Skip to main content

Morning Tea to celebrate 'The Year of the Nurse and Midwife', Government House


I acknowledge the traditional owners of the land on which we meet, the Ngunnawal People, and pay my respects to their elders, past and present, emerging leaders and all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders gathered here today.

Good morning, all.

Linda and I are delighted to welcome you to Government House for this celebratory event to mark ‘The Year of the Nurse and Midwife’.

I don’t normally begin morning tea with a quote but given the breadth of the enormous contribution made by nurses and midwives over the past year, I think it appropriate to open with some words from the founder of modern nursing, Florence Nightingale: 'I think one’s feelings waste themselves in words. They ought all to be distilled into actions and into actions which bring results.’

‘… into actions … and into actions which bring results.’

That is what you have done.

You are compassionate, caring and capable and have dedicated your working lives to helping people in need. You have achieved outstanding results. And, today — at this formal morning tea — our nation acknowledges your contribution, recognises the value of that contribution, and says thank you.

The nursing and midwifery stars have aligned this year.

The World Health Organization has designated 2020 as ‘The Year of the Nurse and Midwife’ — in recognition of the contribution Nurses and Midwives make to universal health care and positive health outcomes, and in celebration of the 200th anniversary of the birth of Florence Nightingale.

And the theme of International Nurses Day this year — ‘Nursing the world to health’ — is eerily timely, especially when you consider that Florence Nightingale’s published notes on nursing focused on patient-centred care and infection control.

Not that we need an excuse to thank our nurses and midwives, but it is an ideal time to reflect on and to celebrate your outstanding contributions to society.

Today’s event is also about recognising the significant work undertaken by nursing staff in the Australian Defence Force.

Given my background — and this message was reinforced in my mind during the meeting just now with Wing Commander Kimberley Davey, Commander Patricia Kemp and Lieutenant Colonel Serena Lawlor — I know all too well that the role of a Defence Nurse is a truly unique one. Defence Nurses are highly skilled in a range of specialisations and their extra training means they are well equipped to work in challenging, sometimes dangerous, environments.

The Defence Nursing community consists of Defence Nurses from the three Services, as well as nurses from the Australian Public Service and contracted nurses working in Defence health facilities.

Defence Nurses, collectively, make up the largest group of Defence healthcare workers. But, as many Australians have witnessed firsthand, their work is not confined to the ADF. During 2020, Defence Nurses have been involved in a range of tasks to support the bushfire disaster and the fight against COVID-19. These include but are not limited to:

  • face-to face patient care in Garrison and in the civilian sector
  • contact tracing to support the work of the states and territories
  • COVID-19 testing in a variety of settings
  • support to nursing homes and hospitals, particularly in Victoria and Tasmania.

To date, the total ADF Health workforce committed to the national COVID-19 response stands at 700.

I’m informed that many Defence Nurses have had little, if any, time off since late last year as they were called back to work during the fires and then COVID-19. That doesn’t surprise me because I know Australia’s Defence Nurses (and Midwives) do whatever it takes. But, in the same breath, I would encourage you to keep an eye on not only your own mental health but also that of your colleagues. It’s important to do that and to keep an eye on one another.

Today is an occasion on which to celebrate. To hit the pause button — I know many of you will find that difficult — and to enjoy the strong camaraderie that exists amongst the Defence Nursing community and to celebrate your achievements.

This morning tea is an opportunity for Linda and me, on behalf of the nation, to acknowledge your outstanding contribution to society and to sincerely thank you for the critically important work you do.