1930s. Where it all started.
In 1931, the Children’s Hospital in Melbourne was at risk of closure due to soaring costs, overcrowding and under resourcing. On hearing this, a team of journalists from The Sporting Globe, part of the Herald and Weekly Times, decided to hold a sports carnival to raise money for sick children.
On the 3rd of September 1931, following a Cobb & Co carriage procession through the streets of Melbourne, a delighted crowd of 20,000 spectators enjoyed a sports carnival which began with a football match involving competing jockeys from Flemington and Caulfield, followed by a game with WW1 Veterans’ representing the North and the South of the Yarra.
A total of £427 was raised to support the Alfred Hospital Appeal.
Following the success of the first exhibition charity match, and on the urging of football enthusiasts, a second Carnival was organised by The Sporting Globe journalist Dave McNamara, and ex-footballer, George Sparrow, and was held on Friday 26 August 1932.
The Sporting Globe journalist and event organiser, W.S Sharland noted,
“An old footballer said the other day – Every kiddy is entitled to get a fair start in this world, and that is why I think thousands will patronise the carnival this year”.
Over the following years, the Veterans’ Carnival moved from an afternoon to an evening event and moved from the Melbourne Cricket Ground to Olympic Park and later to the Showgrounds. The program continued to be enormously popular with attendances of up 35,000 recorded.
1940s. The Appeal moves to Good Friday
The charity sporting carnivals had been a great success, but by 1942, it was time for a rethink.
In 1942, journalist and Carnival organiser Jim Blake suggested to the Herald and Weekly Times Managing Director, Sir Keith Murdoch, that the Appeal join forces with HWT radio station, 3DB and run an appeal on Good Friday. Sir Keith agreed, and this partnership enabled the first all day broadcast held on Good Friday, raising £8,310 ($16,620) for the Children’s Hospital. In this first year of calling through donations, there were 36 women manning the telephones, taking more than 20,000 calls.
Following a raffle fundraiser in December 1941 to benefit the Orthopaedic Section of the Royal Children’s Hospital at Mt. Eliza, in January of 1942, Uncle Bobs Club officially began with a membership fee of a shilling (a “bob”) a week. Over the years, the Club has expanded forming groups in regional Victoria, with their mission to support children’s health.
In 1946 the very first collection tin was placed on the counter of a Victorian business, the George Hotel in South Melbourne. “This idea grew like bush fire. Generous patrons and publicans have since contributed many hundreds of pounds to the fund.” Havilah Uren, proprietor of the George Hotel, reported in The Sporting Globe 14 December 1946.
Following the success of the George Hotel collection tins were placed in the Tanti Hotel, Mornington and Tintara Wines raising £28 and £24 in their first collection. Today the Good Friday Appeal has tens of thousands of collection tins across Victoria.
1950s. The first TV broadcast and the CFA join in
The first all day Telethon was broadcast on television into Victorian homes on Channel 7 (HSV-7) in 1957
The CFA joined the Good Friday Appeal in 1951, with brigades beginning to fundraise for the Appeal just six years after the CFA was formed. Now, one of the most iconic and familiar sights of the Appeal is the thousands of volunteers rattling purple tins on fire trucks and standing at traffic lights right across Victoria.
On 25 February 1963, the Children’s Hospital opened in Parkville, launched by Queen Elizabeth II, and officially becoming The Royal Children’s Hospital.
In June 1969, a small group of people working on The Royal Children’s Hospital Good Friday Appeal, answering telephones and making collections, decided to band together to form a social and fundraising club. Thus the Pied Pipers was founded.
With a focus on supporting the community, in 1988 Woolworths Victorian stores partnered with the Good Friday Appeal to start raising funds for the RCH. Now celebrating over 30 years of support, funds have been raised through in store promotion, raffles, token sales and fresh food fares.
In 1986, Pilots Federation (Chris Hill, Senior Pilot/Ansett) contacted the GFA proposing to conduct a joy flight from Melbourne to regional Victoria. This first official charity flight flew to Mildura and raised $13,000.
The following year, Australian Airlines organised a joy flight, DC9 to Sale, which consisted mainly of pilots and their families. With both Australian Airlines and Ansett providing flights, there was a sense of friendly rivalry, with the outcome beneficial to the GFA- in 1987 Australian Airlines raised $19,230 and Ansett $18,750.
1990s. The Charity House begins
In 1993, the first charity home by Henley was auctioned off in Berwick for $136,000 with proceeds given to the Good Friday Appeal. The tradition of a No-Reserve Auction continues to this day with trades, suppliers and staff volunteering their time, services and product to build the home.
2000’s. A new decade
After a spectacular debut in 2006, the Herald Sun | TransUrban Run for the Kids has grown to become one of Victoria’s largest mass-participation fun runs with participants experiencing a tremendous thrill running over a great course for a great cause.
Royalty returned to Parkville on 26 October, 2011 with the opening of the new hospital at its current site, 50 Flemington Road. Queen Elizabeth officially opened the new hospital almost 50 years after opening the old facility in 1963.
Directors of the Good Friday Appeal
The first Good Friday Appeal Director, retired racing reporter, Jack Rohan was appointed by the Herald and Weekly Times in 1953. Jack Rohan oversaw the new partnership with Channel 7 in 1957, when the all-day Appeal was broadcast on television into Victorian homes for the first time.
Three years later retired boxer Merv Williams took over as Director followed by cricketer, Ian Meckiff who held the position between 1965 – 1968, followed by Entrepreneur Ron Cooke until 1974.
Starting in 1974, Ex VFL Umpire Jeff Crouch steered the Appeal for 20 years until 1994. Ex 3BD John Hall was appointed Director between 1995 – 1997 after being the Appeal’s Deputy under Jeff Crouch.
Anne Randall commenced as Director in 2014 and led the community in celebrating the milestone of 85 years of giving in 2016, as well as a record-breaking total each year, including under challenging circumstances in 2020.
The current Director, Rebecca Cowan, commenced in 2020.
The founders of the Appeal
Dave McNamara, footballer for St Kilda and Essendon and held the long distance football kicking record of just over 85 metres in 1923.
JJ Maher, cycling and athletics editor of The Sporting Globe and the first Chairman of the Children’s Appeal Charity organising committee.
George Sparrow, well known football player for South Melbourne and St Kilda before becoming a coach for St Kilda and led the team to their first Grand Final in 1913.