Nurses exhibition explores the other faces of war

28 November 2011

 Nurses exhibition explores the other faces of war

The Australian War Memorial’s latest exhibition, Nurses: from Zululand to Afghanistan, explores the personal stories of Australian military nurses, from the first known Australian nurse in the Zulu War of 1879 right up to the experiences of nurses serving in recent conflicts and peacekeeping operations.


“For more than 100 years nurses have been going to war, providing the highest level of care and assistances that our men and women depend on”, said Ms Nola Anderson, Acting Director. “This exhibition is an important opportunity to commemorate the significant contribution of Australian military nurses.” 


Nurses: from Zululand to Afghanistandraws on the Memorial’s rich collection to tell the story of Australian military nursing. The iconic veil and cape worn by early nurses together with the technologically advanced equipment used today tells of the changing role and place of nurses in Australian military operations. Photographs, diaries and personal objects, such as a pencil used by Sister Betty Jeffrey to record her life in a prisoner-of-war camp, reveal a much more personal story.


“One of the most profound aspects of the exhibition are the stories encapsulated in the diaries kept by many nurses”, said Ms Robyn Siers, the exhibition’s curator. “They speak of hardship and adversity, but they also speak of great courage and devotion to the role that nurses play in war. Qualities that continue in our nurses serving today.”


Nurses have never been far from the front line, but often far from home, treating the sick and wounded in the air, and on land and sea. During the First World War more than 3,000 Australian civilian nurses volunteered for active service, a commitment that continued through the Second World War with some 5,000 Australian nurses.


Today, both men and women serve as Australian military nurses, continuing to work in remote and dangerous places, often under difficult conditions. As well as providing essential medical treatment to Australians wounded in war, nurses are also deployed in peacekeeping and humanitarian operations, providing care to local military personnel and civilians in countries ravaged by war or natural disasters.


Nurses: from Zululand to Afghanistan

2 December 2011 – 17 October 2012

Australian War Memorial

10 am – 5 pm

Free entry





Tom Vasey           (02) 6243 4575     0409 600 038