Issue 4
Monday, 28 May 2018
Charles Darwin University
Nursing Museum curator Janie Mason at Da Costa Park
Nursing Museum curator Janie Mason at Da Costa Park

Darwin’s first hospital celebrated

By Danielle Lee-Ryder

Many long-term Territorians have memories of the old Myilly Point hospital, but they may not be aware the first one in Darwin was located nearby in Larrakeyah.

After being destroyed by termites, the original hospital was rebuilt with stone and funded primarily by a little-known philanthropist Louisa Da Costa. The hospital, which operated from 1874 to 1942, was located on Packard Street and a small park overlooking Doctor’s Gully is named in her honour.

Charles Darwin University Nursing Museum curator Janie Mason said this year’s International Nurses’ Day event ‘Our Fourth Hospital – from Hospital 1 to 4’ aimed to highlight the history of Darwin’s hospitals - Palmerston/Darwin Hospital 1874-1942, Darwin Hospital (Myilly Point) 1942 -1980, Casuarina/Royal Darwin Hospital 1980 and Palmerston Regional Hospital 2018.

Ms Mason said little was known about Louisa Da Costa and the event was an opportunity to celebrate her contribution and raise awareness about an important piece of history.

“Louisa lived in Adelaide for 20 years with her family before returning to England,” she said. “Each year, she gave away around $250,000 in today’s money to people and institutions and contributed enormously to building our first hospital.”

Ms Mason said because the hospital wasn’t a priority for the town (then known as Palmerston) due to the completion of the Overland Telegraph Line, it was built with private funds raised with local initiative.

“This is an important slice of our history - Louisa gave more than 50 per cent towards building the 60-bed hospital,” she said.

“Maps show the park is named in Ms Da Costa’s honour, but there is no signage and it is looking a little tired and neglected. We are hoping to engage the NT Heritage Council and Darwin City Council.”