Nurses and Nursing

Anna Sipols, former Latvian nurse, now treats patients as a member on the nursing staff of the Austin Hospital, Melbourne, 1949. University of Melbourne Archives Commercial Travellers’ Association collection 1979.0162.03136
Anna Sipols, former Latvian nurse, now treats patients as a member on the nursing staff of the Austin Hospital, Melbourne, 1949. University of Melbourne Archives Commercial Travellers’ Association collection 1979.0162.03136

Royal Australian Nursing Federation

The University of Melbourne holds hundreds of boxes of historical records of the Australian Nursing Federation Federal Office and Victorian branch, plus their predecessor organisations dating back to 1901 housed under the RANF collection.

The federal organisation was formed in 1924 to represent nursing organisations in all states, with primarily an educational focus. After World War Two, pressure grew on the Federation to include a focus on economic and industrial issues for their members. In the 1970s the organisation ran successful wages board cases for increases in pay. In 1983 a federal vote of members removed the “no strike clause” and in 1986 the Victorian branch held a 50 day strike over pay rises and conditions.

The collection dates back to 1867 and features nursing registers, industrial and subject files, newsletters and the records of special interest groups such as the Maternal and Child Health Special Interest Group. It includes a wealth of information on specific subjects also, such as the development of the nursing profession in Papua New Guinea (see this blog post)

Nursing Education

Royal College of Nursing Australia, Victorian Chapter

The Victorian State Committee (later Victorian Chapter) of the Royal College of Nursing Australia was established in 1949. Its objective was to act as a support group for the RCNA Federal Committee in its work to establish post-graduate education for nurses. The Vic. State Committee role was to raise funds and promote short term educational courses in nursing. The State Committee was represented on the Florence Nightingale Committee, Vic. Branch, the Royal Victorian College of Nursing and the College of Nursing Australia and Hospitals and Charities Commission. Its sub-committees raised funds for travelling scholarships, attendance at conferences and its own study days, seminars and conferences.

Royal Victorian College of Nursing

The Victorian Trained Nurses' Association (VTNA) was formed in 1901 in Melbourne by doctors, nurses and hospital administrators in order to supervise the training, examination and registration of nurses. In 1904 the VTNA took the Royal prefix and was known as the RVTNA. In 1921 a rival body was formed called the Trained Nurses' Guild which believed the RVTNA neglected the economic aspect of a nurse's existence. In 1924 the RVTNA joined with nursing organisations in other states to form the Australian Nursing Federation. In 1934 the RVTNA reorganised itself to become the Royal Victorian College of Nursing (RVCN), this change being made to assume a greater role in the further (postgraduate) training of nurses. Thus, the College concerned itself with educational matters, while industrial issues were handed by a separate organisation, the Trained Nurses’ Guild. Between 1970 and 1972 the dichotomy in nursing organisations ended with the amalgamation of RANF and ANFES, and consequently the amalgamation of their various State branches.

Melbourne School of Nursing

The Melbourne School of Nursing (known after 1955 as the Royal Melbourne Hospital and Associated Hospitals School of Nursing) enrolled 2452 students and produced 1693 graduates. Its establishment was seen as an important break with hospital-based education of nurses. Participating hospitals included: The Royal Melbourne Hospital, the Women's Hospital (later the Royal Women's Hospital), the Fairfield Hospital and the Queen Victoria Memorial Hospital, which provided clinical experience to enrolled students. Academic training of nurses was carried out by the school at its Teaching Centre in Mayfield Avenue, Maldon. In 1960 the Royal Melbourne Hospital announced its intention to withdraw from the initiative to establish an independent training school and no further enrolments were accepted. The Melbourne School of Nursing was a response to concerns to lift standards of nurses' training in Australia following World War Two and developments overseas, including increased experience of Australian nurses abroad. Source: Norman J. Marshall, The Melbourne School of Nursing, 1950-1963: a chapter in the history of nursing in Victoria (1985).

