Australian Nurses Memorial – Melbourne, Australia - Atlas Obscura

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Australian Nurses Memorial

A poignant memorial to remember the Australian nurses who lost their lives during the Second World War. 


The Australian Nurses Memorial Center is a “living memorial” to the Australian nurses who lost their lives during World War II. The organization was set up by Betty Jeffrey and Vivian Bullwinkel, two nurses who served during the war. Both Jeffrey and Bullwinkel were survivors who showed remarkable heroism through their careers and this memorial pays tribute to their colleagues who tragically lost their lives. 

Bullwinkel was the only survivor of the 1942 Bangka Island Massacre, one of the darkest days in Australian military history. She was one of 265 passengers on board the SS Vyner Brooke, a small ship that was bombed by the Japanese on February 14, 1942. Of these passengers, 65 were nurses serving their country. Twelve of the nurses were lost at sea, and 22 made their way to Radji Beach in Singapore, where they were rounded up by the Japanese military and forced to walk into the ocean at gunpoint before being shot in the back.

Bullwinkel was the only survivor of this group after being shot in the diaphragm and feigning death. After crawling to the shore and then spending 12 days in the jungle, she surrendered to the Japanese and was placed in a prisoner of war camp for the next three years. In captivity, a further eight nurses who were originally onboard the SS Vyner Brooke lost their lives.

This is just one story of both heroism and tragedy among nurses in Australia and this location is a touching tribute to the sacrifice for those who gave so much to help others. The Australian Nurses Memorial Center is an organisation who to this day aim to inspire a new generation of nurses, while at the same time paying respect and offering support such as scholarships to those currently in the profession. They aim to share stories of both past and present to remember the nursing heroes. 

Know Before You Go

The memorial can be found on St Kilda Road at the bottom of Fawkner Towers. It can be found between the two flag poles. Around the corner on Slater Street is the organization's office. 

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October 25, 2021

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