Nurses of Australia

Nurses of Australia

New Book Explores The Illustrated History Of Nurses In Australia

Nurses are Australia's most trusted profession, yet the fascinating and extensive history of nursing in Australia has never been told "until now.

Produced in collaboration with the Australian College of Nursing and the Congress of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Nurses and Midwives, Nurses of Australia (NLA Publishing $34.99) follows the unique history of Australian nurses. From the First Nations caregivers who healed, birthed and nursed for millennia, to the untrained and ill-equipped convict men and women of New South Wales, it would take the arrival of a group of dedicated Irish nuns, followed by Florence Nightingale-trained nurses"and decades of constant and continuing campaigning"to transform nursing into what it is today.

The book takes the reader on a visual journey, often in the nurses' own words, beyond the hospital to explore bush, wartime, mental health, aged care and community nursing along with midwifery, the special bond formed between fellow nurses and the racism Indigenous nurses often experienced.

Along with changing social status, readers will see uniforms change, as veils and capes disappear, hemlines are shortened and then replaced by scrubs. Portraits of nursing's trailblazers and leaders show formidable women who took on archbishops, the medical fraternity, institutionalised racism and sexism"and won.

While the profession has transformed dramatically with advances in medicine and technology, Nurses of Australia shows that the core nursing values of kindness, compassion and courage remained unchanged.

Deborah Burrows is a researcher and medical historian. Her popular historical fiction series Ambulance Girls centres around women ambulance drivers.

Nurses of Australia
NLA Publishing
Author: Deborah Burrows
ISBN: 9780642279309
RRP: $34.99

Interview with Deborah Burrows

Question: What inspired you to write Nurses in Australia?

Deborah Burrows: I am particularly interested in medical history. I also have a great admiration for the nursing profession, having dealt with nurses on a regular basis throughout my working life. And I have many friends who are, or were, nurses. So when the National Library of Australia contacted me and asked if I was interested in writing a book about the history of nursing in Australia, I didn't hesitate to say 'Yes, please'.


Question: Can you talk us through the research process behind Nurses in Australia?

Deborah Burrows: I have several history degrees, so historical research is something that comes easily to me. I began with books on nursing history generally, and then moved to more specific books, articles and websites dealing with Australian nursing history. I read a lot of oral history and spoke to nurses - especially those who qualified through the hospital system, to see how they feel about their profession and how it has changed over the years.


Question: How has the experience of being a nurse changed over the years?

Deborah Burrows: The training has changed to a university qualification rather than working on the wards as a probationer, and the amazing medical discoveries and innovations in the past 200 years, especially post-WW2, has altered the practice of medicine and nursing beyond belief. But the experience of nursing has not really altered - as has always been the case, nurses must deal with people who are ill, in pain, worried, dying. Nurses still experience the highs and lows of being human, and must do so with compassion and using the full extent of their training.


Question: How did the partnership with Australian College of Nursing and the Congress of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Nurses and Midwives for Nurses in Australia come about?

Deborah Burrows: As I began to write about the experiences of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander nurses and midwives, it became increasingly clear that I could write the facts, but I could not fully understand the experiences of these women and men. So I contacted the commissioning editor at the NLA and suggested that what I wrote should be vetted by CATSINaM or a similar body. They provided me with a fascinating insight into their history. So that chapter is a collaborative effort.

Interview by Brooke Hunter

Nurses of Australia
NLA Publishing
Author: Deborah Burrows
ISBN: 9780642279309
RRP: $34.99




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