History by category: Sisters of Mercy

Past and future reflected in new building names

Following the closure of Mater Children’s Hospital, and to reflect on our rich heritage and links with our founders, the Sisters of Mercy, two buildings on ‘Mater Hill’ were renamed on 29 November 2014.

The Mater Children’s Hospital building and Mater Corporate Services Building were renamed to commemorate the significance and vision of Mother Alban Salmon and Mother Damian Duncombe OBE.

The Mater Children’s Hospital building was renamed as the Salmon Building (in memory of Mother Alban Salmon, 1880 to 1951) and the Mater Corporate Services Building became the Duncombe Building (in memory of Mother Damian Duncombe OBE, 1899 to 1980).

Tags: Mater Children’s Hospital, Sisters of Mercy

News by category: Sisters of Mercy

Reflecting on the history of Mater Children’s Hospital

Thursday, 7 August 2014

After providing public healthcare services for more than 83 years, Mater’s government-funded paediatric services will transition to Lady Cilento Children’s Hospital in late 2014.

In the lead up to this transition, we look back at the establishment of Mater Children’s Hospital.

Caring for children—the Sisters of Mercy extend their healthcare services

“I foresee a very great future for this hospital: I foresee it carrying out the most modern and scientific work; I foresee it as providing service of the best and the highest nature for the people, not only of Brisbane, but of the whole State.” His Excellency, Sir John Goodwin, Governor of Queensland, at the official opening of Mater Children’s Hospital.

By the mid-1920s, the Sisters of Mercy were providing healthcare services to adults via Mater Private Hospital and Mater Public Hospital.

However, Mother Patrick Potter was determined to build a children’s hospital to meet the healthcare needs of Brisbane’s growing population.

A contract to build the hospital for 50 000 pounds was signed with F.J Corbett and Sons. Hall and Prentice—the architectural firm who designed the original Mater Private Hospital—were again called upon for the children’s hospital, with a proviso by the Sisters that every effort be made to source building materials and equipment locally.

The dream of Mother Patrick Potter, after whom the hospital was eventually named, was to build an 80-bed modern public hospital, complete with medical and surgical beds, a nursery for ill babies and an operating theatre.

On 24 May 1926, Mother Patrick Potter watched the foundation stone being laid, before construction commenced the following year. Because of financial constraints, construction of the building was limited to one-half of what had been intended, with provision being allowed for completion at a future date.

Sadly, Mother Patrick Potter passed away in November 1927, and did not see Mater Children’s Hospital open.

On 10 May 1931, almost five years to the day after the foundation stone was laid, Mater Children’s Hospital officially opened, dedicated as a memorial to Mother Patrick Potter.

Tags: Mater Children’s Hospital, Mater Private Hospital, Mother Patrick Potter, Sisters of Mercy

Past reflected in new Mater building names

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Two building names on Mater Hill will change at the end of November 2014, reflecting on Mater’s rich heritage and links with our founders, the Sisters of Mercy. The Mater Children’s Hospital building and Mater Corporate Services Building will be named after the Sisters of Mercy to commemorate the significance and vision of Mother Alban Salmon and Mother Damian Duncombe OBE.

From 29 November 2014, the current Mater Children’s Hospital building will be renamed the Salmon Building (in memory of Mother Alban Salmon, 1880 to 1951) and the Mater Corporate Services Building will be renamed the Duncombe Building (in memory of Mother Damian Duncombe OBE, 1899 to 1980).

Mother Alban Salmon (1880 to 1951) was a shrewd and determined leader with a strong sense of direction. Born in Ireland in 1880, Mother Salmon came to Queensland in November 1902. After teaching in various Sisters of Mercy schools, she was Mistress of Novices before she was elected Reverend Mother (Congregation Leader) in 1923.

Mother Alban’s vision was to ensure that Mater became a clinical school for The University of Queensland’s Faculty of Medicine. This dream became a reality in 1949. Part of the strategy in achieving this goal was the announcement in 1946 of the construction of a maternity hospital. By providing training in obstetrics for Mater’s resident medical officers, Mater Mothers’ Hospital elevated the Mater campus into a large and complex hospital system, entrenching it as a vital part of Queensland’s hospital network.

Mother Damian Duncombe OBE (1899 to 1980) was the first Australian-born woman to lead the Brisbane Congregation of the Sisters of Mercy. Born in Hughenden in 1899, she taught at All Hallows’ School from 1927 to 1944 when she became the Superior at Mater and, in 1950, its first Sister Administrator. An able administrator with a keen interest in new ideas and new methods, Mother Damian started the McAuley Teachers’ College, reflecting her determination that the young Sisters would be educated. She also established the Sisters’ mission in New Guinea.

