Issue 4 - 8 May 2012 enews home

Annual pilgrimage honours ANZAC heroines


By Leanne Coleman

Adam Bourke

Janie Mason holds a Nightingale badge, awarded to nurses who qualified from the famous Nightingale Training School opened in 1860 by legendary founder of modern nursing Florence Nightingale. This Nightingale badge was awarded to NT nurse Susan Green in 1963

An annual pilgrimage by Charles Darwin University nursing lecturer and historian Janie Mason has honoured the service of the Army nurses stationed at one of the major operational defence force bases in the southern hemisphere during World War II, Adelaide River.

The Senior Lecturer in Health Sciences is also Curator of the Nursing Museum located at CDU, which holds an extensive collection of nursing artefacts, historical photographs and archival material that traces and celebrates nursing and nurses in the Northern Territory.

On Anzac Day, April 25, Ms Mason laid flowers in Darwin and Adelaide River, at the plaques of the nurses who passed away during World War II and recount with friends the words of many who served in the NT's harsh environment during war times.

"Nursing anecdotes are told and re-told, in ward tea rooms and at nurses' reunions, and then too often they are lost," Ms Mason said. "The museum at CDU collects nursing stories and artefacts to ensure this important part of our history is preserved.

"Each piece in the collection has a connection to nursing in northern Australia or to nurses significant to our history. The items represent nursing in the bush, remote areas and townships. They come from mission times, war times, government settlements and cattle stations."

Ms Mason said perhaps the most prominent of the war time artefacts held in the museum was the Order of the British Empire awarded in 1979 to Eileen Fitzner (after whom the street in Darwin's Ludmilla was named) for her services to nursing and the Territory.

"We also have photographs detailing the tented defence base at Adelaide River, war time stories and clinical instruments dating back to the early 20th Century," she said.

Ms Mason said that from a beginning of two empty glass cabinets in 1986, the museum was now managed by electronic cataloguing and items were conserved and stored professionally. The museum has recently achieved all national standards for museums and collections, and was recently formally recognised by the university.

"The museum has also grown from only collecting to analysing the place of artefacts within the nursing story," she said.

"There is a huge variety of memorabilia in the collection, including Imperial and Australian honours, hospital badges and certificates, registration papers, uniforms, photographs and text books, which have been loaned and donated by Territory nurses (past and present), local residents, relatives of nurses, and from deceased estates."

The permanent exhibition is on display at CDU in the nursing wing (Building Blue 5), the Chancellery building (Building Orange 12), and also in the foyer of Darwin Private Hospital.