Vale Bob Birrell

Robert Gregory (Bob) Birrell OAM  (09/05/33 – 23/06/21)

The President and Executive were saddened to learn of the death this week of Bob Birrell.

Bob was a paediatrician at the RCH and a neonatal paediatrician at The Royal Women’s and at St Vincent’s Hospital early in his career and then set up as a part time paediatrician in south Gippsland (Leongatha) where he also farmed.


Soon after graduation in 1957 he started as a junior medical officer at The Royal Children’s Hospital in Carlton. There he saw a child with a fractured femur, multiple areas of frostbite and large pressure sores. Xrays also revealed varying aged fractures. Child abuse (“Battered Child Syndrome”) was not at that time recognised and Bob, with his Police surgeon brother Dr John Birrell, wrote about the problem – his publications being greeted with disbelief and derision. Recognition of Child Abuse as a real and surprisingly frequent problem came gradually over the following decade.

In 2001 he was awarded the Order of Australia Medal for his work in the field of child abuse and in 2017 at the Victorian Forensic Paediatric Medical Service (VFPMS) seminar on The Medical Evaluation of Child Abuse, Bob Birrell was honoured as a visionary and pioneer, whose work formed the basis of an important field of medicine. He was given a special award on behalf of the Royal Children’s Hospital, the VFPMS and the RCH Medical Alumni. The recording can be found here:

Our thoughts are with Jan and the family at this sad time.


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