1941 - 1960

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World War II

Mater’s tradition of caring for those in need during times of war continued during World War II.

The top floor of Mater Children’s Hospital was vacated and prepared to receive soldiers, and all three hospitals blacked out their windows with paper. Blast-proof walls were also erected.

The stained glass windows in the Mater Convent Chapel were removed and stored safely, and sandbags were positioned around all buildings. Air-raid shelters were also erected behind Mater Private Hospital.

Mater and the Brisbane General Hospital both became collection centres to support World War II. Blood collected at Mater was flown to Papua New Guinea during the night and administered to wounded military personnel.

At the end of the war, repatriated prisoners of war from Japanese prison camps arrived at Mater for care.

Tags: World War II

Establishing a maternity facility

In 1946, Mater developed plans to expand its healthcare services to mothers through an ambitious maternity hospital proposal. The creation of a maternity facility would enable Mater to provide care throughout every stage of life. In addition, the new facility would provide training in obstetrics for Mater’s resident medical officers and act as a ‘university’ hospital. However, financing a new maternity hospital was to be the sole responsibility of the Sisters of Mercy, and a lengthy period of fundraising commenced. The Mater Mothers’ Appeal assisted in making Mater more widely known in the community and consolidated esprit de corps among Mater people, particularly the various voluntary auxiliary committees.

The grand foundation stone ceremony, held on 16 May 1948 put the prospect of a new maternity hospital, which had been designed by Mater’s long-standing, trusted architects, Hall and Phillips, squarely before the public.    

Fundraising activities, such as bottle and rag drives, Mater fetes, chocolate wheels and fashion parades and raffles attracted a wide support base and raised £100 000 within the first three years. However, the fundraising figure fell short of the amount required to construct the hospital; and it would take 12 years for the building to be completed.

On 30 April 1952 a contract with builders was signed for Mater Mothers' Hospital. The financial situation dictated that it was a cost-plus contract, with the shell of the building to be completed first and each storey outfitted as funds became available. The brick shell slowly rose in a prominent position facing Stanley Street. However, a great deal more money was needed, so arrangements were made with the hospital's bank, ANZ, giving the project a much needed injection of additional funds.

Fundraising continued with the first Mater Home Art Union in 1954, with first prize—a two-bedroom fibro house in Surfers Paradise—valued at A£4150. Art unions, which had been successful in raising funds for the first Mater hospitals, provided valuable funds for the ongoing construction of Mater Mothers' Hospital.

By 1955, Art Unions and other fundraising activities had raised £800 000 to support the construction of Mater Mothers' Hospital. However, by this time, costs for the hospital had reached £1 650 000. Further arrangements were made with ANZ to provide additional funds.       

On 1 December 1960, fourteen years after the plans were first developed, Mater Mothers' Hospital was officially opened. The hospital offered 70 public and 70 private beds, accommodation for 100 resident staff and physiotherapy, pathology and x-ray departments. The modern facility was designed to capture breezes and to allow sweeping views of the city from the balconies. It was warmly greeted by the public and press.   

Tags: Mater Mothers' Hospital

Mater’s clinical pursuits expand

In 1949, Mater was recognised as a teaching hospital for doctors and became a clinical school for The University of Queensland's new Faculty of Medicine.

Four years later in 1953, Queensland’s first Eye Bank for corneal transplants opened at Mater, and the following year, 1954, Queensland's first neurosurgical unit was established by Dr Geoff Toakley, who was recognised as a Queensland pioneer in his field. Dr Toakley worked at Mater for forty-four years as an honorary surgeon while maintaining a busy private practice.

Tags: clinical school, Neurosurgery

Mater Health Services would like to acknowledge Helen Gregory, author of Expressions of Mercy. Mater has used information, as appropriate, from this publication to support the creation of this website.