Sisters of Charity contribution to the Garvan Institute31st July 2013

On Friday, 5th July 2013 the Garvan Institute of Medical Research hosted a Morning Tea to honour the contribution of the Sisters of Charity of Australia to the Institute as part of the Golden Jubilee celebrations of the Institute.


In 1857 the Sisters had established the first Catholic Hospital in Sydney, St Vincent’s College.  By the hospital’s centenary in 1957, the facility was caring for 7,000 people a year, and still needed more beds, equipment, education facilities and research space. An inaugural research journal, The Proceedings of St Vincent’s Hospital, was published during the centenary, and a Department of Experimental Medicine had been started in 1947, but there were few resources for doctors to do pure research.

To provide that support, the Rectress of the Hospital Community (Mother Michael Farrell and later Mother Sarto Peardon) supported a fundraiser celebrating the centenary. In 1961, Helen Mills, the daughter of James Patrick Garvan, gave a substantial donation of £100,000 to the fund. This led the hospital advisory board to establish a medical research institute named after Garvan. The new Institute was officially opened in 1963.

Since that time the Garvan has gone from strength to strength, its research always closely linked with clinical practice at St Vincent’s.  Sisters continue to serve on the Board and the Board of the Foundation and maintain great interest in the research. 

In 2009 the sisters felt compelled to go beyond this to help raise funds to construct the new Kinghorn Cancer Centre, a joint facility of the Garvan Institute of Medical Research and St Vincent’s Hospital. Harking back to their beginnings as a walking ministry, a dozen sisters lead by Sister Helen Clarke and Sister Leone Wittmack embarked on a 400 km, 13-day walk from Dubbo to Darlinghurst, raising more than $200,000 for the Centre, which was officially opened in 2012.DSC_0096

This morning tea was attended by about fifteen Sisters and Professor John Mattick AO, the Executive Director of the Institute presented them with a framed set of photos to recall their links with the Institute.  Those Sisters who were part of the founding of the Institute in 1963 especially welcomed the presence of Professor John Hickie and Professor Les Lazarus, the first co-Directors of the Institute.

The Sisters of Charity of Australia Congregational Leader, Sister Annette Cunliffe spoke at this event, saying: “Our vision and hope is to always have a special focus on the access of those in greatest need to the highest quality of treatment. Research will seek to prevent suffering as well as to alleviate it when it does occur, leaving a legacy of better health into the future.”