Unlocking the Past: A Guide to the Australian College of Nursing Archival Collection is a 38-page booklet detailing the contents of the ACN archival collection. Those interested in the history of nursing in Australia and our professional organisation will find the booklet a handy accompaniment to aid their research using the archival collection.

Launched at the ACN 3rd History Conference in August 2018, this little guide is now available for purchase. Authors, Professor Lynette Russell AO FACN (DLF) and Dr Lesley Potter FACN are very close to the work of the ACN archives, as Honorary Archive volunteers. The archived materials in Unlocking the Past tell the story of ACN, particularly the history of our predecessor organisations and their unification in 2012 to become the organisation we are today.

In these pages you will find exclusive information and artefacts about the nursing profession in Australia, listed by collection. For example, you may be surprised to learn that the ACN Archives house a historic doll collection, all dressed in historically accurate nursing uniforms from 1788 to 1923. You’ll also find information about how to search the badge and record collection, documents, books, media clippings and photographs of a selection of other fascinating materials and records.

The archive also contains thought-provoking material about specific individuals who have made a major contribution to nursing in Australia and material pertaining to a limited number of other nursing organisations and hospitals. These personal collections have been donated by current ACN Fellows and Members who have held significant roles in nursing as well as widely renowned nurses from our past, such as Vivian Bullwinkel, the sole survivor of the 1942 Banka Island Massacre who went on to be President of the Royal College of Nursing, Australia.

ACN is so fortunate to have this rich collection of history at our fingertips, and it is a privilege to have people like our volunteer Archivists who have compiled the guide to make these archives so accessible. The ACN archive collections are held in both ACN’s campuses at Canberra and Parramatta. Enquiries in relation to accessing the collections can be made directly by email to the Archival Team at

Nurses, members of the public and historians alike can purchase this small book for $5.00 from the ACN online shop.

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