The unique history of nursing in Australia is celebrated in a new book by researcher and medical historian Deborah Burrows.
Nurses of Australia, The Illustrated Story, is the first time the nation’s story of nursing has been told.
And what a story it is.
The book provides a rich and readable history of nursery and midwifery, and includes the significant contribution made to the profession by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, as well as the racism they endured along the path to acceptance.
From early days
The first nurses set foot in Australia in 1838 in the form of a small group of Irish nuns, who eventually established St Vincent’s Hospital in Sydney.
However according to the book, nursing in its modern form began with the arrival of a cohort of six Florence Nightingale-trained nurses in 1868, transforming nursing from religious vocation to career.
Nurses of Australia traces the subsequent development of nursing, using historical records, newspaper reports, illustrations and often words of the nurses themselves through the war years, the social change of the 1960s (with a nod to changing fashions and shortening hemlines) to the present day.
Trailblazers and visionaries
It also pays tribute to many of individual trailblazers, reformers, visonionaries and campaigners for nurses’ rights – from Lucy Osborne, hand-picked by Florence Nightingale to introduce her style of training to Australia, to Nurrunga Kaurna woman Janine Mohamed, a strong advocate for indigenous nurses and midwives to become agents for change in their communities.
“No longer seen as subordinate, (modern nurses and midwives) act in partnership with the medical and allied health professionals,” Burrows writes.
“Nurses now have a wide range of career opportunities, such as aged care nursing, palliative care, critical care nursing, mental health nursing, oncology, school nursing and nursing in general practice.
She concludes that despite ongoing challenges and technological change, the fundamentals of nursing have remained the same.
“No matter how much the practice of nursing may change over the twenty-first century, training and experience will continue to be allied to the core nursing values of kindness, compassion and courage.”
The book was produced in collaboration with the Australian College of Nursing and the Congress of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Nurses and Midwives.
Nurses of Australia, The Illustrated Story, NLA Publishing, author Deborah Burrows. RRP $AU34.99. Release date: November 1, 2018