In 1947 grazier, mining industry leader and WWI veteran, Mr Malcolm Newman donated one of the finest private residences in South East Queensland to RSL Queensland. The home was valued at £25,000, equivalent to more than $1.6M today. The double storied timber mansion had 30 spacious rooms, an oriental sunken garden, rooftop sunbathing space and a bathroom featuring gold plated taps, mirrored walls and a roman bath. It was a magnificent home and an incredibly generous gift from Mr Newman and his family.
Accommodation for a further 80 veterans was planned, as was the purchase of the Newman family dairy farm adjacent to the property, the purchase of which was part of the conditions of the donation of the home. RSL Queensland needed to raise £30,000 and the appeal was officially launched on June 6, 1947 with a live broadcast from a DC3 aircraft flight across Brisbane at 1pm on 4BC. The money was raised in twelve months and on May 5, 1950 fifty-nine veterans moved in to the new cottages at Fernhill.
Through the 50’s and 60’s the farm had commercial numbers of pigs, dairy cattle and poultry and generated its own profit, making it a sustainable, working farm providing a stable home and employment to residents. It provided work for the veterans and an income for the maintenance of the property.
Space was set aside for ex nurses to occupy a twelve bedroom, three-bathroom area on the top floor of the main house. In 1959, just one nurse, Miss Martha Burns occupied the entire area.
By the late 1960’s Fernhill had become more of an aged persons home and the difficult decision was reached in 1968 to demolish the original home. A new vision for Fernhill began.