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The bolshie bunch: the history of nursing in Australia

There are nearly 400,000 nurses registered here in Australia and all of them can trace their nursing lineage back to Florence Nightingale. That is one of the fascinating tales from the new book Nurses of Australia: The Illustrated Story by Deborah Burrows.

Burrows’ book traces the profession back to the first fleet, through federation, wars and up to our modern-day nurses.

“Nursing, in a wider sense, is as old as humanity,” the book starts. “Nursing came to Australia with The First Nations of Aboriginal people when they arrived in Australia over 60,000 years ago. They developed or brought with them systems of healing, tending to the sick and bush medicine which continue to this day."

Harrowing tales of wartime nursing, including a massacre of nurses, brought Burrows to tears, and her admiration for nurses grew as she wrote.

"Reflecting on our past helps us to understand who we are today and what we want to achieve in the future," says Adjunct Professor Kylie Ward, Australian College of Nursing chief executive, in her foreword for the book.

"Reading the stories in this book reminds us how we weave through the fabric of society and how important we are to the health and wellbeing of the nation."

Nursing Review speaks with Burrows about the book, how Florence got involved, and what makes Aussie nurses unique.

The book is being launched on Tuesday 20 November from 6.00pm at the National Library of Australia.

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