Happy birthday, Elizabeth

Today marks Elizabeth Austin's 198th birthday and Veteran Liaison Officer Rob Winther believes she would marvel at the evolution of the hospital she founded.

"She would be pretty proud of where it's come from," he says.

"She'd look at Austin Health in wonder and applaud the work of ONJ as a supporter.

"She'd have respect and a great feeling of admiration for the staff."

Mrs Austin realised the plight of people with incurable diseases when she found the only institute willing to take her cook, Louisa, who had tuberculosis, was the gaol hospital.

It was 1880 and the 59-year-old widow promised £6000 - approximately $945,000 in today's money - for a hospital for incurables on condition the government provided the land and the public matched her donation.

The Minister for Lands approved the reservation of 11 acres of land, with a further 6 acres held for further extensions.

"She had the challenge of funding then," Mr Winther says.

"Nothing has changed and she would love the constant challenge of funding and resourcing now."

In 1882 the Austin Hospital for Incurables was officially opened.

Mr Winther says the hospital had 20-22 beds and resembled more of a palliative care facility.

"It's where you came to die," he says.

Mrs Austin continued to support the hospital throughout her lifetime with a £2000 donation for a Cancer Ward in 1885 and £2000 for a Children's Ward in 1902.

She contributed more than £10,000 - approximately $1.36 million in today's money - to the project while raising eight children and managing her estate at Barwon Park in Winchelsea. This was a considerable distance from the hospital and there were no cars - travel was by horse and cart.

"She was a remarkable woman and must have been extremely caring, a good citizen and a good community person," Mr Winther says.

"If Austin Health could speak it'd say - thanks Elizabeth and happy birthday, you won't be forgotten."