This charming turn-of-the-century building has a wonderful history and it all begins with a Miss Sarah Jane Nixon.
She was born near Nabiac on 12 May, 1883, the first child of John and Margaret Nixon. Being the eldest daughter it’s quite probable she spent a deal of her time assisting her mother with the raising of her six siblings. She had apparently shown an interest in nursing as she grew up and according to the family, her father set her a challenge saying, he would pay for her nursing training and if she completed it successfully, he’d provide her with a building in Nabiac in which she could establish a hospital. There were at least two hospitals in Taree at this time having been created and run on the same lines – Nurse Henderson’s Private Hospital and Nurse Cummins Private Hospital.
Sarah was in her early 20’s when she enrolled to do Maternity training programme at the South Sydney Hospital which she completed in 1909. True to his word, her father purchased a small cottage on Nabiac Street that year and a brass plaque next to the front door announced it was now NURSE NIXON – PRIVATE HOSPITAL.
In time this building proved to be too small and in 1915 she began the construction of a larger building next door and this became the ARALUEN HOSPITAL. She continued to operate this facility until the mid 1940s but with a family of her own, living then in Krambach and also being injured in a car accident, the hospital began to deteriorate. A group of World War 2 veterans then interviewed her with a proposal to purchase it, refurbish it and then re-open it as the WALLAMBA WAR MEMORIAL HOSPITAL. An agreement was reached where the two buildings (the hospital and the former hospital next door) were purchased for £1,250, a Board of Trustees was appointed and following its refurbished the hospital reopened on 25 March, 1948.
It continued to operate through the 50s and a new labour ward was added in October, 1960. Problems began to escalate however, as the State Health Regulations were tightened and small hospitals such Nabiac’s found it more difficult to meet/fund the regulations. The facility struggled on until its authority to operate was finally terminated in February, 1981.
The building was still owned by the Nabiac Community however, and when the “new labour ward” was rented by a committee to form a Pre-School, the signs were unmistakable: there was a niche for this facility in Nabiac after its hospital life had passed. It is now an Incorporated Body known as THE NABIAC MEMORIAL NEIGHBOURHOOD CENTRE and is managed by an elected body of interested local people. The hospital’s main ward is now a meeting-room used by many local committees and special interest groups. Two smaller wards have been converted to become the CTC’s Training Room and the CTC Manager’s office was formally the Doctor’s Consulting room.
The current tenants/users of the building are:
|Op Shop||3 rooms, the side verandah, and the meeting room|
|CTC||Training Room (was 2 wards), and Manager’s office (was consulting room)|
|Pre-School||What was the ‘new labour ward’|
|Karuah Great Lakes Landcare||What was the waiting room for the Baby Health Centre|
|Petra’s Pantry||The back kitchen|
|Various||Meeting Room (was the main ward)|
Sarah’s hospital is still serving the village community, following in her best traditions.
History contributed by Stuart Weller, drawing on The Hospital At Nabiac by Laura Sykes (available for purchase at the Co-Op (Op-Shop) Store in the Neighbourhood Centre) and The History Of Nabiac And District by Lionel Gilbert (out of print).