Gawler Thematic History - Services and Welfare

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Type of thing Government
Date made or found 2020

Services and Welfare

Initially after settlement, Gawler was a relatively young community and the Government did not organise a system for the relief of sickness or distress. Friendly Societies filled the need for insurance services when people had to make their own provision for sickness and old age. These Friendly or Provident institutions offered basic medical insurance on payment of a small regular sum. In addition, they offered companionship and sometimes moral direction. The earliest of these started a branch in Gawler in 1846 when the town was only seven years old. The Manchester Unity of Oddfellows opened a lodge called the Loyal Gawler lodge on the site of the Public House ‘the Old Spot’. Soon a high brick building was constructed behind the gables of the hotel, part of which was designated as a Lodge-room. The Lodge was held there until 1852 when it moved to the Globe Inn and thereafter to the Old Bushman Hotel. In 1858, the number of members necessitated a purpose built structure – the Oddfellow’s Hall of Gawler – which was the first in the colony. The two storey building built under the guidance of architect Mr Wright was situated on Murray Street on the eastern side and a little below the location of the original Old Spot Hotel. The Hall which occupied the whole of the top storey measured 60 feet by 20 feet and was 16 feet in height, could accommodate up to 300 people. The lower portion of the building was occupied by the Institute.

Other public services were introduced by private effort, including the initiation of a district nursing service in 1896, the formation of a committee in 1897 to raise funds for the erection of cottage homes for the aged (ultimately with little success) and the establishment of the first private hospital in Orleana Square by Miss R. Banks in 1899 114.

This reverted to residential use a few years later but two private hospitals were subsequently opened, one in High Street in 1906 on the property of Mrs. St. Mark Dawes, run in conjunction with the practice of Dr. Dawes and later his son (this continued to operate until the 1970s) and a second opened by Sister Greenslade on Victoria Terrace in 1904, subsequently run as a maternity hospital. 115

In 1912 construction of the first public hospital was begun, utilising a bequest made to the town by Thomas Hutchinson. The hospital was erected on a two-acre- site on East Terrace and was completed in November 1913, opening with two 4 to 5 bed wards and four private beds and a staff of two, the Matron and one trainee. The hospital was later extensively added to, a maternity wing being built in 1926.

A number of important new public service and welfare facilities also appeared in response to the changing needs of the growing community in the 1960s and 1970s, the most notable of which were the new High School on Barnet Road (Evanston) in 1964, the Adult Education Centre (Jacob and Finniss Streets), completed in 1967 and the new Catholic school, St. Brigids, also at Evanston, built in 1963, and a new Post Office in Tod Street, opened in 1973.

New church building was limited in comparison with any previous period, but two new churches were built (the large Immanuel Lutheran Church at Gawler South in 1962 and the Church of the Nazarine, opened in Gawler West in 1956) and there were a number of extensions to existing buildings to accommodate the increasing community. In 1971 the establishment of the Cottage Homes Inc. in Fotheringham Terrace led to construction of over 30 accommodation units.

In 1974, Gawler High School was extended to receive a resource centre and in 1975 the Hutchinson Hospital was extended with a new Maternity Wing opened in 1978. In the same year, a St. John's Ambulance centre was constructed near the Elliot Goodger Park, following significant improvements to that Park 116.


This report has been prepared by the following people:

• Nancy Cromar (Flightpath Architects)

• Deborah Morgan (Flightpath Architects)

• Kate Paterson (Flightpath Architects)

• Douglas Alexander (Flightpath Architects)

The study team would like to acknowledge the assistance of the following people:

• David Petruzzella (Strategic Planner; Town of Gawler)

• Jacinta Weiss (Cultural Heritage Centre Coordinator; Town of Gawler)

• Jane Strange (Senior Development and Strategic Policy Officer; Town of Gawler)

Gawler History Team thanks: Flightpath Architects, Ryan Viney and the Town of Gawler for allowing us access to this important document of Gawler History.

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  • 114 Coombe G.E. p.47
  • 115 Coombe G.E. p.133
  • 116 Whitelock D. p.309

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