The Bullwinkel Project

Why Lieutenant Colonel Vivian Bullwinkel AO, MBE, ARRC, ED, FNM, FRCNA?

An authentic and legendary nursing and midwifery leader LTCOL 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 LTCOL 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.

Why Scholarships?

The response to the Bullwinkel Project has been so inspiring and supportive, the ACN Foundation saw the opportunity to further inspire and create new nursing scholarships in the names of Vivian’s 21 Australian nurse colleagues who were massacred on Bangka Island in 1942. We need to share the stories of these generous and courageous nurses to inspire new generations of nurses to pursue nursing 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. Be inspired. Help us remember.

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Vivian Bullwinkel continues to inspire

The ACN Foundation recently received an email from Meghan, a Grade 5/6 teacher at St James Primary School in Yamba NSW. As part of their English and History studies, her class had to research and choose someone they believed to be an Aussie Change Maker, someone they believed has had a lasting impact on Australian society. One of her students, Ellie, chose Vivian Bullwinkel, a remarkable nurse who clearly inspires to this day. You can read Ellie’s letter here. Ellie also produced an artwork of Vivian Bullwinkel with extraordinary detail!

Following completion of Ellie’s project, she shared it with her grandmother who was a nurse and found out her grandmother worked briefly under Matron Bullwinkel at the then Fairfax Infectious Diseases Hospital in Melbourne. This is the power of stories and how they connect generations!


Vivian Bullwinkel smiling with another nurse