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St John Ambulance in SA has a long history of helping the public all about South Australia. It's a charitable organisation that began in Adelaide in 1885, although its origins overseas extend back hundreds of years to the middle ages.
The main focus of St John is to help communities remain healthy, and older people will remember well the ambulance service provided by St John until 1989 when the state government replaced it with the SA Ambulance Service. Many people have enrolled to do a first aid course with St John Ambulance too, often to provide first aid at their workplace.
St John Ambulance Room at Brighton Beach ca 1935 (Courtesy State Library of SA B56659)
But St John do far more community work too.They provide vital first aid at many events about Adelaide and country areas, and historically used to provide first aid at rooms at many beachside locations. While the facilities at Grange and Brighton have been demolished, I believe that a room once used by St John Ambulance still exists on the beach front near the Seacliff Hotel.
A Uniform Worn by St John Ambulance Women Volunteers
The St John Ambulance Museum in Unley is a proud reminder of the selfless contribution thousands of St John volunteers have made to keep the South Australian community safe and healthy over more than a hundred years. St John Ambulance has been an organisation where young people could meet others and develop socially, in a similar way to the Scouts.
It traces the history of the organisation in SA with many historical displays of how St John Ambulance has worked to support us. Their early ambulance system was considerably slower than in later years, with a hand pushed Ashford litter to move patients
A retired St John volunteer (Morrie) volunteered to be my guide for the visit, and was able to give me fascinating personal insights into how the service operated.
I saw some quite unique items on display. A human skeleton used in first aid course training is real, and treated with appropriate respect. It was purchased using a bequest, but there is no mention of who sold the body - presumably many years ago when the idea was more acceptable.
A Vajen head protector would have been essential for use in places where dangerous gases were present, such as in a mine or factory rescue. Bizarrely, it was a little reminiscent of bondage equipment that might be found in the Amsterdam Sex Museum.
It's quite easy to while away hours with the plethora of exhibits, and the volunteers that are present are eager to answer your questions. For people who have worked with St John Ambulance over the years, there are many displays which will bring back happy memories.
All Information About This Photo Has Been Lost In Time
There are actually so many exhibits that many are held in storage and are not on display. Many are so old that the origin and meaning of them are lost in the mists of time. One example is this old photograph - the location and date are unknown, like the identity of the people.
Who knows, perhaps you can help solve the mystery?
The St John Ambulance Museum is free to visit, although donations are of course welcome to help upkeep. It's conveniently located just a few steps away from the (free) Unley Museum, so makes a great double outing - ideal for the school holidays.