Star maps and stethoscopes: Science and medicine in Parramatta

Parramatta has a unique identity in the fields of science and medicine.

European science in Parramatta was evident from the earliest years of the colony, with an observatory established in 1822. The area’s traditional custodians, the Darug people, held a deep understanding of the southern skies for tens of thousands of years prior.

Parramatta was the site of one of the earliest hospitals in the Colony of New South Wales. Established in 1789, initially in a tent, by 1818 the Colonial Hospital was housed in a permanent building designed by Lieutenant John Watts. In 1848, the Colonial Hospital became a District hospital. 1897, the Parratta Hospital site was significantly expanded. At this time, mental health patients were resident at ‘asylums’ in the Parramatta area. In 1978 an expanding population, with increasingly complex healthcare needs, saw the opening of a major referral hospital in Westmead. By this time, mental health treatments had shifted from the large, inpatient psychiatric hospitals to community-based provisions. The Parramatta area continues to see the development of an increasingly complex network of health care services to support the growing and diverse community.

The Darug approach to medicine encompasses the physical, personal and spiritual dimensions of life. Treatments for a variety of conditions are drawn from a wide range of medical skills and resources including herbal medicines, dietary advice, massages, amulets, smoke and heat.

Parramatta has seen the unfolding of many fascinating stories of science and medicine including a family medical practice operating from historic ‘Brislington’ for nearly a century, the pioneering adoption of occupational and animal assisted therapies and the recording of an early European star map of the Southern skies. The arc continues with major redevelopments currently being undertaken at Westmead Hospital, the Museum of Applied Arts and Scientists scheduled to move to Parramatta over coming years, and Aboriginal Astrology subjects being introduced at the Western Sydney University.

World-leading Westmead Hospital

Aerial image of Westmead under construction, c. 1977 (Source: City of Parramatta Archives, ACC002/61/01) In 2018, Westmead Hospital marks 40 years of service as a specialised tertiary referral hospital for the western Sydney area. Initially known as the Westmead...

read more

The Parramatta Hospitals

Staff at Parramatta District Hospital, c. 1890 (Source: City of Parramatta Council Local Studies Photograph Collection, LSP00098) Background It can be assumed that Principal Surgeon John White planned hospital facilities at the new settlement at Rose Hill in a similar...

read more

Dr Sydney Evan Jones: Mental health pioneer

Portrait of Sydney Evan Jones as a medical student, c.1910. Source: Friends of Mays Hill Cemetery Photograph Collection The ground-breaking career of Dr Sydney Evan Jones (1887-1948), one of Australia's earliest psychiatrists and doctor on Sir Douglas Mawson’s...

read more

Macquarie Street Asylum and the Chinese Community

Macquarie Street Asylum in Parramatta, circa 1880. Local Studies Photograph Collection LSOP 114 “Parramatta has another feature of interest, and it is this that brings us here to-day. It is a veritable city of asylums - asylums for infirmity, asylums for orphanhood,...

read more