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Diamond Creek Medical Centre, Victoria

An unclear beginning

The history of the Diamond Creek Medical Centre could not be complete without a short account of the doctors who have preceded it, but unfortunately few records of the early days still exist.

However in copies of the Heidelberg News from the 1880s and 1890s (of which photostats are available) several notices appear from time to time announcing that Dr so-and-so will be visiting Diamond Creek on such-and-such a day at such-and-such an address (usually the Royal Mail Hotel which, until it was burned down in 1926, stood where the Diamond Creek Fire Station is now).

This is borne out in this extract from “Before you came” (Published 1972), the memoirs of John.L.Ryan, who was born in Diamond Creek in 1886 and lived there for some 90years-

“In the early days of Nillumbik (the original name of the township of Diamond Creek), there was no doctor nearer than Heidelberg, and no way of contacting a doctor other than by driving there and bringing him to the patient.

The first doctor to visit Nillumbik was Dr Bleak, who had a room at the Royal Mail Hotel and came up once a week. The first doctor who lived in Nillumbik was Dr. Park, and then came Dr.Bottomley, followed by Dr. Helwig----“

After World War I, Dr E R Cordner (Major, A.A.M.C.) returned to Australia with his English bride (formerly Margaret Pruen, a V.A.D. whom he had met and worked with in France) and their infant son, Ted, and in 1920 he set up medical practice in Diamond Creek, where he originally rented - and practiced from – the home of Mr Thomas Huntly, Broad Gully Rd .( later occupied by Mr and Mrs Pat Murphy and family up until 1984, and which still stands and in which Donald Cordner was born in 1922).

Dr Helwig left the district when Dr Cordner came.

In mid 1922 Dr Cordner moved into his weatherboard residence and consulting rooms which had meanwhile been built at the corner of Wensley St. and Main Rd., and which, over the next 50 years, became such a well known landmark. He originally traveled around on a motor bike and side car before purchasing one of the first cars - a T model Ford - in the district. Despite poor roads he traveled far and wide to see patients and an old account form from 1925 shows that he regularly visited (at least once a week) rooms at each of ten centres- Doreen, Nutfield, Mernda. Hurstbridge, Panton Hill, Kinglake, Tanck’s Corner (Yarrambat), Greensborough, Eltham and Kangaroo Ground.

This state of affairs continued until 1928, when Dr.W.G.Sinclair - who had served in the war, and who had done his medical course after the war - came out to work as an assistant to Dr Cordner, and he set up his home and consulting rooms in Alexander St. Greensborough, which was then of course, only a small village less than half the size of Diamond Creek.

Then, in 1932, Dr Cordner started to build a home and consulting rooms in Grimshaw St. Greensborough, and at Easter-time 1933, he and his family (now consisting of four boys- his other two sons - Denis and John, having been born in Diamond Creek in 1924 and 1929 respectively), moved to Greensborough, and at the same time Dr Sinclair and his wife and son and daughter moved into the house and consulting rooms in Diamond Creek. These two doctors continued to work in association until 1939 when Dr Sinclair built his own house and consulting rooms in Station St. Fairfield, and he established his own medical practice there.

Over the next three or four years, a series of doctors lived and worked in the house at the corner of Wensley St. as assistants to Dr Cordner in Greensborough. First was Dr J.S.Boxall, a young graduate who stayed a couple of years before joining the Air Force- he was followed by Dr E.C Faragher - an elderly man who had spent some time working in India, and who had a particular interest in giving anaesthetics. He was followed in 1942 by Dr L.G Elcoate - an unfortunate man who had a “problem”- who left under rather embarrassing circumstances after about a year.

From 1943 there was no doctor in Diamond Creek, and for all that time Dr Cordner visited the Diamond Creek consulting rooms regularly, despite the fact that he was at the time, the only full time doctor north of Heidelberg. (There was Dr R.W Bradbury in Eltham, but he was only part-time as he spent each morning at the Singleton Dispensaries in Collingwood.)

On May 1, 1946, Dr Donald (Cordner) - having graduated in March 1945 and served a year as Resident Medical Officer at the Royal Melbourne Hospital- commenced medical practice in Diamond Creek. He was then a bachelor and boarded with Mr Frank and Mrs Ethel Smith (and their son), who had acted as caretakers of the old residence and consulting rooms since mid 1943.

Then, on January 1, 1948, Dr Cordner and his bride (formerly Moyle Stubbs who had been a nursing trainee and subsequently the Gold Medalist Staff Nurse at the Royal Melbourne Hospital) moved permanently into the premises at the corner of Wensley St., and Dr Donald lived and worked from there until 1975.

