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100 Years of Maternal and Child Health 



The first Victorian baby health clinic opened in June 1917 in the St Matthias church hall, Church Street, North Richmond. To celebrate 100 years of this integral service, a suite of public art installations has been created at Maternal and Child Health Centres in the municipality. This project will take you on a journey of painted and paste-up artworks, identifying these sites of community significance. An ephemeral art project curated by Cassie May with artists Kitty Owens and Lizzie Dennis.


The Public Art Trail


From 30 June 2017, a series of ephemeral and pop-up artworks were installed around the City of Yarra. Follow the project on Instagram #100MCH and download the Art trail map to follow the artworks at each of the locations.


Kitty Owens

Over 100 paste-up artworks across the municipality bring back the women involved in the early years of the early City of Yarra maternal health service, as tiny spectral figures visiting the centres of today, celebrating the ground-breaking work of providing the first ‘Baby Health Centre’ in Victoria. Early activists and committee members check-in on their legacy, pioneering nurses visit their colleagues, and 1920s local mothers appear with their babies, reminding new generations of parents about the preciousness and impermanence of life with small children. Paste-ups have their origins in graffiti art; a range of young and older women from the past have been invited into this contemporary format, bringing their best hats and handbags with them.

Kitty Owens

Until recent decades, most expectant mothers would knit a ‘layette’ (a term used for a collection of clothing for a newborn child). New babies are still brought to the service wrapped in a hand knitted or crocheted blanket.

We Love You Back appears to encircle the Abbotsford/Collingwood Maternal Health Care Centre with a crocheted baby blanket, representing the love and appreciation of generations of local families who have relied on maternal health nurses for practical advice and reassurance, quality health care, and for fostering friendships with other new parents. The love extends to the campaigners who established the first baby health centre in Victoria in Richmond in 1917, and advocated for centres to open in each neighbourhood in the City of Yarra. The foil print moulds onto the surface of the building, like a snug blanket should.


Kitty Owens

This large scale image transforms a hand-coloured photocopy into a vision of Sister Muriel Peck, as a guardian spirit for the City of Yarra Maternal and Child Health Service. Sister Muriel Peck was the first maternal health nurse employed in Victoria, in Richmond in 1917, and her first three months of wages were guaranteed by the female activists who set up the centre. She is pictured in this artwork in around 1920, with an unnamed mother and baby. The vinyl signage is a standard commercial product – the shiny coating on the panel provides a shimmering luminescent quality invoking a spiritual apparition.


Lizzie Dennis

Maternal and Child Health Services provide a lifeline to first time mothers and fathers, supporting them when they first return home with their newborn baby and throughout the steep learning curve as they adapt to their new family unit. This lifeline is an invaluable service that we are so lucky to have. The simple line drawings of this work by Dennis, combines the imagery of babies, mothers breastfeeding, fathers playing with children and associated objects, to represent this bond.

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