The Tresillian Story
The Tresillian story began on 3rd November, 1918 with the formation of the Royal Society for the Welfare of Mothers and Babies at the Sydney Town Hall. The Society was established as 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 and the Spanish Flu pandemic which reached Sydney in January 1919. In the same period around 60,000 babies lost their lives through poverty, disease and lack of hygiene. The Society’s primary aim 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. Then in 1921, Queen Mary became Patron until her death in March 1953. On 4th August, 1954 Queen Elizabeth II, who had just visited Australia, took on the role of Patron and remains so to this day.
In 1921, Dr Margaret Harper, the first Medical Director established an ‘Infant Welfare Training School’ at the Society’s first Centre in 2 Shaw Street, Petersham, to educate Baby Health Nurses so they could be more effective in helping parents address basic problems such as a lack of hygiene and immunisation.
A baby clinic for parents then opened at Petersham (closing in 1997). It had been named “Tresillian” by the previous owners who originated from the village of the same name in Cornwall, England. Soon the Royal Society for the Welfare of Mothers and Babies was referred to by parents as “Tresillian”. When the Willoughby Centre was purchased in 1927 the name was retained and this Centre became known as Tresillian North. By then, 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 and services adapted and broadened with specialised nursing, medical and psychological support to parents. More Family Care Centres were opened across Sydney at Vaucluse (1934 – closed in 1969), Wollstonecraft (1940) and Nepean (1992). However, by far the most significant period of growth was between 2015 to 2021 when Tresillian expanded into regional areas with Centres at Albury Wodonga (2015), Lismore (2015), Wagga Wagga (2016) and Queanbeyan, Coffs Harbour, Broken Hill, Taree and Dubbo in 2018. In 2019 Tresillian was appointed Service Provider of the QEII Family Centre in the ACT and in 2021, Tresillian Macksville opened. It is Australia’s only residential Parents & Babies Unit. Todays, parents also have easy access to Tresillian’s well-resourced website and social media channels, a baby Sleep App, telehealth consultations and parenting programs and more.
The primary goal of Tresillian remains unchanged: that of securing the best possible life and future for young Australians.
With over 100 years of invaluable service to generations of young families Tresillian has played an important and unique role in the history of New South Wales and continues to offer 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.
Here, we invite you to share your memory or experience of Tresillian by telling your story