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Unmasked: celebrating Nursing and Midwifery in Victoria and beyond

Unmasked: celebrating Nursing and Midwifery in Victoria and beyond

Miss A.V.C. (Nan) Reay. Matron’s Department. ca. 1924 Reilly Advertising Company, (photographer)Bryant & May collection. State Library Victoria.

Unmasked is an exhibition marking the International Year of the Nurse and the Midwife in 2020, and paying tribute to the nurses and midwives of Victoria and beyond.

The exhibition draws on midwifery and nursing’s vast history and contemporary stories to acknowledge the immeasurable and collective contribution of nurses and midwives to Australian health care.

Six intersecting themes underpin the exhibition, encompassing concepts from pioneering to professionalisation. Twelve practitioners feature as past and present exemplars of their profession: Dulcie Flower AM, Florence Ethel Green, Adrian Hutchinson, Lucy Johnstone (née Garlick), Margaret ‘Gretta’ Lyons, Kelli Mitchener, Marianne O’Ferrall RRC (née Rawson), Emeritus Professor Judith Parker OAM, Michelle Spence, Terry Swanson, Ruby Tribe, and Sarah Watts.

Eliza Nelson and recipe for Cleansing, Healing & Soothing Ointment. Reproduced with permission of Lorraine Finlay

Eliza Nelson and recipe for Cleansing, Healing & Soothing Ointment. Reproduced with permission of Lorraine Finlay

Through a combination of thematic interpretation and personal histories, Unmasked aims to deliver fresh perspectives of nurses and midwives in clinical practice settings, in civilian and military roles, in policy, business, activism and advocacy.

With a focus on Victoria, Unmasked broadly outlines healthcare history, beginning with the haphazard development of services by philanthropic organisations, many of which today are public hospitals. The history of services to specific communities, such as district nursing, the Flying Doctor, and bush nursing, feature in the exhibition.

In an era before compulsory registration, Unmasked connects the context of care provision with the emergence of voluntary regulation by professional associations, introduced in the late nineteenth century to address variable standards in nursing and midwifery practice.

This movement heralded agreed curricula, examinations, certification, uniforms and designated scopes of practice.

Sr Sarah Waters, Alfred Hospital 1915. Reproduced with permission from the Alfred Hospital Nurse’s League Collection

Sr Sarah Waters, Alfred Hospital 1915. Reproduced with permission from the Alfred Hospital Nurse’s League Collection

Flt Lt Kelli Mitchener with Austin the combat dog getting ready to fly home, October 2018. Reproduced with permission of Flt Lt Leigh Stalling

Flt Lt Kelli Mitchener with Austin the combat dog getting ready to fly home, October 2018. Reproduced with permission of Flt Lt Leigh Stalling

2011 EBA Melbourne rally Bourke Street to steps of Parliament – 24 November 2011 – Photo Mark Munro

2011 EBA Melbourne rally Bourke Street to steps of Parliament – 24 November 2011 – Photo Mark Munro

The exhibition considers volunteering on the military front line and on the home front in epidemics and pandemics, including the huge impact of COVID-19. It reflects on the work of practitioners in humanitarian organisations and in peace-keeping, in conflict zones, at public events and during natural disasters.

Unashamedly celebratory of nursing and midwifery’s achievements, Unmasked recalls examples of sustained advocacy by individuals and groups which have delivered significant goals, among them, tertiary education pathways and improved occupational health. It highlights the commitment of individuals who believed that nurses and midwives deserved better pay and working conditions.

Unmasked also profiles individuals as innovators and thinkers – nurses and midwives who invented a solution to an identified need, others who found business opportunities in practice, or new ways of educating novice practitioners. The exhibition recognises the particular challenges faced by Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women as they sought access to nursing and midwifery education.

Across the board, Unmasked honours nurses and midwives, and their immense commitment to humanity.

Funded by the Victorian Government, Unmasked is due to launch in March 2021.

The exhibition is presented by Her Place Women’s Museum Australia, in partnership with the Department of Health and Human Services and Safer Care Victoria. Unmasked has received substantial support from the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation.

After showing in Melbourne during March, Unmasked will tour to Bendigo later in 2021.

For updated information about the exhibition and accompanying public program, please check herplacemuseum.com

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