Historical information

The MDNS Sisters are packing their belongs ready to move from their current Nurses Home at 39 Victoria Parade, Collingwood to their new Nurses Home and Headquarters situated at 452 St Kilda Road, Melbourne, then known as 'Airlie'.


From its founding in 1885 until 1891 the Trained nurses (Nurses) of the Melbourne District Nursing Society (MDNS) worked from their own homes which were located in the vicinity of their areas (districts). The Committee meetings were held at the Religious Tract Society rooms at Queen’s walk, off Swanston Street and then at the Library Room at the Melbourne Town Hall. The Annual General Meeting was held at the Town Hall. In November 1891 MDNS was able to rent a two story terraced house at 66 Cardigan Street, Carlton, at £65 a year, which contained accommodation for three Nurses and one pupil nurse as well as being used as their Headquarters. They left from their Nurses Home each morning and returned at the end of their shift to write up their book work before retiring for the day. Three years later they moved into a larger terraced house at 49 Drummond Street Carlton which was rented at ‘a very moderate rental’. There was a Board room, apartments for the Nurses and pupil nurse, a large dispensary which patients could attend each evening to have prescriptions signed and bottles refilled with ‘homely remedies’ and elixirs, which were administered for e.g. to Consumptive cases. Doctor’s prescriptions were filled at the Pharmacy. Cupboards containing donated blankets and bedclothes for needy patients were kept in this room, and it was here where the Nurses kept their nursing bags which were refilled at the end of each shift ready for any emergency and for the next day. A list of Doctors the Nurses could call was kept by the telephone. The home also had a kitchen where nourishing soup was made and distributed twice a week to the needy. Milk was also distributed when needed.
In 1902 they moved into rented premises at 188 Leicester Street, Carlton and two years later, in 1904, to premises at 5 Royal Terrace, Nicholson Street, Fitzroy where they remained for ten years. In June 1914 at last the Society had sufficient funds to purchase their own terraced premises, ‘Floraston’ 39 Victoria Parade, Collingwood which was their Headquarters and Nurses Home. In 1926 the After-Care Home for recovering patients, (later called After-Care Hospital) was built by the Society next door, running from 41-47 Victoria Parade (became No. 45). There were now two divisions with the After Care having their owned Trained nurses (Sisters) and the District Division of Trained nurses (Sisters) who continued to live at No. 39.
In November 1953 the Sisters working in the District Nursing Division moved into their new Headquarters and Nurses Home at 452 St. Kilda Road, Melbourne. In 1957 this Division changed its name to the Melbourne District Nursing Service when it separated from the After-Care Hospital. It was given Royal patronage in 1966 and became Royal District Nursing Service (RDNS). As it expanded, and now with Centres opening throughout the suburbs, the Nurses Home at 452 closed and those rooms used for administrative purposes. It now had outlying districts to service, and with a full fleet of District cars, the Sisters lived in their own homes and visited their closest District Centre each morning to collect their work for the day and returned there at the end of their community duties to do their administrative work. On April the 1st 1996 RDNS Head Office relocated to 31 Alma Road, St. Kilda.

Physical description

Standing in a semi circle of this photograph are 5 Melbourne District Nursing Society (MDNS) Sisters in their long sleeve grey uniform dresses which have a belt, peaked collars and white buttons down the centre. They are wearing their grey brimmed hats with a central Maltese cross on the light colour headband over their short dark curled hair. From Left to Right are Sisters Marianne Metcalf who is smiling and is holding a tennis racket and soft sided oblong travel bag which has two leather straps and handle in her right hand; it is resting on a closed case, which has two leather straps across the lid; this sits in front of her. Next is Gerda Oppenheim who is looking serious and has her right hand on the top of the lid of an open case in front of her, then Beryl Rowley, who is smiling and has her hands on a narrow white metal horizontal pole which has a vertical pole attached. Next is Marcia Parrat who is smiling and is holding a piece of white linen on the open case, and next, on the far right, is Florence Hoey who is holding a piece of white linen on top of an open hard leather travelling bag which is sitting in front of her next to the closed case.