In 1950 there were only three doctors north of Heidelberg - Dr Cordner snr in Greensborough (and he was, at the age of 63, starting to scale down his activities), Dr Loosle in Eltham (who had bought Dr Bradbury’s practice, but working full time) and Dr Donald in Diamond Creek, but it was not long before many more doctors started to move out into the area because of the burgeoning population particularly at first in the Macleod - Watsonia - Greensborough area.

By the end of 1952 six doctors - Dr E.R Cordner and Dr Ted Cordner in Greensborough, Dr Loosle and Dr Jolley in Eltham, Dr Alexander in Montmorency and Dr Donald in Diamond Creek - were all working together in association, and this status quo existed for 4 or 5 years until the administration and economics, of maintaining four separate centres became impractical and each doctor went his own way, working from his own establishment, but in a spirit of goodwill and co-operation with the others (except for Dr Jolley in Eltham who kept very much to himself).

Meanwhile more and more doctors were moving out north of Heidelberg, but strangely, not to Diamond Creek, which had not really yet started to expand. We are talking about the late fifties and the sixties when medical practice was undergoing radical change (in common with many other aspects of society). Single or ‘solo’ practice, with the doctor living in and practicing from their house in the district where they worked and being available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week was slowly disappearing. General Practitioners were tending to work together in groups from comfortable, well staffed consulting rooms, sharing out of hours work, filling in for each others holidays, and often living some distance away from their area of practice. This development did not reach Diamond Creek until the late seventies.

In 1972, Dr Donald who was still working as a full time ‘solo’ practitioner, decided it was time for himself and his wife, to have an overseas holiday in their Silver Wedding year (apart from Dr Donald’s three month stint in Vietnam in 1969 - neither of them had been out of Australia). After much searching - Dr Howard Goldenberg- a recent Monash graduate, agreed to act as a full time live-in locum for Dr Donald, which was a very brave and courageous decision for a relatively new graduate. He and his wife moved into the old house in early April1972. This was the commencement of a long, happy and mutually beneficial association between these two doctors which continued for over 20 years, until Dr Donald’s retirement in late 1992.

On his return from overseas, Dr Donald invited Dr Goldenberg to stay on permanently, but Dr Goldenberg wanted to do some further post-graduate work for a year or so, at the end of which, he again approached Dr Donald to see if the offer was still open - which of course it was.

However by this time, Dr Donald had found that his consulting rooms - and indeed his staff of one, less-than-full-time secretary, was becoming inadequate. At the same time, the area where the Diamond Creek Plaza now is, had been re-zoned “commercial” and over two years the rates increased more than tenfold. Also all of Dr Donald’s children had left home and, co-incidentally, an entrepreneur had started to build professional consulting rooms in Station St., opposite the Catholic Church - and Dr Donald agreed to lease the rooms for 5 years. Thus the stage was set for Dr Goldenberg, and in early 1974 he bought a house in Fyffe St., and moved out to join Dr Donald in the new consulting rooms, and although the name had not yet been thought of, this was really the birth of the Diamond Creek Medical Centre.

As the years went by and Diamond Creek finally joined the population explosion, the amount of medical work grew commensurately. In early 1977 a colleague and contemporary of Dr Goldenberg - Dr Tony Rogers - joined the group, and came and lived in Diamond Creek. Shortly afterwards they were joined Dr Paul Jenkinson, who had originally done his 6 months apprenticeship with the practice.

Meanwhile Dr Donald, who had sold the old house to developers in 1975, was still working full bore, although he had moved to live in Heidelberg, although for many good and practical reasons had gradually-over 5 years-given up obstetrics. In 1977 he went on another world trip, and when he returned started to wind down and began working in a ‘consultant’ capacity, some four days a week and handed over the management of the practice to Dr Goldenberg - and by this time, of course, other doctors had begun to settle in the area.

Dr Donald had started taking final year medical students from the University of Melbourne in about 1960, although students had been at the practice in Grimshaw Street in the early 1950’s. The students originally “lived in” for a fortnight (there were one or two students per year) and then later students came from both fourth and final year-but this was in association and co-operation with the College of GP’s. After moving to the new premises in 1974, students no longer “lived in”.

When Dr Donald retired in December 1992, the Medical Centre had 3 full time doctors, a manager, two nursing sisters and three receptionists and since then has expanded further.

On retiring Dr Donald as a mark of gratitude for the generous assistance he had received from his “juniors”, handed over all his interests in the practice to those “juniors” with out any financial exchanges what-so-ever.

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