Talking History – Stories, Statistics and Sanatoria: Tuberculosis in South Australia in the early 20th century

Dr Julie Collins and Peter Lekkas present September’s Talking History – Stories, Statistics and Sanatoria: Tuberculosis in South Australia in the early 20th century

Pulmonary tuberculosis was described by writer John Bunyan in 1680 as “The Captain of all these men of death”. In South Australia tuberculosis mortality peaked in the 1890s and with a growing awareness of its contagiousness the state was one of the first places to declare it a notifiable disease in 1899. As such, detailed mortality records were kept recording the fate of those diagnosed as having the disease.

The availability of historical health data has enabled a mapping of the spatial distribution across metropolitan Adelaide of cases of mortality due to pulmonary tuberculosis from 1902-7. This mapping has allowed the associations between the distribution of these cases and the historic social and urban geographies within which they arose to be explored. But is not only the statistics which speak of the situation. Some of the stories of those who suffered from the disease were uncovered, providing another layer of detail about their lives and living conditions.

In this talk Dr Julie Collins will present interdisciplinary research concerning the urban, social and cultural histories of tuberculosis in South Australia at the turn of the twentieth century. Research which raised many questions particularly in reference to those who died from tuberculosis: Who were they? Where did they live? What were their social, urban and housing conditions? In the crusade against tuberculosis, the therapeutic benefits of place were also promoted by medical professionals and architects alike. This talk will also look at places designed for such treatment – Kalyra and Nunyara at Belair, two of the earliest sanatoria purpose-designed for the open-air treatment of pulmonary tuberculosis in Australia.

This free public lecture is part of History Trust of South Australia’s Talking History series.

Doors open at 5.15pm. Lecture commences at 5.30pm. Book online here.

Parking available on Torrens Parade Ground, off Victoria Drive.

Light refreshments will be provided. Wine sponsor – O’Leary Walker Wines.

Dr Julie Collins is Research Associate and Curator at the Architecture Museum, within the School of Art, Architecture and Design at the University of South Australia. Julie researches and publishes on various aspects of architectural, cultural and social history and is currently writing a book exploring the architectural histories of buildings and landscapes designed to treat or prevent disease from 1790-1940.

Peter Lekkas is a health researcher and doctoral candidate within the School of Health Sciences, University of South Australia with a background in epidemiology, population health and longitudinal analysis. Julie Collins and Peter Lekkas have worked together over several years combining their interests in health and place research, in particular the historical designs of institutional settings intended for therapy.