Address By

Her Excellency the Honourable Quentin Bryce AC CVO

Governor-General of the Commonwealth of Australia


RAAMC & RAANC 110th Anniversary Luncheon

Government House, Canberra

29 June 2013

Colonel Bronwyn Wheeler,
Head of the Royal Australian Army Nursing Corps
Colonel Leonard Brennan,
Acting Head of the Royal Australian Army Medical Corps
Ms Margaret Ewart,
World War II veteran
Vietnam Veterans,
Members of our two esteemed Corps,


Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for joining me at Government House today to celebrate the 110th anniversaries of the Royal Australian Army Medical Corps and the Royal Australian Army Nursing Corps. 

What an auspicious occasion this is – a century plus ten.

I am honoured to be Colonel in Chief of the Medical Corps and I have the fondest memories of that moving ceremony at Enoggera in November 2011 when I presented your new banner.

I spoke then of the inspiring story of Private John Simpson transporting the wounded on his donkey in the middle of “furious shrapnel fire” at Gallipoli.[1]

Fire, that ultimately took his life.

Simpson and his donkey are an enduring symbol of courage and mateship, and the strength of service and support still proudly found in the Medical Corps.

I am privileged also to represent Her Majesty The Queen, who has been Colonel in Chief of the Nursing Corps across her reign.

The Queen has been a symbol of assurance, consistency, dignity and strength during six decades of great change - a model of the commitment to service and dedication to duty which is found in the Nursing Corps.

My conversations with members of the ADF and their families, have shown me how deeply they respect the work of the Medical Corps and the Nursing Corps in all places where you have served.

Your work may not often be acknowledged publically, but you are there on the front line – sometimes literally - dealing with extraordinary situations.

The professionalism you bring ranks with the finest anywhere, even in extreme circumstances. 

Yours is a true vocation which gives the best support and care to our troops in active service makes their health and rehabilitation a priority protects those who protect us.

From visiting Australian troops serving overseas - in Afghanistan, Timor Leste, Solomon Islands – and seeing some of the difficult environments in which they have served in the past – eg, Korea and Vietnam – I am keenly aware of the challenges you face, the odds you overcome.

Your expert work has a distinguished history, even beyond the 110 years we now celebrate.

You can trace your history to the First Fleet, and the five medical officers who arrived in 1788 under the supervision of principal surgeon John White.

Today you must be proud of your 1,950 members, including the Reserves, with many heroes among them. [2]

Outstanding and loved characters like Sir Edward Dunlop, whose legacy lives in your endeavours.

In his care and leadership of fellow prisoners of war on the Burma Thailand railway, Weary Dunlop put his own health at risk.

He stood up for the men under his command even when it brought physical punishment on himself. [3]

His compassion for them continued well after the war, as he advocated for former POWs and gave practical support to many of them.

Members of the Nursing Corps are able to look back at a fine history of service since the start of Australian Military Nursing in Sydney in 1898.

In those days it was just one Lady Superintendent and 24 nurses.

Today you are an impressive Corps of 355 officers [4] providing expert care at home and overseas.

Your history contains many inspiring stories of dedication to duty.

Sister Ellen Savage, for example – with broken bones and a perforated ear drum following the sinking of the Hospital Ship Centaur, still managed to administer medical care to those around her on a makeshift raft.

Sister Ellen stands as a shining light, like the lamp of your badge, revealing what is possible in seemingly impossible conditions.

Throughout my life nurses have had my great admiration, respect and affection.

When my sisters and I were growing up in Western Queensland, the Matron and Nurses at our little hospital were our role models - they were much loved leaders in rural communities.

Across the years I have observed the development of the nursing profession as it has moved into specialisations, research, collaboration and greater opportunities for advanced study.

But nursing has never lost its practical commitment, confidence and competence.

My friends, the celebration of your respective anniversaries is an important opportunity for you to honour your history - the contributions of your predecessors.

Chapters of courage and devotion which have moulded you into the Corps you are today - which motivate you to the same levels of excellence.

As your two mottos declare, they take you onwards “Little by little”, “for humanity” – Paulatim – Pro Humanitate.

It is not just the women and men of the ADF and their families who value your achievements and thank you for what you do.

All Australians are proud of your professionalism, your compassion and your expert skills.

For your healing and caring hands.

Congratulations on this significant milestone, and warmest best wishes for your continuing success.

My friends, it now gives me great pleasure to invite Ms Margaret Ewart to join me in cutting this gorgeous celebratory cake to mark this truly special occasion!