The Sydney office of the Australian College of Nursing is reflective of the origins of one of the two organisations that are the foundations of the Australian College of Nursing.


Many endeavours on the part of nurse leaders in New South Wales to establish a College to provide postgraduate education for nurses.

Mass meetings of nurses originally called to discuss the National Health Services Bill, held on 5 January 1949 at BMA Hall, Macquarie Street, Sydney led to resolutions to establish the NSW College of Nursing with the eventual aim of it becoming the NSW branch of a Federal College.

All major professional nursing organisations in NSW, the New South Wales Nurses Association (NSW Branch), and the institute of Hospitals Matrons of NSW and the ACT, were involved in the eventual establishment of the NSW College of Nursing.

A Provisional Council met on 12 January 1949 and the College was launched.

The Founders of the College were:

  • Muriel Knox Doherty, RRC, FCN (NSW) 1896-1988
  • Agnes Mary Lions, OBE, FCN (NSW), 1908-1992
  • Margaret Frances Guy (nee Looker), FCN (NSW), OBE, 1910-1988
  • Georgina McCready (nee Johnstone) MBE, FCN (NSW), 1888-1980.

The primary objectives of the NSW College of Nursing, as originally formulated, was to:

  • Develop and offer relevant postgraduate courses for nurses.
  • Promote the art and science of nursing and the advancement of nursing as a professional in all or any of its branches.

In 2003 the name of the NSW College of Nursing was changed to The College of Nursing to reflect the wider Australian perspective now being taken.

In Victoria, the Royal College of Nursing, Australia had also been formed in 1949. On 1 July, 2012 the unification of The College of Nursing and the Royal College of Nursing, Australia took place and the Australian College of Nursing was established.

The vision of the founders of both these Colleges was finally a reality and a federal College of Nursing, the Australian College of Nursing was established.


Since the establishment of the NSW College of Nursing, it has had a number of homes, ranging from borrowed space to a humble suburban cottage to a multi-story building.

The earliest office space was at the British Medical Association House in Macquarie Street, Sydney. In 1955, the College purchased its first property at 36 Allen Street, Glebe. In 1961, a second property at 58 Allen Street, Glebe was purchased. It was on these sites that a purpose-built home for the administration and teaching activities of the NSW College of Nursing was built and opened in February 1962.

In 1973, the formal teaching functions and the building at 58 Allen Street, Glebe were handed over to the NSW College of Paramedical Studies as part of the establishment of nursing education in the tertiary sector.

The NSW College of Nursing retained the first cottage it had purchased at 36 Allen Street and this was used as the office from which it supported its professional role and activities. This cottage was sold in 1974 to facilitate the purchase of ‘Kerribree’, the first of two properties in Hereford Street, Glebe. The second house purchased at Hereford Street, Glebe was Hereford House. These two buildings were to become the new home for both the professional, and reintroduced teaching activities of the NSW College of Nursing.

Student numbers grew over this period and other leased properties were also needed, for example, Balmain Hospital School of Nursing and 282 Bridge Road, Glebe.

In 1992 an additional property, 1 Booth Street, Annandale, was purchased to cater for the growing number of students in the variety of postgraduate programs being offered by the College. The continued growth of the teaching programs and the need to have all operations centralised led to the sale of the Glebe and Annandale properties and subsequent purchase and move to 14 Railway Parade, Burwood in 2000.

It is of note that the funds required to purchase the Glebe properties were raised by Members of the College.

When the Glebe and Annandale properties were sold, this allowed for the Burwood property to be purchased outright.

In 2012, the College of Nursing and Royal College of Nursing, Australia unified and became the Australian College of Nursing. From 2012 to 2015, the Australian College of Nursing continued to use the Burwood building as its Sydney office, housing the education, finance and library services.

In July 2015, the Australian College of Nursing moved into leased accommodation at 9 Wentworth Street, Parramatta following the sale of the Burwood premises.


The NSW College of Nursing established an early leading role in the provision of nurse education including the offering of formal courses for which certificates or diplomas were awarded.

The first courses, offered in 1949, were the Nurse Administration Diploma, the Sister Tutor Diploma and the Industrial Nursing Certificate. These were followed in 1950 by the introduction of the Operating Theatre Technique and Management course.

