The History of Stewart House
The story of Stewart House goes back to 1929 and begins with two men of vision, Dr. Harvey Sutton, then Principal Medical Officer of the Department of Education of NSW, and Mr. Arthur McGuinness, President of the NSW Teachers Federation which had been formed a few years previously.
Dr. Harvey Sutton was distressed by the many cases of malnutrition which he found among school children. This was the beginning of the time known as "the Depression" and he saw a great need for remedial and preventative measures to overcome the effects of malnutrition.
Dr. Sutton approached the Teacher's Federation. Shortly after the Federation's formation, a small group of members banded together, calling themselves the Hospital and Relief Society.
They visited hospital patients and assisted with gifts and donations. Like Dr. Sutton, the members saw the effect of poverty and malnutrition on the children of the unemployed. Mr McGuiness recommended that a proposal to help these children be put to the Hospital and Relief Society. The Society agreed to manage a small Home, which would offer respite care and remedial nutrition for children in need. The Federation agreed to sponsor the project.
Land at Carrington Parade opposite South Curl Curl beach was provided by the Crown. Sir Frederick and Lady Stewart donated funds for the building. Stewart House was opened by the Governor of NSW, Sir Philip Game, in 1931.
The Hospital and Relief Society had the task of raising the funds for the day-to-day running expenses. They worked hard in schools and in the community to raise money. It was a time of great financial difficulty. There were debts and shortages, closings and re-openings. When the Society had money the Home was open. When they didn't the place was temporarily closed.
By 1937, the Hospital and Relief Society could no longer raise sufficient funds. Its charter was returned to the Federation which then appointed its own committee to manage Stewart House. In 1939 Mr. McGuinness became chairman of the managing committee and Stewart House was registered as a hospital.
Also in 1939 came the turning point in Stewart House's fortunes. It was realised that it could continue to serve children in need of help only if strong bonds were forged linking the Preventorium with public schools, children and teachers.
Stewart House grew and prospered and gradually increased the scope of its services to children in need. The program now aims to help them deal with their mental and emotional health.
In the 1960s, a school administered by the Department of Education was established within the Stewart House complex. Since then, Stewart House has continued to provide short-term respite care for some 2000 children each year.