded patient care programs and more family support initiatives that can be activated with community support.
Ever since the Foundation opened in 1986, the generous support of donors and sponsors and the remarkably devoted doctors, nurses, researchers, staff and volunteers, have been able to ‘work wonders’ for the brave children and courageous families that needed the best healthcare available.

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