Centre for Architecture Theory Criticism History
School of Architecture

The architecture of Australian frontier hospitals: Oodnadatta and Alice Springs

Monday, 22 June 2015

ATCH LUNCH: JUNE 24, 1.15pm, School of Architecture, Exhibition Space, Level 3 Zelman Cowan Building (building 51).

The architecture of Australian frontier hospitals:  Oodnadatta and Alice Springs.

Cathy Keys

Aboriginal Environments Research Centre, School of Architecture, University of Queensland.

This paper explores concepts of race, gender, and climate on the frontier of inland Australia and its expression in the design of early hospitals. The first hospital discussed was built in Oodnadatta in 1911, the second ‘Adelaide House’ completed in 1926 at Alice Springs. Existing histories of these hospitals focus on the vision of their founder Reverend John Flynn, of Royal Flying Doctor Service fame, who as leader of the Australian Inland Mission established a network of ‘hospital nursing cottages’ staffed initially by medically-trained Deaconesses across remote areas of Australia as part of a medical missionary.  This ministry was unique in that from its inception it focused on meeting the medical, social and spiritual needs of non-Aboriginal settlers. The hospitals at Oodnadatta and Alice Springs were a physical manifestation of this medical mission and while the themes of climate, and to some extent gender, appear in the existing narratives of these hospitals, issues of race are largely missing.