Honouring a great Australian, a great leader, a great woman and a proud nurse

The Australian College of Nursing (ACN) is working with the Australian War Memorial to honour the courage, dedication and sacrifice of army nurse Lieutenant Colonel Vivian Bullwinkel AO, MBE, ARRC, ED, FNM by erecting a commemorative sculpture in the grounds of the Memorial.

“Lieutenant Colonel Vivian Bullwinkel was a great Australian, a great leader, a great woman and a proud nurse and it is fitting she is immortalised at the Australian War Memorial,” said ACN Chief Executive Adjunct Professor Kylie Ward FACN.

“Vivian was a volunteer nurse with the Australian Army and the sole survivor of the 1942 Banka Island massacre. Vivian and her nursing colleagues were forced into the sea and shot by soldiers. The only survivor of the massacre, Vivian feigned death after being struck by a bullet. When she got back to the beach, Vivian found a wounded British soldier. They retreated to the jungle for 12 days while Vivian, although injured herself, cared for a British soldier before he passed away. Surrendering to the Japanese, Vivian endured a further three years of hardship and brutality as a prisoner of war before her release.

“Following the war, she advocated for better education and conditions for nurses, established and raised funds for the Australian Nurses’ Memorial, and later holding the role of President of the Royal College of Nursing, Australia. Vivian also became the first female member of the Council of the Australian War Memorial, and also served on various veteran and philanthropic committees to pay tribute to her fallen nursing colleagues.

“Vivian overcame the atrocities of war with heroism, strength and tenacity. Her incredible achievements and commitment to caring for the sick and wounded are an example to all nurses and Australians alike and should not be forgotten.

“It is time a tribute for Vivian takes its rightful place at the Memorial so future generations can remember her sacrifice and recognise all Australian nurses who have lost their lives or survived atrocities of war while servicing their country.”

Today ACN President, Professor Christine Duffield FACN, announced ACN’s significant contribution towards the funds for a commemorative sculpture to be created in Vivian’s honour.

ACN encourages the community to be involved and are especially seeking corporate support, in addition to other businesses which have already contributed, to ensure that this tribute is created.

The sculpture is expected to be commissioned in 2020, a year which has been named as Year of the Nurse and Midwife and will celebrate the 200th birthday of nursing icon, Florence Nightingale.

To donate to this campaign, visit acn.edu.au/bullwinkelproject

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