The First Annual Report of the “John Hunter Children’s Hospital Kids Club”. (1996)
As there were no written reports of the Kookaburra Kids Club, I will cover the first four years of the club and the Foundation of the Children’s Hospital.
The John Hunter Hospital was opened in January 1991 to fill an urgent need in this region for a modern Teaching Hospital to cover the area from Swansea to the Queensland border. Unfortunately, Wallsend Hospital had to close, and there were rumours that other hospitals would also close.
The John Hunter Hospital was blamed for this and both sides of the State political parties attacked one another over the hospital. This was taken up by a media frenzy and the general public. The hospital suffered and the staff morale and public confidence was rock bottom.
Professor John Boulton was the Chairman of the Division of Paediatrics from the opening of the John Hunter Hospital until he resigned to take up a post in Queensland in October 1992. He was succeeded by Dr Cliff Hosking who was appointed to the Children’s section, and I give Cliff full credit for the change which has taken place with the Children’s section.
He approached out Patron Margaret McNaughton, AM, to start a group to work for the Children’s section of the Hospital and Margaret asked me if I would head this team.
The Kookaburra Kids Club was formed in July 1993. The initial aims were:
Raise the morale of the staff
Encourage the people of the Region to take ownership of their hospital
Work to improve the hospital
Raise money for much needed equipment
Eliminate the necessity of children to have to go to Sydney for treatment.
Turn the Children’s section into a complete modern Children’s Hospital.
The original Committee members were:
Margaret McNaughton, Colleen Bisson, Beryl Rigby, Frank Rigby, Connie Hancock, Royalene Millard, Margaret Archer, Iris Nichols, Glad Parsons, Bette Hook, Betty Little, June Munro, Pam Taylor. We were all saddened by the death of Emily Tittley who was loved by us all. Her son, Michael Arratoon has carried on Emily’s work and he is a valued member of our Club.
I must give a special thankyou to our Foundation Members, their dedication to our Children is, and will always be, an example to others.
I must stress the work of these first years.
The “Wish List” system was the idea of Colleen Bisson. Although small at first it has achieved wonders for the Hospital’s morale, and as the “wishes” became bigger and more expensive, “The Kookaburra Kids” were able to deliver. The media attitude to the Hospital changed and we have enjoyed their full cooperation and our team has played a major part in making the John Hunter Hospital very much owned and loved by the people of the Region.
Thus, our sponsorship increased and our fundraising therefore also increase allowing us to provide much needed equipment.
The fundraising activities by our members are many and varied, and I thank all members for their dedication.
Our sponsors are also many and varied, from big corporations to raffle ticket donations and our Club is indebted to the all. The “Wish List” at present varies from a few dollars to $30million for a new Children’s Hospital so there is still plenty of scope for sponsors.
Our direct fundraising since we started up to May this year was $280,247.43. This financial year to May is $156,409. We have paid for equipment to the value of $251,000 and our work in creating the Children’s Hospital and lifting the hospital’s profile has helped all the other charitable groups and I thank all member for this and congratulate Royleen Millard for her work as Treasurer.
The Director of Nursing, Diana Keatinge, one of our greater supporters left the hospital to take up a position at Newcastle University. Her help, encouragement and guidance through the early years was invaluable and we thank her for her contribution and wish her every success.
Our new Nursing Director is Kate Rawlings who is very supportive and a valued member of our group.
We had two major problems. The name “Kookaburra Kids” was being confused with the “Kookaburra Carers” and the Children’s section was referred to as the Children’s Ward. This led to major sponsors not taking us seriously as a major charity. We decided to change the name of the Children’s section to the Children’s Hospital and I approached Alwyn Druce, the Chairman of Hunter Area Health Service and Dr Tim Smyth, Chief Executive Officer Hunter Health. They liked the idea and put it to the Hunter Area Health Board and on July 1996 the John Hunter Children’s Hospital was founded. We then changed our name to “The Kid’s Club”. The new hospital was an instant success.
It was accepted by the staff with the Children’s Hospital added to their title and it functions as a Major Children’s Hospital. It is now the only children’s Hospital outside a Capital City in Australia.
The people and the media welcomed and fully supported the change. Major sponsors became interested and were happy to be involved. There is no doubt that the name change played a big part in NBN3 launching the Telethon to raise money for the Oncology Research Unit. This will enable us to obtain a specialist Oncologist which will make our Children’s Hospital more complete. It is only now, after 12 months since we changed the name, that we are realising what we have accomplished. The “John Hunter Children’s Hospital” is the only major hospital in Australia and probably in the World which was created by a request from one doctor and a charity committee of 18 members. From concept to the opening took two months. No politicians were involved, the cost was nil, and with no loss of services or inconveniences in the change, although it was an instant success, people are still not sure what we have created. I am pleased to report to you that you have created a Children’s Hospital that will service the Region fr4om Swansea through to the Queensland Border and beyond, and that every family in this region will have a better lifestyle through your efforts. The Future
Our immediate goal is to launch – “Hunter Money for Hunter children” which if handle properly should give a boost to all JHCH Charities and also help other Hunter-based charities to keep our money in the Hunter. It is my personal dream that one day that all charities in the region will have a base office in the region.
We must continue to unite all Hunter Health Charities. This has started with our team and we must keep spreading the theme at every opportunity to keep our sponsors, workers and publicity working for the Combined Hospitals of the Region.
With the outreach policy of our Hospital we must pay more attention to CAYHNet, the Orthopaedic School and Baby Clinics. The Oncology Research Unit will require equipment and we must prepare for this.
The Telethon has lifted our profile and will give our Hospital a wonderful gift, but it will finish on a given day. We must make sure that we can carry on after Telethon. Some of our Hospital Charities have been weakened by Telethon and we must be there to help them recover in whatever way we can.
With the sale of the Electricity Distribution in NSW and Telstra in Australia both Governments have given commitments that some of the money will go to hospitals. We should bring the Children’s Hospital up to a standard equal to other capital cities in Australia to service the whole of Northern NSW. With the 12% unemployment and the BHP and Power Industry news, this is the time to start this campaign. I recommend that we request the Hunter Area Health Board to meet a delegation at their next meeting.
As this is not only a report but a brief history, I would like to present each Kids Club Member with a personally signed document and comment of your involvement.
I thank the Kids Club Members, the Officers, our Patron Margaret McNaughton AM, the Hospital Staff, and the Hunter Area Health Board for their work and dedication.
I thank our sponsor and will supply a special list attached to this report.
This is the only Kids Club I know of which has an average age of approximately 65 years.
I would also like to specially thank my wife Beryl, for without her patience and support none of this would have been possible.
Blessed are the young at heart for they will inherit the Earth.