Dr Arratta Memorial Museum

Sister Roma Drain standing on the verandah of the Hospital in 1946.

The Muttaburra area was first settled in 1861, with the establishment of the “Bowen Downs” run.

Other large holdings subsequently followed and in 1878, the township of Muttaburra, sited on the west bank of the Landsborough River, was proclaimed. Bruford Street, the main street, took its name from a saddler, Mr Bruford, who established a saddlery repair shop there, in that same year. The need for other services, such as hotels, the Cobb & Co changing station, blacksmiths, banks and general stores were also soon accommodated.

In the early years of settlement the sick were nursed and ministered with great skill by Mrs E.R. Edkins, wife of the manager of Mt. Cornish (four miles to the east of the township). Then in 1884 a hospital was built with funds raised locally. It was sited on a rise, a small distance from the township for isolation purposes, and it looked out over a distant line of coolibahs that marked the course of the Landsborough and Thomson Rivers.
The first doctor was Dr. Overend from Melbourne and Mr Lawry was the first Wardsman. Of interest, this Hospital was opened four years before the one in Barcaldine and ten years before Longreach. By 1901, the Muttaburra Hospital was equipped with one of the earliest x-ray units to be installed in any country hospital. Under the guidance of Dr. Arratta, the Operating Theatre was built in 1933 and still stands today.

For many years, the Hospital’s funding continued to be supplemented by voluntary subscription and the generosity of the local population. Every big shearing shed put on at least one concert annually in aid of the Hospital, while a variety of sporting and social activities including horse racing, cricket and tennis matches and dances were held from time to time for the same purpose.

The children’s ward, operating table and light, x-ray equipment, furnishings and air conditioning were some of the items provided by generous donations from families in the community.

The main Hospital building was renewed in 1957 and is now the Dr. Arratta Memorial Museum, named for Joseph Andrew Arratta, whose tenure as Muttaburra’s Government Medical Officer lasted for thirty-five years and who became renowned throughout Central Western Queensland for his diagnostic and surgical skills.

List of Doctors who worked at the Muttaburra Hospital

All efforts have been made to ensure that this information relating to all doctors that worked at the Muttaburra hospital from 1880 to 2009 is correct. Our thanks go to Judith McClymont for all her efforts in helping to compile this list. If you consider that something is incorrect or have additional information, please contact us with the relevant supporting documents and the information will be updated. Any additional information is welcome as it will add to the value of Muttaburra’s community web site, retain the history of the area and also help collect any lost history and information.
Thank you
Louise Moloney email

Life in the 1960s at the Muttaburra District Hospital

Extract from a letter of a registered nurse who worked at the Hospital.

“I started at Muttaburra Hospital on 28th January 1968 – at least that is the day I arrived on the plane, I can’t remember if I started work the next morning or what…

Will never forget coming into land at Muttaburra that first time. I had wanted to go to Melbourne to do the O.T course and my Dad nagged at me to go west for 6 months to clear up my asthma, so in a fit I answered ads to sisters out west one Saturday morning and Muttaburra wrote back first – ‘Right I’m going to Muttaburra – where the hell’s that?’ A far cry from where I wanted to go – especially from the window of a D.C.9 and the O.T. even came equipped with its own fly swat on the anaesthetic trolley!!

We used to get $50 bonus at the end of 6 months service.

Can remember having 5 babies in the nursery at once – even had 2 women in labour ward together!!

…was the country doctors that stories are written about – stitching up John’s race horse after an accident once, and another day we spent an hour in the dental clinic pulling out a tooth of some poor bloke that couldn’t get to Longreach – armed with a dental text book and lots of local. He used to see a lot of the public patients at his surgery and not charge just to save them walking up the hill. There was a young girl in town that was 5 stubbies short of a 6 pack, she already had 1 baby and had a heartcondition. She couldn’t manage the pill – so “I told all the lads around town that she might die under them!! Best contraceptive ever.”

Muttaburra Hospital Admission Registers

Name; date admitted; age; birthplace; occupation; religion; ship of arrival; how long in colony; place of residence; marital status; place of marriage, at what age, and name of spouse; names and ages of children living; number and sex of children deceased; father’s name and occupation; father’s present residence if living (or ‘father dead’); mother’s maiden name; disease or reason for admission; date of discharge or date and cause of death; sometimes additional remarks (medical history, social circumstances etc.)
The surviving registers up to 5 Dec 1928 have been indexed, but there are several large gaps in this series. The earliest register covers part of 1887. There are no surviving registers for 1888-1891 or 1895-1920. Some registers for 1929 onwards exist, and in least a few cases they have a name index at the front of the register.