Our history

The Fernhill community has been a constant evolution from 1947 until now, and the future Fernhill continues to inform the changing face of care.

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A survey of land ownership from 1864, showing the parcel of land owned by the Newman family, the current Fernhill site


J.M. (Malcolm) Newman in the early 1900’s


James Malcolm Newman enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force. During World War I he served with the Malay States Guides and trained as an army engineer officer in Australia.


Newman House was completed and the Newman family settled in to the elegant thirty-eight room timber mansion.


The gardens of Newman House were truly magnificent, boasting a fernery, gold fish pond, Chinese sunken gardens, wishing well and a fourteenth century sundial. The grounds were a popular place for garden parties and social events.


During the Second World War Newman House was converted into Secret Intelligence Australia (SIA) Headquarters. SIA operatives used the water tower to practice parachute jumping. There were various other ranks, Australians Army and Air Force there, some of whom would lead small intelligence operations into the Japanese occupied Indonesian Islands.


In 1947 Malcolm generously donated Newman House and 11½ acres (4.7 ha) to RSL Queensland to be used as a War Veterans Home for returned World War I servicemen and women after hearing that the Kingsholm site was overcrowded.


On 24 October 1948 the RSL Federal President and Federal Congress delegates visit Fernhill for the unveiling of a plaque to honour Mr J Malcolm Newman.


Fernhill officially opens as War Veterans Home, this video shows the Veterans from the Kingsholm site moving to Fernhill.


Brochure for the opening of the RSL War Veterans Home showing Newman House and the gardens.


The difficult decision was made to demolish Newman House to construct purpose built homes to meet the growing need for aged care. This made way for a 24 bed nursing home staffed by nurses working under the supervision of a Matron. Matron Gwenda Shaw ran the nursing home for many years and was awarded an OAM.


The Recreation Hall was built providing a space for residents, family and friends to congregate for social activities. The Hall is mainly utilised today by the Retirement Village residents who enjoy parties, happy hours and other social events here.


An aerial view of Caboolture in 1979, with the prominent white water tower of the Fernhill community.


Resident and returned Veteran Sargent Duce of the 5th Light horse Regiment Division 1914-1948 taken at the Coorparoo Bowls Club.


The Fernhill Day Therapy Centre opened providing essential day respite services for members of the community and their carers. The centre has helped thousands of Caboolture locals over thirty years through physiotherapy, podiatry, massage and other allied health services.


Site of the current Fernhill Retirement Village


Visit of Prime Minister RJ ‘Bob’ Hawke where he met with staff and residents and presented the site with a cheque for $4,400 to assist the transportation costs for residents.


The old administration building was recommissioned as a Chapel, for many years residents, team members and the wider community have used this for private worship and reflection. Parts of the Chapel will be saved and incorporated into the new Fernhill.


48 Independent Living Units were opened at Fernhill welcoming in new members of the community who chose to retire there. Fernhill still has an active and social retirement community today.


48 units built

A further 36 Independent Living Units were opened at Fernhill making the way for new neighbours to move into the bustling community.


Work commenced on the site


Artist impression of the completed Fernhill development


Construction begins at Fernhill in March, Site Supervisor Leigh Shervey, Fernhill Residential Manager Ram Korla and Hansen Yunken Project Manager Scott Butler.


The Beginning of Fernhill

In 1947 grazier, mining industry leader and WWI veteran, Mr Malcolm Newman donated one of the finest private residences in South East Queensland to RS...

In 1947 grazier, mining industry leader and WWI veteran, Mr Malcolm Newman donated one of the finest private residences in South East Queensland to RSL Queensland. The home was valued at £25,000, equivalent to more than $1.6M today.  The double storied timber mansion had 30 spacious rooms, an oriental sunken garden, rooftop sunbathing space and a bathroom featuring gold plated taps, mirrored walls and a roman bath. It was a magnificent home and an incredibly generous gift from Mr Newman and his family.

Accommodation for a further 80 veterans was planned, as was the purchase of the Newman family dairy farm adjacent to the property, the purchase of which was part of the conditions of the donation of the home.  RSL Queensland needed to raise £30,000 and the appeal was officially launched on June 6, 1947 with a live broadcast from a DC3 aircraft flight across Brisbane at 1pm on 4BC. The money was raised in twelve months and on May 5, 1950 fifty-nine veterans moved in to the new cottages at Fernhill.

Through the 50’s and 60’s the farm had commercial numbers of pigs, dairy cattle and poultry and generated its own profit, making it a sustainable, working farm providing a stable home and employment to residents. It provided work for the veterans and an income for the maintenance of the property.

Space was set aside for ex nurses to occupy a twelve bedroom, three-bathroom area on the top floor of the main house. In 1959, just one nurse, Miss Martha Burns occupied the entire area.

By the late 1960’s Fernhill had become more of an aged persons home and the difficult decision was reached in 1968 to demolish the original home. A new vision for Fernhill began.

Renovations, Upgrades,
and Additional Wings

The evolution of Fernhill continued and while there was less demand for post war veterans, there continued a demand for an aged persons home. The init...

The evolution of Fernhill continued and while there was less demand for post war veterans, there continued a demand for an aged persons home. The initial block was designed to assist those who needed access to medical care and convalescence. Surrounded by many of the original exotic trees, an administrative and convalescent wing were added to the existing geriatric block.  The site could now house 120 men and women.

With the support of Commonwealth funding in the 1973 Federal budget, another major building work was planned – the Noel Land Recreation and Rehabilitation Hall. Hardly a year passed in the 70’s without renovations to Fernhill, with the major project being the extension to the Huish Wing in the latter part of the decade.  By 1979, the complex boasted 110 hostel and 55 nursing beds.

In 1981 an administrator was appointed to run Fernhill and the newly completed site Fairview at Pinjarra Hills and on January 2 1984, RSL Queensland War Veterans Home Limited commenced operations. In 1982, the Art Union was created to fundraise for RSL Qld War Veterans Homes.

A Rebuild for Community Expansion

Aging World War II veterans were now the primary residents of the site. The Art Union raffle in the mid 80’s was raising some $800,000 annual profit...

Aging World War II veterans were now the primary residents of the site. The Art Union raffle in the mid 80’s was raising some $800,000 annual profit and by the end of the decade, close to $2.8M. By its tenth birthday in 1992, more than $33M had been won in prizes and $15M profit was realised.

It was decided to combine a growing war chest, and a commonwealth building subsidy to rebuild the Fernhill site. It transformed the facility once again with the addition of two new wings. 34 one and two bedroom units followed were completed by 1990, and the villas took on the name Fernhill Village to maintain the remembrance of the original home.  All but four hectares of the farm had been sold off  and two further blocks of adjacent land were purchased.

In May 1987, a Day Therapy centre was opened, and the rebuild of the 55-bed nursing home began in 1988. March 1990 saw the addition of the 116 bed hostel and administration centre, and by December a new recreation hall and library, billiard room, swimming pool and spa and the existing bowling club and licensed clubhouse formed part of the site.  In 1992, the old administration building was remodelled as a chapel, to be decommissioned as part of the current development.

The evolution continued rapidly with a further 48 units in 1993 and two years later, a further 36 units housed in two story blocks with hydraulic lifts to service the upper level.  This last group of units was named Newman Court in honour of the benefactor who had provided the original property.

The oldest war veterans home in Queensland had now become the most modern and flexible caring for more than 300 residents.

Discover the future of Fernhill

See how Fernhill is evolving over the next decade, as it has done since 1947.

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