Our History

Hats off to the past and coats off to the future.

In 1869 at Church Street in Richmond, the Richmond Dispensary commenced as a community health service caring for the health needs of the poor of Richmond. We have transformed over the years into Inner East Community Health Service, the oldest surviving community health service in Australia.

A snapshot of the history of community health in Australia can be gleaned from the journey from the Richmond Free Dispensary to Inner East Community Health Service. It is a history of exceptional clinical care for the needy. It is also a history of philanthropy and dedication by individuals and community. In the early days respiratory disease and infectious diseases were rampant with an underlying malnutrition which existed well into the 20th century. Even today in Australia’s most affluent areas, food access and food security are still major issues for parts of the population. Now, mental health and diseases of the aged come to the fore.

Whilst the Richmond Dispensary was based on a medical practice, it quickly and consistently incorporated a range of clinical services in allied health and other areas to meet community needs. Today, its clinics are at the cutting edge of an integrated care provision in Australia. Care for the frail and aged has always been central to the organisation and demographic changes in Australia make aged care services even more important. We offer both residential and non-residential care.

There are names that are imprinted on an organisation and the founders are larger than life identities, many of which have their names perpetually remembered in the Street names of Richmond. But through the ages many have contributed time and energy to the organisation. So it is also a history of social involvement which continues today. Support for moving ahead has come from individuals, politicians, including a Prime Minister, State Governors, businesses and more recently Governments.

The history is one of pragmatism. The first years of operation from a hotel (pub). Its current Richmond site required the demolition of an old (historic) but inadequate clinical centre, removing the physical history with a view to preserving the historical mission of service. Even the latest acquisition in Hawthorn took imagination to develop the former Hawthorn Post Office (ca 1909) into a modern day Superclinic.

The future of Inner East Community Health Service is as it has always been. The community need for the service is clear and this is matched by the dedication of staff and community support is clear.

Download our full history ‘Hats off to the past and coats off to the future. A history of the Richmond Dispensary.