The Tresillian Story

The Tresillian story begins in 1918 with the formation of the Royal Society for the Welfare of Mothers and Babies at the Sydney Town Hall. The Society was a NSW government initiative sparked by soaring infant mortality rates and a desperate shortage of health services for new mothers.

The need for intervention was exacerbated by the First World War, which left many young mothers widowed. In the same period 47,000 babies lost their lives through poverty, disease and lack of hygiene. The Society’s primary aim back then was to make a difference to the high mortality rate of children under the age of five. In 1919 the Society was incorporated by an Act of Parliament in New South Wales.

The Society initially responded to the problem at home with a community education program for parents of small children.

The Society’s other aims as outlined in the 1920-21 annual report, were:

  • To Save Life.
  • To co-ordinate all agencies dealing with mothers and babies.
  • To ensure proper Nursing Conditions to every mother prior and subsequent to Childbirth
  • To establish Welfare Centres and Committees in the metropolis and country.
  • To establish rest Homes for Mothers
  • To establish a Corps of Mothers’ Aids
  • To care for and bring under supervision all children up to school age
  • To provide certified and humanised milk, and ice.

In 1921, Dr Margaret Harper, the first Medical Director established an “Infant Welfare Training School at 2 Shaw Street, Petersham to educate Baby Health Centre nurses so they could be more effective in helping parents address basic problems such as a lack of hygiene and immunisation programs. 

A baby clinic for parents also opened.  The clinic at Petersham had been named “Tresillian” by the previous owners who originated from the village of the same name in Cornwall, England and from then on, the Royal Society for the Welfare of Mothers and Babies was referred to as “Tresillian”.  When the Willoughby Centre was purchased in 1927 the name was retained and this Centre became known as Tresillian North. 

By the mid-1920’s the infant mortality rate had fallen to 3% from a peak of over 10% just a few years earlier.  As times changed, Tresillian’s scope had adapted and broadened with specialised nursing, medical and psychological support available on site and across mediums such as the internet and on the telephone.  The primary goal of Tresillian today remains unchanged:  that of securing the best possible life and future for young Australians.

With close to 100 years of invaluable service for young families across New South Wales, Tresillian has played an important and unique role in the history of New South Wales. These days Tresillian has four Centres across New South Wales at Willoughby, Wollstonecraft, Penrith and Belmore with a range of services including parenting programs, counselling and one on one advice, designed to provide professional support for families with a baby, toddler or pre-schooler.