The Austin Clinical School

On Saturday 8 April 2017 at the Great Hall in the National Gallery of Victoria over 350 alumni and friends of the Austin Clinical School gathered to celebrate the 50 Year Anniversary of the Austin Clinical School.

The Austin Clinical School established 1967

In the early 1960s the Victorian State Government began pressing the University of Melbourne to increase admissions to Medicine. The University found this impossible, as current facilities, particularly in the clinical years of the course, would not cater for such an increase.

The creation of a third clinical school (in addition to those at the Royal Melbourne and St Vincent’s hospitals) was then planned, as well as the building of the triradiate building on the corner of Grattan Street and Royal Parade. These developments also coincided with the establishment of Monash University, which opened in 1961.

A number of hospitals were investigated, with the University strongly in favour of The Austin Hospital, and the Australian Universities Commission eventually agreed to provide the additional beds.

The first cohort of 17 students at The Austin Clinical School chose it for different reasons—for some it was closer to home, others wanted to make a break from tradition. Peter Sinclair (Class of 1970), writing in Chiron in 1992, recalled one of Melbourne’s most respected surgeons of the time opening the door for him saying “We are all equal here my boy“.

On Saturday 8 April 2017 at the Great Hall in the National Gallery of Victoria over 350 alumni and friends of the Austin Clinical School gathered to celebrate the 50 Year Anniversary of the Austin Clinical School.

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“A 50th birthday is a great reason to celebrate! While the Austin Hospital itself is much older than 50 years, in 2017 we are celebrating the highly successful clinical school partnership between the Hospital and the University that has produced 3154 medical graduates over the last half century.

Starting with a cohort of 17 students who chose to travel to Heidelberg in 1967, the Austin Clinical School now hosts approximately 190 students each year, spread across the final three years of the MD.

In celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Austin Clinical School we pay tribute to the pioneering spirit that led to its creation; the strong collegial partnership between the clinicians, teachers, students and administrators that is so important to our mutual difference to the lives of their patients and the health of their communities.”

Professor Shitij Kapur
Dean, Faculty of Medicine, Dentistry and Health Sciences
Assistant Vice-Chancellor (Health), University of Melbourne

“The Austin Clinical School is as important now to the University of Melbourne as it was when it was built 50 years ago. The teaching, research and engagement with the community that happens through the Austin Clinical School is a key part of the Melbourne Medical School offering.”

Professor Geoff McColl
Head, Melbourne Medical School
Class of 1985)

“One of the things that is very inspiring for medical students at the Austin Clinical School is how many alumni of the clinical school are current staff members: treating patients, conducting world-leading research and training the next generation of students. As the Dean of the Clinical School, and an alumnus, I find that deeply rewarding to observe."

Professor Richard O’Brien
Dean, Austin Clinical School
(Class of 1981)

History of the Austin Hospital

The Austin Hospital was opened in 1882 with a philanthropic gift from Elizabeth Austin, one of Victoria’s leading health benefactors. Popular belief is that Elizabeth Austin's cook, Louisa, was admitted to Geelong Hospital with tuberculosis and discharged because it was classified as an incurable disease. Only the gaol hospital would take care of Louisa, in order to quarantine her from law-abiding citizens.

Mrs Austin felt that the gaol hospital would add the stigma of moral disgrace and to the physical weakness and suffering her servant was experiencing. Due to Elizabeth Austin's direct financial contribution and her encouragement of other wealthy members of the community to donate, the Austin Hospital was opened in 1882 with the title “The Austin Hospital for Incurables”.

The Austin Hospital's clinical strengths relate to the beginnings of the hospital. For example, cancer was one of the “incurable” illnesses suffered by the first patients admitted.

During the 1920s, The Austin Hospital began experimenting with “X-ray“ treatment for cancers and consequently became the largest cancer hospital in Australia by the mid-1930s.

Similarly, The Austin's expertise in spinal injuries was developed from caring for “incurables” with paraplegia, and later in rehabilitating children who had survived polio as well as early car accident victims. Respiratory medicine at The Austin had its origins in consumption, or tuberculosis, and neurosciences care can be traced back to early stroke victims suffering paralysis.

(by Jacky Healy in A Body of Knowledge: The Art of Teaching Clinical Schools, University of Melbourne, 2012, p.88)

Timeline of the Austin


The Austin Hospital for the Incurables  is officially opened


The hospital’s name is changed to The  Austin Hospital for Chronic Diseases


The hospital is renamed The Austin Hospital to recognise Elizabeth Austin’s founding generosity


The University of Melbourne and The Austin Hospital agree to establish The Austin Clinical School


The first University professors are appointed to  The Austin Clinical School


The first intake of 17 University of Melbourne medical students


The University of Melbourne Austin Clinical School opened at the Austin Repatriation Hospital


Students commence country rotations to  Bendigo Base Hospital


Clinical School aligned with Northern Health


Clinical School separated from Northern Health

First MD student started at Austin Heath  (new generation Melbourne Model degree)