Author(s): Deborah Burrows
From the First Nation caregivers who healed, birthed and nursed for millennia to the untrained and ill-equipped convict men and women who cared for the sick in the fledgling colony of New South Wales, nursing has been practised in Australia since the beginning. It would take the arrival of a group of dedicated Irish nuns, followed by Florence Nightingale-trained nurses-and decades of constant and continuing campaigning-to transform nursing into what it is today: the most trusted profession in Australia. Nurses have operated in hastily erected tents and vermin-ridden hospitals, out of the back of utes and in planes flying across remote corners of the country, under fire and under extreme pressure. In a time when medical knowledge was limited, they applied starch or mustard poultices, administered soap and water enemas and tranquilised patients with alcohol. Modern nurses process patient data, carry out research and make complex clinical decisions. But the core nursing values of kindness, compassion and courage have remained unchanged. Nurses of Australia is beautifully illustrated with images of nurses in the wards; relaxing after a shift; interacting with patients; posing for the camera. Readers will see uniforms change, as veils and capes disappear, hemlines are shortened and then replaced by scrubs. Portraits of nursing's trailblazers and leaders show formidable women who took on archbishops, the medical fraternity, institutionalised racism and sexism-and won.