Florence Nightingale Committee of Australia, Victorian Branch

The Florence Nightingale Committee of Australia, Victorian Branch was initially formed c.1934 at the request of the Florence Nightingale International Foundation, London. It joined other committees in South and Western Australia. All state branches went into recess during WW2 but reformed after the war. In December 1946 two representatives from each state branch met with reps from the RANF Federal body and the Australian Red Cross Society to form a National Florence Nightingale Committee. The aims of the Victorian Branch were to co-ordinate post graduate education of nurses by funding scholarships, developing educational facilities and the Royal College of Nursing Australia.

Nursing Projects Officer Group Inc

The Nursing Projects Officer Group commenced with a meeting of project officers in August 1982 to discuss the various projects on which nurses were working. It continued to promote nursing research, to achieve a standard position description for project officers across the hospital system, to discuss and promote 'nursing process' and other problem solving approaches to nursing care, involving active assessment of patient needs and dependency , problem identification, planning, implementation and assessment. Other Project Officers were instrumental in developing the Patient Assessment Information System as a means of measuring nursng workload. The Group disbanded in 1993.

Red Cross collections

Australian Red Cross Society National Office

Australian Red Cross Society Victorian Division

Red Cross began in Australia on the 13th August 1914 in response to the start of the First World War nine days earlier. Modelled on the British Red Cross Society and initially established as a branch of that Society. Vice-regal patronage and a predominantly female membership continued to be features of the Red Cross throughout the twentieth century. The Australian society was recognised by the International Committee of the Red Cross as a national society in its own right in 1927 and was incorporated by Royal Charter in 1941.

In keeping with the international Red Cross movement of which it is a part, and the Geneva Conventions which govern and vest its wartime role, the Australian Red Cross’ primary objectives are to alleviate human suffering and protect life and health, especially during armed conflicts and other emergency situations. Principles of humanity, impartiality and voluntary service guide its programs, which have evolved over the years in response to international and domestic needs.

The scope and dates of operation of some distinctive Red Cross programs relating to nursing are:

Voluntary Aid Detachments (VAD’s, later known as Voluntary Aid Service Corps or VAC’s) were first formed in 1915 to provide nursing and domestic services in Australian military hospitals and convalescent homes. In peacetime this largely female volunteer labour force has assisted during natural disasters and other emergencies. As an organisational entity VAC’s were phased out by the 1970’s, however volunteer service continues to be integral to the organisation’s delivery of many of its programs.

Blood transfusion services were first established in 1929 in the Victorian Division and soon after in other states. These continued to be primarily state based services until 1996 although during the Second World War a level of national coordination was introduced to facilitate the supply of blood to the armed forces. In 1996, largely in response to the AIDS epidemic, the divisional services were amalgamated to form the Australian Red Cross Blood Service, a separate operating division of the Australian Red Cross.

Individual Nurses

Gertrude Berger

Gertie Berger joined the Royal College of Nursing Australia, Victorian Chapter and other nursing organisations and became active on their committees in the 1960s. Her special interest was nursing education whether in Day Study Classes or more formal post-graduate training.

Miss Berger also served on committees of the major nursing organisations in Victoria, usually providing input into their educational programs and campaigns. For example, she served on the Florence Nightingale Committee of Australia, Victorian Branch, where she chaired a joint Committee on Nursing Education, and the College of Nursing, Australia, Victorian State Committee where she convened post-graduate Study Days. She also contributed to the Goals in Nursing Education campaign which was cooperatively organised by the ANF, the CNA and the FNCA.

Marjorie Connor

Miss Marjorie Connor was born in Colac, Victoria in 1906 and died in Balwyn on 7 May 1991 aged 84. She was educated by a governess an later attended Lauriston before training as a nurse at the Alfred Hospital 1925-1928. After graduation she worked in the private consultin rooms of a dermatologist who used radium. She sustained some radium burns to the hand. From 1945-1972 she was the Executive Secretary of the Royal Victorian College of Nursing (q.v.). Both it and its successor the RANF Vic. Branch (q.v.) awarded her Honorary Life Memberships. After her retirement she became the Hon. Secretary/Treasurer of the Florence Nightingale Committee Vic. Br. (q.v) until shortly before her death.

Papers, correspondence, minutes and other documents being Miss Connor's copies of records of organisations in which she was involved: RVCN, Florence Nightingale Committee and others.