The Australian College of Nursing stands in solidarity with nurses and all those who have served in our military this Remembrance Day. Nurses continue to play an important role in our military campaigns and civic response to crises; this week we acknowledge and remember their sacrifice and dedication to serving our communities.
We particularly remember the authentic and legendary nursing and midwifery leader Lieutenant Colonel Vivian Bullwinkel AO, MBE, ARRC, ED, FNM, FRCNA who is the remarkable sole survivor of the Bangka Island massacre, which occurred almost 80 years ago, and she then became a Japanese prisoner of war (WWII) for three years.
Following internment, LTCOL Bullwinkel became the Matron of (the then) Fairfield Infectious Diseases Hospital in Melbourne, Australia; established the Australian Nurses Memorial Centre (ANMC) with Betty Jeffrey and Beryl Woodbridge, fellow prisoners of war in Sumatra. During her career, she advocated for better education and conditions for nurses and was President of the Royal College of Nursing, Australia. Vivian was the first female member of the Council of the Australian War Memorial.
Adjunct Professor Kylie Ward, CEO of Australian College of Nursing said LTCOL Bullwinkel’s life work epitomises the traits we see in nurses today.
“During the recent COVID-19 pandemic nurses everywhere exhibited courage, strong character and a civic duty as they have and continue to respond with integrity and grace at great risks to themselves and their families.”
In her memory and to honour nurses everywhere, the Australian College of Nursing Foundation has launched The Vivian Bullwinkel Project. This includes the fundraising and commissioning of a sculpture installation of LTCOL Vivian Bullwinkel, in the grounds of the Australian War Memorial and 21 scholarships in the names of the 21 Australian nurses who did not survive the Bangka Island massacre.
“This sculpture will be the first to commemorate an individual nurse or woman in the Memorial’s grounds.
“I’m inspired by the thought that generations of children to come will see a statue in bronze of a nurse and midwife at the War Memorial; it is a powerful and long-lasting symbol of nurses’ selfless service to Australia and its citizens whether in war or in peace.
“The 21 scholarships will inspire future generations of nurses to lead their own contemporary journeys providing exceptional skilled health care for all Australians.”
View a video of Bullwinkel’s story: