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Northern Rivers’ own Florence Nightingale to be honoured


Sharlene King
5 September 2017

From modest beginnings as the daughter of a Richmond River dairy farmer, Ellen Riordan was awarded seven medals for her service in the ANZAC Nursing Corps in both World Wars. Now Southern Cross University will honour the local nurse’s legacy with an annual lecture series.

The inaugural Nell Riordan Lecture, hosted by the School of Health and Human Sciences, will be held on Friday September 8 at 6pm in Lismore. The health community and the general public are invited to attend this free event.

Professor Iain Graham, Head of the School of Health and Human Sciences, created the lecture series after being inspired by the story of the Northern Rivers’ own Florence Nightingale.

“The School believes that the establishment of this series will display respect to Nell’s memory and legacy,” said Professor Graham.

“My aim is that this annual series of lectures will help stimulate discussion around the provision of health and healthcare that is undergoing profound changes nationally and internationally.

“I am grateful that Nurse Riordan's family has supported this initiative to honour our own local ‘Nightingale’.”

Nell Riordan (1889-1978) trained as a nurse at Princess Alexander Hospital in Brisbane. She went to Royal Prince Alfred in Sydney as a probationer in 1911 (and is now listed on the RPA Honour Board) and left in 1915 to take a post at Crown Street Hospital. However by June 1915 she had joined the Australian Army Nursing Service (AANS), the Australian Army Reserve unit which provided a pool of trained civilian nurses who volunteered for military service.

Nell was a member of the 14th Australian General Hospital aboard the hospital ship HMAT Kanowna which transported wounded soldiers from Gallipoli during the ANZAC campaign. Later she was appointed Matron-in-Chief at Choubra Infections Hospital in Cairo, Egypt. Relocating to Greece, she received the Greek Medal of Military Merit in 1919 from King Alexander for her nursing services to Greece. After World War One, Nell nursed in military and civilian hospitals in Kenya and Ethiopia. In 1968 she was accepted into the Gallipoli Legion of ANZACs and when she died in on March 24 1978, she was the last surviving member of the elite group. Nell is buried at Tucki Tucki cemetery.

Nell was awarded seven service medals, which are on display at the Richmond River Historical Society in Lismore:
• First World War: Star; War Medal; Victory Medal
• Second World War: Star; Africa Star; Defence Medal; Victory Medal

Kris Rowlands said she was already proud her great-aunt’s achievements but being recognised by the University was special.

“The family is naturally very proud of her story. Nell was a pioneer and brave, working overseas in conflict zones. Yet she remained very humble about her experiences and challenges.

“Nell would love having her named being linked to medicine in this way with the lecture series.”

The guest lecturer at the inaugural Nell Riordan Lecture is Professor Linda Shields, Professor of Rural Health at Charles Sturt University and an Honorary Professor in the School of Medicine at The University of Queensland.

Professor Shield’s topic is ‘Australia's forgotten World War One hero - Dame Maud McCarthy’.

Event details
Inaugural Nell Riordan Lecture, Friday 8 September at 6pm
Southern Cross University Lismore Campus, Room Z1.81B in Z Block
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