Lady Dudley spoke publicly of the need for nurses in the bush and a concert, with Dame Nellie Melba as the guest star, was organised to raise initial funds for the Bush Nursing Hospital Movement. This concert was held in November 1909 and Lady Casey’s mother, Mrs Charles Ryan (nee Alice Sumner), was one of the organisers. An inaugural meeting was held in the December and the Draft Constitution for the Australian Order for District Nursing was drawn up. In the end, a nationwide system did not eventuate; however local areas took the idea on and began raising funds for their own Bush Nurse. The local community had to raise the money to fund the cost of the nurse’s salary, board, uniform and a ‘means of locomotion’. The salary was set by the Bush Nursing Association at the rate of around £80.00 per annum, the rate of pay for a hospital nurse with five or six years experience.
The first Victorian nurse was appointed to Beech Forest in March 1911 and other early appointments were Gunbower, Buchan and Panmure. Eventually some towns provided cottages for the nurses to provide accommodation for both the nurse and the patient. Koo-Wee-Rup was an early example of this where the original nurse, Nurse Homewood, started work in the bush nursing centre in July 1918; this was later replaced by a Soldiers’ Memorial Hospital.
Koo-Wee-Rup Hospital, 1923
Photograph: Koo-Wee-Rup Swamp Historical Society
Both Pakenham and Berwick had Bush Nursing Hospitals which are still remembered by many locals. Pakenham was established in 1926 in a house in Rogers Street with Sister Kerville in charge. In the first year the hospital treated 110 medical and surgical cases and 45 midwifery cases. In 1928, a new hospital was built on the Princes Highway and in 1929 a nurse’s quarters was opened. The Hospital was funded by the Community, by subscriptions and patient fees. There were with 190 subscribers in the first year. The Pakenham Race Club was a large supporter of the Hospital holding annual Charity Days to support both the Pakenham and Koo-Wee-Rup Hospitals. The Hospital provided medical services to Pakenham and the surrounding areas until the early 1990s.
The official opening of the Pakenham and District Bush Nursing Hospital on Saturday, February 11, 1928. The Hospital was opened by the State Governor, Lord Somers. The local scouts formed a guard of honour.
Photograph: North of the Line: a pictorial record compiled by the Berwick-Pakenham Historical Society.
Berwick Bush Nursing Hospital.
Photograph: Bush Nursing in Berwick: the first fifty years by Eileen Williams (see below)
Sources and more information:
- Bush Nursing in Berwick: the first fifty years by Eileen Williams (published by the Berwick Hospital, c.1989)
- Somebody’s Baby: History of the Pakenham and District Hospital 1926-1992 by Heather Shallard. (Published by the Pakenham & District Hospital, 1992)
- Bush Nursing in Victoria: 1910-1985 the first 75 years by Susan Priestley. (Published by Victorian Bush Nursing Association, 1986)
This article was first published in Pages from the past : snapshot histories of people, places and public life in Casey and Cardinia.