Why Lieutenant Colonel Vivian Bullwinkel AO, MBE, ARRC, ED, FNM, FRCNA?
An authentic and legendary nursing and midwifery leader Lt Col Bullwinkel made great personal sacrifices with empathy, skill, generosity, humour and true grit. Her life work epitomizes the character traits we see in nurses throughout history. During the recent COVID-19 pandemic nurses everywhere exhibited such character as they responded to their service with integrity and grace at great risks to themselves and their families.
Vivian did not allow her three years as a Japanese prisoner of war (WWII) to define her. Following interment, she became the Matron of (the then) Fairfield Infectious Diseases Hospital in Melbourne, Australia; established the Australian Nurses Memorial (ANMC) with Betty Jeffry and Beryl Woodbridge fellow prisoners of war in Sumatra. She advocated for better education and conditions for nurses and was President of the Royal College of Nursing, Australia. Vivian was the first female member of the Council of the Australian War Memorial.
Why a sculpture?
Erecting a sculpture of Lt Col Bullwinkel at the Australian War Memorial will link the past, present and future for us to remember and be inspired by the sacrifice, service and leadership of Australian nurses. All military nurses are trained in the civilian education sector prior to joining the Defence Forces.
With over a million visitors (pre-COVID-19), the Australian War Memorial is the most fitting place in which to commemorate Australian nurses, civilian and military for their service. The Australian War Memorial was built as place to reflect and honour those who sacrifice in their service to Australia.
The response to the Vivian Bullwinkel Project has been so inspiring and supportive, the ACN Foundation saw the opportunity to be further inspired and create nursing scholarships in the names of the 21 Australian nurses who were with Vivian on the Vyner Brooke did and tragically did not survive the Bangka Island massacre almost 80 years ago. We need to share the stories of these generous and courageous nurses and inspire new generations of nurses to pursue excellence.
There are not enough nurse scholarships available to meet the need and this is a fitting way to honour and celebrate the lives of these nurses and be inspired by their lives. Help us remember.