Hillcrest was a maternity home in North Fremantle that was run by the Salvation Army. The hospital first opened in 1903 as 'The Open Door' maternity home at premises leased from Mr William A. Saw in Swan Street, North Fremantle. Newspaper articles at the time show that the name was chosen because the Salvation Army wanted to open the door to 'unmarried mothers' who might be shunned by society.
In 1910 the hospital moved to Harvest Road, on a site previously occupied by the Salvation Army's 'Prison Gate' service. The property next door, 'Hill Crest', was donated to the Maternity Home by Mrs Francis Pearse in late 1920 or early 1921. When the maternity services moved into Hillcrest, the previous property was used, for a time, as a Children's Home until 1924, when it became an aged-care facility.
Hillcrest moved to the corner of Kings Park Road and Ventnor Avenue, West Perth, during World War II and returned to the Harvest Road site afterwards.
In a history of Hillcrest written in 1995, information from hospital records relating to 1952-1957 gave insight into the general services offered to the community, and to single mothers:
'2,113 Mothers have been nursed in the Hospital and 367 unmarried Mothers have been cared for in their time of distress, and helped to return to normal rightful living. Hillcrest Senior Citizens' Residence History, 1995'
Hillcrest functioned as a general maternity hospital serving the southern suburbs, but its principal purpose was the admission of 'deserted wives, unmarried mothers, regardless of age, creed or colour'.
A fundraising pamphlet from the 1960s described Hillcrest's hostel for 'unmarried mothers', showing the high rate of adoptions:
'During the last year the Unmarried Mothers section admitted 170 women and girls, 134 babies were born at the hospital and 93 adoptions were carried through. Serving the community in Western Australia, published 1966-1969'
The year referred to is unknown, but would have been between 1966 and 1969. The document reported that 462 babies in total were born at Hillcrest in that year; so more than one third of all births at that period were from single mothers, with around 70 percent of those babies adopted. At the time, this was seen as a positive outcome.
By 1974, maternity services at Hillcrest had ceased.
Hillcrest re-opened in 1978 as an aged-care residence and continued in that role until 2008 when the facility closed.
14 September 2017
Cite this: https://www.findandconnect.gov.au/guide/wa/WE00096
First published by the Find & Connect Web Resource Project for the Commonwealth of Australia, 2011
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