Black and white image of a group of uniformed nurses with convalescent children, posed in front of the Westgarth Fountain in the grounds of the Melbourne Exhibition Building, 1919.
Following the pandemic outbreak of Influenza - or Spanish Flu - around the globe throughout 1918-19, various civic buildings were quickly adapted to become makeshift hospitals. At the end of January 1919, the Minister for Health, John Bowser, met with the Exhibition Trustees with a view of converting the Exhibition Buildings in Carlton Gardens into a temporary hospital.
The chairman of the Board of Public Health, Dr Robertson noted that by taking over the Exhibition Building, it 'should be sufficient to relieve the pressure on other hospitals for some time to come.'
'The building is a very large one and in addition to other accommodation we could make use of the huge oval in the centre if the need arises. It has been objected that this would be little better than a barn. All I can say is, that if anyone knows of a better place, I should very much like to hear of it. We propose to send convalescents to the Exhibition Building, and thus make room for fresh patients at the other hospitals.'
However, those objections ultimately proved largely correct. When Bowser inspected the Exhibition Building a few months later, he came to the conclusion that 'the large building, with its long rows of beds, was a draughty, cheerless place'. Although efforts were made to improve conditions, the Exhibition Building remained a poor venue for influenza patients.
Description of Content
Nurses with children during the influenza epidemic. The group are in front of the Westgarth Fountain in Carlton Gardens.
Black and white image.
Copied from Mrs H B Kirby, 29 Jun 1988
Place & Date Depicted
Negative, 35 mm, Black & White
Type of item
'Melbourne Hospital', Argus, Friday, 31 January 1919, p.5 'Improving Exhibition Hospital', Argus, Saturday, 19 April 1919, p.16
Diseases, Influenza, Influenza Epidemic, 1919, Nurses, Royal Exhibition Building, Royal Exhibition Building Interpretation, Royal Exhibition Building: History of Events, 1900-1949, Royal Exhibition Building: Hospital, Sculpture