Concord Baby Health Centre

Concord Baby Health Centre

The idea to build this health centre was conceived by Alderman Brice Mutton when Mayor of Concord and, in 1943, the council invited tenders for the “construction of a baby health centre at Central Park, Concord.  Plans and specifications may be inspected at the Council’s office.  Tenders close 9th February”.

Three hundred people, including mothers and babies were present on 16th October, 1943, when  it was opened by Christopher Kelly, Minister for Health.  “This marks a new era in baby health welfare”, said Mr. Kelly, referring to the centre, which is the first in the metropolitan area built to a special design for the Health Department by a municipal council.

The Concord Council built and appointed the Centre, at a cost of  £2,500, without any financial aid from the government, although subsequent Child Welfare Centres were subsidised.

Dr. Grace Cuthbert, of the Ministry for Health, was quoted saying: “I have achieved one of my dearest wishes.  For six years I have been working for a perfect baby centre and clinic, and this has now been established at Concord.”

Sister Dorothy Lawes, who would take charge of the clinic, was introduced to a number of the mothers and afternoon tea was served in what will, in future, be the toddlers area.  This area is well equipped with a large dolls’ house acting as a cupboard for toys, which will be a feature of all new centres.

The building is of attractive red brick, with trees beside it, and a large porch where mothers could relax and the children could play about.  Instead of steps there were ramps to assist entry to the pram park in the front porch.  It had a toddlers’ area, a waiting room, two consulting rooms, a test room and a staff of two nurses.

For the entertainment of toddlers, the walls of the waiting room of the Concord centre had been decorated with the well-known little figures of children, elves, fairies and animals, drawn by Mrs. Bruce Pratt, better known as Pixie O’Harris.

Concord’s ideal clinic is the first baby centre in which she had worked, though her paintings are well known in Sydney children’s hospitals and day nurseries.

As well as painting the delightful mural at Concord, Pixie O’Harris was a gracious speaker at an afternoon at the home of the Mayor and Mayoress, Brice and Lily Mutton, to raise money for the additional fitting out of the Baby Health Centre.

Mayoress Lily Mutton is president of the women’s auxiliary, which has prepared linen, layettes and baby clothes for the guidance of the new mothers.  These were displayed in a special cabinet in the clinic. 

This service satisfied a long-felt need as previous to this centre being built, mothers had to attend a privately funded clinic in a shop opposite Burwood Park.

The daily average attendance of 32 children for the year 1946 was ample evidence of the value of this service to the Concord community.  It not only monitored the health of young children but provided advice for mothers on all aspects of care for babies and pre-schoolers, including advice on suitable toys.

Concord’s Baby Health Centre was recognized as one of the finest in Australia, and was an illustrated example in the official booklet prepared by the Commonwealth Government on Infant Child Welfare, which was distributed by the Department of Health in 1944.  Many councils used the Concord clinic as inspiration when planning their own centres.

On the buildings 50th anniversary the beautiful mural was restored and listed among the treasured arts with the National Trust.  Following in the footsteps of his illustrator aunt, the entertainer Rolf Harris honoured the centre with an original work of art.  Rolf Harris was joined by his uncle Olaf to add some artistic flair to the centre’s drab hallway.

After almost 75 years of service in the area of early childhood services, the old Concord Baby Health Centre has now become the home of the Drummoyne Art Society, known as Gallery 57, which opened on 2nd September, 2017, ensuring this now historic building continues to play an important role in the community.

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