Australian Dictionary of Biography

  • Tip: searches only the name field
  • Tip: Use double quotes to search for a phrase

Cultural Advice

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people should be aware that this website contains names, images, and voices of deceased persons.

In addition, some articles contain terms or views that were acceptable within mainstream Australian culture in the period in which they were written, but may no longer be considered appropriate.

These articles do not necessarily reflect the views of The Australian National University.

Older articles are being reviewed with a view to bringing them into line with contemporary values but the original text will remain available for historical context.

Leslie (Les) Halberstater (1901–1988)

by Dorothy M. Wilde-Gibson

This article was published:

Leslie (Les) Halberstater (1901-1988), medical practitioner, was born on 9 August 1901 at Mount Morgan, Queensland, eldest of four children of Louis Halberstater, grazier, and his wife Mary, née Sheehan, both born at Rockhampton. After completing his schooling at Mount Morgan and at St Joseph’s College, Nudgee, Brisbane, in 1919 Les won an open scholarship to the University of Queensland and next year enrolled in the faculty of science. In 1921 he transferred to the medical faculty at the University of Sydney (MB, Ch.M., 1925). He represented the university in Rugby League football and toured New Zealand with the team in 1924. Following a residency at Brisbane Hospital in 1927, he commenced general practice at Hermit Park, Townsville, in 1928, but was soon appointed medical superintendent of the city’s general hospital. On 19 December 1929 at St Brigid’s Catholic Church, Marrickville, Sydney, he married Mary Angela Walsh (d.1984).

`Halby’ found his post challenging: a new maternity wing opened a few days after he started, and in the next seven years he oversaw sweeping changes that modernised and improved the hospital, particularly the radiology and surgery departments. In 1932 he became chairman of the first cancer clinic in the city. Resigning as medical superintendent in 1935, he bought a general practice and the Lister Private Hospital. He was government medical officer and visiting medical officer at the local prison in 1937-80. In World War II he was an honorary captain in the Australian Army Medical Corps and was attached to the 31st Battalion, Citizen Military Forces. He was also involved in organising Townsville’s air raid precautions.

In 1945 the Sisters of Mercy took over `the Lister’ and it became Townsville’s first Mater Misericordiae Hospital. Halberstater remained medical superintendent and from 1946, when the Mater was accredited as a training school for nurses, lectured to the students. In 1954 he became president of the New Mater Hospital Appeal Committee, which raised funds for a building in Fulham Road; the new hospital opened in 1962. Dr K. L. King, who followed him as chairman of the committee in 1970, considered that the success of the appeal was due mainly to Halberstater’s `initiative, drive and enthusiastic perseverance’. Halberstater served on the Mater’s medical advisory board from 1960.

A knowledgeable racing devotee, Halberstater had been elected in 1934 to the committee of the Townsville Turf Club; he later served (1953-77) as president. A number of his gallopers were successful not only in North Queensland but also in Brisbane: among them were Tralee Rose, Philemon (which won the Brisbane Handicap in 1951), Roseglade, New Romance and True Rose. President of Past Brothers Rugby League Football Club (1940-49), he coached a team for two seasons. He was made a life member of Past Brothers, Townsville Rugby League Football and Townsville Turf clubs. In 1971 he was appointed OBE.

Failing eyesight forced Halberstater to retire in 1980. Throughout his life he was a devout Catholic, supporting the Society of St Vincent de Paul and the Church’s educational initiatives. Foundation president and a life member of the local Christian Brothers Old Boys’ Association, he had helped to establish (1969) St Paul’s College in James Cook University of North Queensland. In 1983 he published an autobiography, The Name of the Game. On 28 August 1988 he died at Townsville and was buried in Belgian Gardens cemetery. He had no children. His portrait by Sister Mary Leonard hangs in the Mater Hospital.

Select Bibliography

  • J. Maguire, Prologue: A History of the Catholic Church as Seen from Townsville 1863-1983 (1990)
  • K. Jaumees (compiler), History of Townsville General Hospital 1866-2001 (2001)
  • Townsville Bulletin, 2 Sept 1988, p 5
  • Medical Journal of Australia, 2 Oct 1989, p 416.

Citation details

Dorothy M. Wilde-Gibson, 'Halberstater, Leslie (Les) (1901–1988)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 2007, accessed online 17 April 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 17, (Melbourne University Press), 2007

View the front pages for Volume 17

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


9 August, 1901
Mount Morgan, Queensland, Australia


28 August, 1988 (aged 87)
Townsville, Queensland, Australia

Religious Influence

Includes the religion in which subjects were raised, have chosen themselves, attendance at religious schools and/or religious funeral rites; Atheism and Agnosticism have been included.