She was elected Reverend Mother (Congregation Leader) in 1954 and first president of the Federation of the Sisters of Mercy Australia in 1956. Mother Damian was passionately interested in Mater Mothers’ Hospital, which opened in December 1960 and admitted its first patients on 2 February 1961—exactly 50 years after the first patients were admitted to Mater Public and 100 years after the Sisters’ arrival in Queensland.

Both Mother Alban and Mother Damian were, along with their fellow Sisters, instrumental in Mater’s growth in the twentieth century. The Salmon and Duncombe Buildings will harmoniously blend with existent buildings on Mater Hill named after the Sisters of Mercy (Potter and Whitty buildings), bringing a total of four buildings across the campus whose names reflect the Sisters’ deep connection to Mater’s heritage.

The name changes take effect from 29 November, the day that Mater Children’s Hospital transitions to the new government-funded Lady Cilento Children’s Hospital.

In addition, as Mater’s services continue to extend further off Mater Hill, Mater Adult Hospital will be renamed Mater Hospital Brisbane. This change will better reflect the position of the hospital in relation to the ongoing development of Mater’s broader geographic services, such as Mater Private Hospital Springfield, our three health centres around Brisbane and our growing number of pathology and pharmacy services across South East Queensland.

Tags: Mater Children’s Hospital, Sisters of Mercy

Six decades of mentoring honoured

Wednesday, 8 April 2015

Sister Michaeleen Ahern is a familiar face at Mater.

In a career spanning more than six decades, she has held positions as varied as surgical theatre nurse, Executive Director, Mater Private Hospital Brisbane, a member of the Redevelopment Planning Team for the Mater Private Children’s Hospital and Mater Mothers’ Hospitals, and the community leader at the Mater Convent.

What has remained constant across all these roles during the past 63 years is her commitment to teaching and
mentoring Mater People. It is for this commitment that ‘Sr M’, as she is affectionately known, recently became
the fourth Sister of Mercy to have a Mater Research Medal named in her honour.

The medals are presented at the annual Mater Research Awards for Excellence and the Sr Michaeleen M Ahern Medal is awarded to the researcher who has shown excellence in student supervision.

Mater Research Deputy Director, Professor Mike McGuckin said naming the Medals for Research Excellence is a way to pay homage to the exceptional Sisters of Mercy who have been crucial in the development of Mater Research. 

“Creating an institute to foster the next generation of medical research was the original vision of the Sisters of
Mercy,” he said.

“It is a pleasure to recognise Sr Michaeleen for her spirit of generosity in mentoring many staff members.

“Teaching and sharing information plays an integral role in the field of research and Sr Michaeleen’s leadership in this area is something we strive to foster within Mater Research.”

Sr Michaeleen joins Sr Madonna Josey, Sr Eileen Pollard and Sr Regis Mary Dunne in having a medal named in her honour.

Sr Michaeleen’s lengthy tenure at Mater, which began with nursing training in 1952, has given her a unique perspective on the changes in healthcare and science.

“I studied maths, physics and chemistry at All Hallows’and I had been planning to go into medicine,” she said.

“I instead chose nursing on the spur of the moment after visiting a friend of mine at Mater when I was 17 years
old,” she said.

In 2004 Sr Michaeleen received the Medal of the Order of Australia in the general division for service to the
community through project planning, development and the administration of Mater's hospitals in Brisbane.

Tags: Mater Research, Sisters of Mercy

Mater Convent closes after 89 years

Tuesday, 2 June 2015

On Friday 8 May 2015, more than 150 people gathered on ‘Mater Hill’ to officially acknowledge the closure of the Mater Convent as a residence for the Sisters of the Brisbane Mercy Congregation.

The Sisters of Mercy Congregation Leadership Team made the decision to officially close the Mater Convent in early 2015, following significant damage to the building as a result of storms which impacted Brisbane in November 2014.

The event was attended by members of the Sisters of Mercy Brisbane Congregation Leadership Team, many Sisters of Mercy, Mater Board and Executive representatives and Mater People.

A special ritual, led by Sr Patricia Kirchner saw the Convent door closed by the Sisters of Mercy and keys to the building entrusted to Chairman, Mater Health Services Board, Mr Brian Flannery.


Since opening in December 1926, the Mater Convent has been home to more than 300 Sisters of Mercy who have lived and ministered on ‘Mater Hill’.

While the Convent has closed, Mater’s connection with the Sisters of Mercy remains strong, as their legacy continues in the tradition of Mercy which inspires and guides the provision of care at Mater.

Watch our special  video commemorating the event below. 

Tags: Convent, Mission, Sisters of Mercy