Auldist, Alex AO

  • Mr Alexander William AULDIST AO

    DOB 8th November 1939

    Early lifeAlex Auldist AO

    I spent the first few years of my life in Berriwillock in the Victorian Mallee. My father Clifford was a Presbyterian minister and his first parish was there. He married Elsie McClelland, a local farmer’s daughter.  

    I was the second child and after I was born our family moved to Hamilton, and after that we moved to Launceston where I went to Scotch College to complete my secondary schooling.  When I was a child I wanted to be a farmer, but then as a teenager changed my mind and decided to do medicine.


    In my last term of secondary school the family moved to Frankston and this enabled me to go to medical school in Victoria. I did my medical studies at Melbourne University and by fifth year I wanted to be a paediatric surgeon. I started at Melbourne University in 1957 and graduated in 1962.

    My general surgical training was at the Royal Melbourne Hospital and I achieved a Fellowship of the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons in 1968. I then started paediatrics at Royal Children’s Hospital and went off to Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children in 1970 where I was the chief resident in surgery.

    Career in paediatric surgery

    I came back to Royal Children’s Hospital in 1972 and stayed there as a surgeon until I retired in 2010.  During this time I was Director of Surgery, Department of Surgery, 1993-2005. I also worked as a Visiting Medical Officer at Goulburn Valley Base Hospital working in their Outreach program from 1990-2010.  

    I specialised in thoracic paediatric surgery and one of the important challenges was caring for babies with oesophageal atresia and diaphragmatic hernia.  I performed the first fundoplication for gastro-oesophageal reflux at RCH  in 1973. Interests included repair and care of patients with oesophageal atresia and those with diaphragmatic hernia.

    I’ve been involved in several operations to separate conjoined twins. One operation was on twins from Papua New Guinea who were joined by the abdomen. They shared a liver but this was able to be separated to produce two normal, healthy babies. About 20 years later and the two young ladies returned to Australia, as healthy and educated young women.

    A few years before I separated those twins, I separated twins who were sharing the liver and bowel, and that was a difficult operation. That case was also interesting because they were actually twins from a set of triplets. Their father rang me up years later to tell me that one of the twins was pregnant and since then I’ve been able to meet the baby and see her again which was very exciting.

    In other notable events:

    I was Chief Examiner Examiner in Paediatric Surgery at the College of Surgeons for a time

    Keith Stokes and I pioneered the on call roster for surgeons at RCH

    I operated on a gorilla for vets at the zoo!

    I was a Locum Paediatric Surgeon in Newfoundland  in 1972 for 2 months

    Family and life post retirement

    I now live with my partner Louise (Blewett) in Deniliquin on a farm just out of town. I’ve had the farm for the past 40 odd years and I used to come here on weekends when I wasn’t on duty. Because of my farming background, when I retired I wanted to live here on the land.

    Now that I have time on my hands I do a bit of travelling, gardening and carpentry, which I love.

    I have four sons and 7 grandchildren. My eldest son Martin lives in Warragul.   My second son David sadly died in 1978. Tom lives in Mooloolaba and my other son Alexander (Xan) lives in Melbourne. 

    Awards and recognition

    These include:

    • Victorian Public Healthcare Awards, 'Outstanding achievement by an individual', 2010.
    • Peter Jones Memorial Oration Medal, 'Liver Resection in Children', The Royal Australasian College of Surgeons, 2006.
    • Victorian Senior Australian of the Year, and Runner Up, Australian Senior Citizen of the Year, 2005.
    • Gold Medal, The Royal Children's Hospital, Melbourne, 'for outstanding service', 2004.

    I was also honoured to receive the Award of Officer of the Order of Australia (AO) in the Queen’s birthday honours in 2020 for distinguished service to paediatric medicine as a surgeon, educator and mentor of young physicians, and to professional organisations.

    I have received some awards in my time, but the one I’m most proud of is being made a Life Member of the Pacific Island Surgical Association.