The Royal Women’s Hospital, Australia’s first public women’s hospital, opened in Melbourne 1856. At the time, Victoria was caught up in a gold rush that would bring half a million people to the colony within a decade. But while some found their fortune, for many women it was a time of great hardship with little access to medical services.

Founded as a hospital where disadvantaged women could give birth safely and receive proper medical and nursing care, its original name was the ‘Melbourne Lying-In Hospital and Infirmary for Diseases Peculiar to Women and Children’. In 1884 this was shortened to the ‘Women’s Hospital’ and the ‘Royal’ was conferred in 1954.

Over the following decades the Royal Women’s Hospital continued to serve the most vulnerable, adapting to meet the changing clinical and social needs of the community, caring for women of all cultures and abilities, while remaining at the cutting edge of contemporary practice and social reform. Technology and research have always been a key focus of the hospital. The Women’s was at the forefront of IVF technology and involved in the conception of Australia’s first IVF baby, Candice Reed, who was born at the hospital in 1980.

Today the Women’s is one of Australia’s most loved and trusted public hospitals for women and newborns. Its services range from expert pregnancy care, birth and neonatal care, women’s cancer, assisted reproduction and gynaecology services. With a focus on the ‘whole woman’, the hospital prides itself on embracing all aspects of health – physical, mental, emotional and social. It is recognised for expertise in those areas of women’s health that have long been overlooked or stigmatised – endometriosis, menopause, mental health, female genital mutilation, contraception, abortion, and family violence.

The Women’s not only provides outstanding specialist care for women and newborn babies but also trains thousands of doctors, midwives and nurses across Victoria. The hospital houses 10 research centres reflecting the full spectrum of women’s health experiences. The work carried out by the Women’s team of researchers improves the lives of thousands of Victorian families every year delivering new treatments and improvements that flow to the wider community, nationally and internationally.

Create your own interpretation of this artwork with our colouring-in sheet.

Illustrated by Janelle Barone