Obituary: Queen Elizabeth II Research Institute for Mothers and Babies (1958-2015)
WORDS BY PJT HALL
Any walk down Eastern Avenue or indeed, any part of the University is marked by the spectre of cranes or the banging of construction. Yet, in this push to “modernise”, many of our University’s previous landmarks have fallen with no fanfare and sometimes, with no given reason.
Some of these changes are obvious, the removal of the Victorian era gates on City Rd have disappeared in the wake of a new administration building. However, others have simply vanished.
The Queen Elizabeth II Research Institute is one such loss, now only a remanent of the memories of college students who for years found its brick exterior, perched above No 1 Oval, a home on a long walk to and from the Grose. There is surprisingly little information about the building and nothing about its destruction, especially when one appreciates the surprising tale of its inception.
The building’s history began in 1954 after £90,000 (around $3 million in today’s money) was fundraised as a gift to Her Majesty the Queen on Her first trip to Australia. The Queen decided that the best gift that could be received would be a gift to Her subjects in the form of a project for the “betterment of women and children”.
After an extensive competition, the State Cabinet granted the University the funds and after some struggle to find adequate room, the building was opened in 1958. It was opened by the late Queen Mother with thousands queuing on Western Avenue to catch a glimpse of the former Empress Consort as she proceeded with the Chancellor, Sir Charles Blackburn.
Such fanfare was no doubt worthy of the centre’s later successes, the building becoming a renowned centre for maternal research excellence. Its walls were home to numerous meetings and the “delivery” of countless projects.
Yet, whilst the Queen Elizabeth II building has gone the way of the Cunard Liner, with the University unveiling no plans to name anything else after our Monarch or acknowledgment of the 1954 tour, it provides a point of reflexion as to how quickly values can change.
In the past, as time has marched onwards our buildings have remained to remind us what has gone before. The University’s building programme, whilst certainly consistent with our Fellows’ strategic objectives, may well be causing us to lose a large part of our history in the process.
Vale Queen Elizabeth II Research Institute, vale!