Darwin’s first hospital to be celebrated


CDU Nursing Museum curator Janie Mason at Da Costa Park

CDU Nursing Museum curator Janie Mason at Da Costa Park

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 the theme of this year’s International Nurses’ Day event ‘Our Fourth Hospital – from Hospital 1 to 4’ aimed to highlight the history of Darwin’s hospitals including its first.  

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, the hospital was built with private funds raised with local initiative.

“This is an important slice of our history - Louisa gave over 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.”

The Nursing Museum is hosting its International Nurses’ Day event on Monday 14 May from 3 to 4.30pm in building Red 1, Casuarina campus. The hospitals featured are Palmerston/Darwin Hospital 1874-1942, Darwin Hospital (Myilly Point) 1942 -1980, Casuarina/Royal Darwin Hospital 1980 and Palmerston Regional Hospital 2018.

The event that also celebrates the birthday of modern nursing founder Florence Nightingale will include guest speakers Minister for Museum and Arts, the Hon Lauren Moss and Associate Professor Sue Hawes.

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