Local ties, local pride
In the era before Medibank and the introduction of a more stable and secure funding base for hospitals, many western suburbs’ residents and businesses, and hospital staff raised funds for Footscray Hospital.
In the 50s and 60s almost every school in the western suburbs took part in the hospital’s annual egg appeal, raising money to buy equipment such as children’s cots and x-ray machines. Sporting clubs and community groups held their own fund-raisers.
The Footscray Lions Club and the Rotary Club held charity golf days. The Footscray Community Singers, formed by residents in 1932 to buoy people’s spirits during the Depression, raised money for the hospital for 25 years.
Local families and business leaders, such as the Forge family, who ran Footscray’s flagship department store, Forge’s, became prominent philanthropists and major donors to the hospital.
Annual hospital balls and fetes were organised by the hospital’s auxiliaries and staff. The extensive network of auxiliaries, made up of volunteers and run mainly by women, stretched across the western suburbs. It included an auxiliary founded by children in 1962 – the Hospital Jays – whose membership consisted of 160 boys and girls from Footscray and other local communities.
But as more women entered the workforce or embarked on higher education in the 1970s, the number of auxiliaries started to shrink.
In 1973 hospital president Roy Parsons lamented the difficulties faced by the auxiliaries and the demise of the Ladies Space Committee, an auxiliary whose dwindling membership had forced it to disband.
By 1975 the hospital’s auxiliaries had fallen to about 10 – Central Auxiliary, Eleanor Auxiliary for Children, Kingsville Auxiliary, Maribyrnong Auxiliary, Plus Twenty Set Auxiliary, Riverview Auxiliary, Wembley Auxiliary, West Footscray Auxiliary, Staff Activities Organisation and the Hospital Helpers Organisation.
In 1979 two new auxiliaries joined the hospital – the Greek Auxiliary and the Hospital Helpers’ Craft Group – and the annual hospital fete continued to be the most successful combined auxiliary activity – raising $10,000 for the hospital. But the glory days of a multitude of neighbourhood auxiliaries were over.