As the aged care division of St Vincent’s Health Australia, St Vincent’s Care Services shares a history of compassionate care and support which stretches in excess of 175 years.
St Vincent’s Health Australia is a ministry of Mary Aikenhead Ministries. Mary Aikenhead Ministries was established by the Congregation of Religious Sisters of Charity of Australia to continue to build on the charism and traditions of the Sisters of Charity through aged care, health, research, education and social services ministries.
Mary Aikenhead and the Sisters of Charity
Mary Aikenhead founded the Sisters of Charity in 1815 as the first unenclosed religious women in Ireland. Their institutions cared for the sick and poor and welcomed all creeds.
In 1834 they founded St Vincent’s Dublin, the first hospital run by religious women in the English speaking world. Many of the subsequent hospitals opened by the Sisters were named in honour of this saint who dedicated himself to serving the poor.
In 1838, five nuns from the Sisters of Charity endured a four-month sea voyage from Ireland to an unknown land called Australia. They were compelled by the original vision of their founder, Mary Aikenhead, to care for the poor and vulnerable in the newly established colony. The Sisters of Charity established their first presence in Australia in 1839, ministering at the Female Factory in Parramatta.
Upon cessation of convict transportation and the closure of the Female Factory in 1848, the Sisters left Parramatta. They continued their ministry to the sick and poor by opening St Vincent’s Hospital Sydney in 1857 at Potts Point.
In 1857, the Sisters of Charity established the first St Vincent’s hospital in Sydney.
The facilities they established in Australia are now in the care of the Mary Aikenhead Ministries, with St Vincent’s Health Australia growing to become one of the nation’s largest Catholic health and aged care provider. We are a leader in clinical care, research and education, and we operate an expanding number of private hospitals, public hospitals, aged care services and co-located research institutes along the east coast of Australia.
It is the legacy entrusted to us by the Sisters of Charity that inspires us to continually strengthen and grow our mission and serve with dignity those who entrust us with their care.
The first Sisters of Charity aged care home
The first dedicated facility for the elderly established by the Sisters of Charity in Australia was at Kangaroo Point, in Brisbane, Queensland.
Land at Kangaroo Point was donated in the 1950s to the Sisters of Charity to build Mt Olivet Hospital, the first modern hospice in Queensland. Soon afterwards, the Sisters’ thoughts turned to how best to address the on-going need for dignified facilities for the frail, aged and infirm.
Building on the generous support of their local community, the Sisters purchased neighbouring plots of land as they became available. They and their Board researched the evolving discipline of gerontology and sought ideas from Australia and overseas.
By 1967, just 10 years after the opening of the hospice, they had approval from the Congregation to proceed with construction of a residence for aged persons and a unit of nursing home accommodation. The new facility was named Marycrest, after a Sisters of Charity aged care facility in California, USA.
Due to the evolving discipline of aged care services, it would be another 10 years before the aged care facility finally opened on 11 December 1977.
The architect for both St Vincent’s facilities on the site was Frank Cullen, who gave the buildings a unique “hot-modernism” architectural continuity.
In the years that followed, the Sisters of Charity expanded their aged care services at other locations in Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne, paving the way for what is now one of Australia’s leading Catholic aged care providers – St Vincent’s Care Services.