Our History

Sydney and Sydney Eye Hospital is steeped in history, with a legacy of nursing and medical firsts to its' credit, both nationally and internationally. 

Sydney and Sydney Eye Hospital operates as one hospital in Macquarie Street in Sydney’s central business district. Sydney Hospital is Australia's first hospital and dates from the arrival of the First Fleet in 1788.  It has been located at the Macquarie Street site since 1811, and celebrated its Bicentenary in 2011.

In 1868, Lucy Osburn established the first nursing school in Australia at the Sydney Hospital site after being sent to the colony by Florence Nightingale following a request by the colonial government.

The Sydney Eye Hospital started in 1882 at Millers Point and moved to Woolloomooloo in 1922. 

In 1996, it relocated to Macquarie Street to form Sydney and Sydney Eye Hospital.

Sydney and Sydney Eye Hospital offers quality health care to city residents, workers, visitors and tourists. Our specialist services attract patients from all over NSW. 

Clinical services provided are a 24 hour Emergency Department (for eyes and general) and outpatient departments (eyes, general and hands). Clinical wards include Eyes, Hands, Ear Nose and Throat and General Medicine as well as the Peri-Operative Suite. 

Sydney and Sydney Eye Hospital is a quaternary referral unit for eye diseases, providing surgical and medical management of vitreo-retinal, corneal, glaucoma, oculo-plastic, uveitis, and oculo-oncology conditions.It also has a dedicated Hand Unit, and is a tertiary referral centre for trauma, abnormalities and diseases of the hand.

Sydney and Sydney Eye Hospital has an eight-level underground car park accessed via Hospital Road and managed by Metro Parking.

Australia’s First Hospital

The story of Sydney Hospital began on 26 January, 1788 with the arrival of the First Fleet. Surgeon-General John White who headed the colony’s medical administration founded the hospital which began as a collection of tents known colloquially as the ‘sick tents’ in Dawes Point on the western side of Sydney Cove.

It was, however, Governor Lachlan Macquarie who was responsible for its future in Macquarie Street. 

Governor Macquarie agreed to a contract with two local businessmen and D’arcy Wentworth (who became the principal surgeon of the colony) for the construction of The General Hospital. This granted the contractors a monopoly on the sale of rum in lieu of payment. 

The hospital, referred to as ‘The Rum Hospital’ until 1881, was built on seven acres in Macquarie Street and was completed in July 1816. The convict patients were then relocated from their dilapidated pre-fabricated hospital at Dawes Point which arose from the original tent hospital.

Australia First Hospital


II Porcelliono - our silent volunteer 

Few people fail to notice II Porcellino, the bronze statue of a wild boar outside Sydney and Sydney Eye Hospital on Macquarie Street.

The statue is a copy of the original II Porcellino, estimated to be more than 500 years old.(Unearthed in Rome after having stood for more than 100 years in the Uffizi Galleries in Florence).
It was presented to the hospital by the Marchessa Clarissa Torrigiani in memory of her father Dr Thomas Fiaschi and her brother Dr Piero Fiaschi, who were both renowned surgeons at the hospital. 

In 1902, Thomas Fiaschi was Honorary Surgeon to the Governor General, and in 1909, became Chairman of the Sydney Hospital Board of Medical Studies.

The Marchessa saved for seven years to buy II Porcellino. Her wish was for him to raise money for the hospital and to make children happy.

People from all over the world have solemnly stood in Macquarie Street, rubbed his nose, made a wish, dropped a coin in his basket and have taken a photograph with him.



The Lucy Osburn - Nightingale Museum

The Lucy Osburn-Nightingale Museum at Sydney and Sydney Eye Hospital is home to an intriguing mix of human pathology, historical records, medical equipment and memorabilia.

Visitors are provided with a unique insight into the history of nursing and medicine in Australia, dating back from the arrival of the First Fleet in 1788. The museum was established by art collector, curator and former Sydney Hospital nurse, Elinor Wrobel OAM.

The museum has four original furnished rooms containing a considered selection of artefacts, photographs, surgical equipment and costumes. The museum is also home to a remarkable collection of around 2000 of the oldest anatomy specimens in Australia dating from the 1890s to 1985.

The Museum is open for tours by appointment. 1 hour tour $10 per person.
Please email seslhd-sydhospmuseum@health.nsw.gov.au to organise a tour. 


Lucy Osburn


1880: Architect Thomas Rowe (1829-1899) wins a competition to design ‘The Rum Hospital’ buildings in Macquarie Street.

1811: The hospital moves into the three sandstone buildings designed by Rowe at the present site in Macquarie Street. The Hospital now stands on the site of the Central Pavilion; the original north wing is now Parliament House, and the South Wing became the Colonial Mint (now Mint Museum).

1848: Convict transportation ends and Hospital name changed to The Sydney Infirmary and Dispensary although it continues to be referred to colloquially as The Rum Hospital.

1868: Florence Nightingale sends Lucy Osburn to the hospital to establish the first nursing school in Australia in answer to an appeal from Henry Parkes, Premier of NSW. On arrival, and seeing patients existing in squalor, Osburn quickly cuts ties with untrained colonial girls and recruits local nursing staff as she builds up the nursing training school.

Caption: The Nightingale Wing is the home of the oldest nursing school in Australia, established by Florence Nightingale (pictured).

1881: Under an Act of Parliament, the hospital is given the official title of Sydney Hospital.

1882: The Board of Sydney Hospital acquires Moorcliff in Millers Point for their Ophthalmic Department. In 1905, Spencer Lodge- another property- was acquired for the Branch Casualty and Accident Ward.

1960: Hospital receives official title of Sydney Eye Hospital.

1982: Sydney Eye Hospital centenary.

1992: The Ophthalmic Department moves to Pacific Mansions in Sir John Young Crescent, Woolloomooloo.

1995: New Clinical Sciences building completed.

1996: Sydney Eye Hospital moves back to Macquarie Street to be co-located with Sydney Hospital in the newly opened $32 million Clinical Services building.

Please click here to read more about Sydney Hospital Graduate Nurses' Alumni.