A nurse is a gift sent from above
In 1915 there was increased need for nurses to help with the war effort so nurses were asked to sign up as “war emergency nurses” in the military hospitals. When these nurses signed up as “war emergency nurses”, they could not have imagined that the register which authenticates their qualification would become a unique part of Victoria’s Nursing history.
Prior to the establishment of the Nurses Board, private organisations such as the Royal Victorian Trained Nurses’ Association registered nurses who completed and passed in one of their training schools. In 1901 the Australian Nursing Federation, Victorian Branch, was first constituted as the Victorian Trained Nurses Association (VTNA). The role of the Association was to register nurses and introduce a uniform curriculum of training. From 1924 the role of registering nurses was the responsibility of the Nurse Board (VA 3144). And, whilst these volumes do not necessarily correlate to nurses who served during World War 1, they are a resource which may help researchers locate Victorian nurses who trained prior to the declaration of the war.
By 1917 the demand for nurses on the warfront was still increasing as the war raged on. It had been suggested that Melbourne hospitals help with the supply of nursing staff by decreasing the training period from four years to three. Senator George Pearce, the Australian Defence Minister noted the great demand for nurses by the Imperial authorities, yet the supply was far short of the demand and by 1917 2,000 nurses had been accepted in Australia for war service.
Army matron-in-chief Grace Wilson
In 1934 the Royal Victorian Trained Nurses Association changed its name to the Royal Victorian College of Nursing, which was in operation until 1975. Nursing Sister and army matron-in-chief Grace Wilson, who was recently depicted in the World War 1 miniseries Anzac Girls, was a council member of the Royal Victorian Trained Nurses’ Association and helped to establish the postgraduate training courses.
Matron Wilson nursed in both World Wars and after her death in 1957 was given a service with full military honours. Upon her death the Matron left provisions in her will for several military and nursing organisations.
Written by: Phoebe Wilkens, Access Services Officer, Public Record Office Victoria
VPRS 7591/P3 Unit 161, 513/516
VPRS 28/P4 Unit 1347, 513/516
Various newspapers www.trove.nla.gov.au
Australian War Memorial www.amw.gov.au
War records www.naa.gov.au
Australian Dictionary of Biography www.adb.anu.edu.au