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Nurses Memorial Centre – honouring nurses, past, present and future

The Nurses Memorial Centre was formally established following a public appeal initiated by Victorian nurses who had returned from the Second World War. There were many nurses and others who worked hard to achieve this end. Among the nurses, we remember two in particular and perpetuate their memory by naming annual education grants in their honour. The first was Betty Jeffrey, OAM, who wrote the book White Coolies based on the secret diary she kept of her experiences as a Japanese prisoner of war on Sumatra from 1942-1945. The second was Vivian Bullwinkel AO, MBE, ARRC, ED, FNM. These nurses, together with those who returned home from captivity had a vision to establish the Centre as a living memorial to those who had perished.

Purchasing a property in St Kilda Road, they not only provided brief periods of accommodation for returned nurses, but also drew together in one, the growing professional organizations including the now Australian Nursing Federation, Nurses Board of Victoria and the Royal College of Nursing, Australia. Thus the site in St Kilda Road became the focal point for the growth of professional nursing organizations. As these professional organizations grew, they moved to larger premises. Today the Centre is a charitable not-for-profit organization that receives no government funding or grants and maintains its activities primarily through investment income, donations and bequests.

As a living memorial, the major aim of the Centre is the advancement of the health of the community nurses outfitthrough the provision of education scholarships. The Centre offers scholarships to all Australian nurses and midwives who possess a strong motivation and drive to undertake postgraduate studies with the
anticipation that the additional skills and experience gained will benefit the broader health and wellbeing of
the community. Since its inception the Centre has provided almost $2 million, in today’s dollar terms, to further the education of nurses and midwives in Australia.

What is the NMC?

NMC is a ‘living memorial’ to the heroism and sacrifice of Australian nurses who gave their life or spent years in Japanese prisoner-of-war camps during the Second World War .

  • ‘Living’ because out of the extraordinary sacrifice of these women was born a desire to support the professionalism and specialised skills of nurses into the future, and
  • ‘Memorial’ because its mission is honouring nurses past, present and future.


The Nurses Memorial Centre will ensure that, in the years to come, it does not forget the great sacrifices made by these remarkable Australian nurses.