The development of the Library at the NSW College of Nursing also commenced in 1949 with the purchase of some 40 books to service the initial courses.

Early courses offered were taught by lecturers from the Medical School and the School of Public Health and tropical Medicine of the University of Sydney or from the Sydney Teachers College in this initial period. This changed over time until the majority of the courses were taught by nurses, qualified in each of the specific areas who were either members of the College, staff or from various institutions associated with the College.

The initial graduation ceremony for the students of the College, “the first of its kind in Australia”, was held on Monday 27 march 1950 in the BMA Hall, Sydney. The then Federal Minister for Health, Sir Earle Page, presented the diplomas and certificates. This graduation ceremony was to be an ongoing feature of the College for many years.

This presents are stylised interpretations of the letters “c” and “n”which stand for College and Nursing respectively and was introduced in 2000

Reciprocal registration for the major initial courses was in each state of Australia and also from the General Nursing Council for England and Wales. This ensured that the qualifications obtained were recognised throughout Australia and in the United Kingdom.

As the NSW College of Nursing grew, many continuing education courses complemented the postgraduate courses to meet the changing needs of the health care sector and the demand for such courses. The number of students grew steadily, in the period 2011-2012, for example, there were some 4,896 students spread over 407 different courses. These students studied in a variety of ways including attendance at the College, undertaking distance education courses and online courses.

The NSW College of Nursing also offered a variety of professional activities for its members, including, for example, conferences and special programs in a variety of areas.


A key aim for the NSW College of Nursing was to become an advisory body in the State and to consult with the Government and other bodies dealing with nursing matters. This led to invitations to participate in relevant national and state forums that addressed various professional nursing and health issues.

The essence of the NSW College of Nursing was its membership which continues today in the Australian College of Nursing. As early as February 1950, the Council of the NSW College of Nursing set up a sub-committee to consider the granting of Fellowship and Membership. Procedures for the status of Fellows and Members were developed by looking at the regulations used by similar organisations.

Two classes of members were initially introduced – Foundational Fellows and Fellows, and Ordinary Members. In 1962 a third class of members was introduced, that of Honorary Fellows and Honorary Members. These three categories of members were only open initially to registered nurses. In 1998, there was a change to that – student, enrolled and registered nurses were all eligible to apply for membership.

The first Investiture, of Foundational Fellows by Sir Charles Bickerton Blackburn, took place in the Great Hall of the University of Sydney on Thursday 18 September 1952.

In January 1953, an Annual Oration was added to the Investiture ceremony with the Orations being given by outstanding national and international nurse leaders. The initial Oration was also the first time women had spoken in such an occasion in the Great Hall at the University of Sydney.

‘…the end of an era…and a new beginning’ – the Australian College of Nursing

The Australian College of Nursing (ACN) builds on the strong foundations of provided by The College of Nursing and the Royal College of Nursing, Australia. The achievement of the original vision of the Founders of both organisations was finally attained in 2012 and provided a new impetus and focus for the future. A Transitional Board oversaw the initial year of ACN’s operations with the first Board elected in 2013. ACN is located at two sites – Canberra and Sydney.

Education continues to be a key role of the new entity building the national reach and focus to enhance the knowledge and skills of nurses across Australia. Changing modes of delivery are a constant and the Library has grown from its early beginnings in 1949 to an extensive collection that continues to support students, staff and members. Through education, the capabilities of nurses as leaders is enhanced.

Members are a key focus and their engagement in the advocacy and representation work sees ACN involved in key policy areas, not just at the Commonwealth level, but across the nation. The history of admitting Fellows and Members continues and each year an outstanding nurse leader is chosen to deliver the Annual Oration, continuing a long tradition of recognising and honouring members of the profession.

Through advocacy and representation, ACN demonstrates the leadership that nurses can bring to Australian health care. ACN is clearly focused on advancing nurse leadership to improve health care.

ACN continues to the work of the outstanding nurse leaders that saw the establishment of both the NSW College of Nursing and the Royal College of Nursing, Australia, the nurse leaders that followed and those who will lead into the future.

Proudly preserving nursing's heritage - ACN archives

The Australian College of Nursing (ACN) Archive is the repository for the historical documents, both organisational records and donated material, of the organisation. The archive networks with other health industry and professional organisations to promote access to the collection, enhance the value of the collection and to ensure best practice.