The Australian War Memorial has unveiled a sculpture of Lieutenant Colonel Vivian Bullwinkel AO, MBE, ARRC, ED, in the grounds of the Australian War Memorial, the first of an individual nurse or woman.
This sculpture will stand as a constant reminder of her exceptional military service and importance to the story of Australian nursing.
A collaborative project with the Australian College of Nursing, the sculpture recognises not only Bullwinkel, but all Australian nurses who have lost their lives, survived atrocities or made sacrifices while serving their country.
“I’m inspired by the thought that generations of children to come will see a figure in bronze of a nurse and midwife at the Australian War Memorial,” Australian College of Nursing CEO, Adjunct Professor Kylie Ward, FACN, FACHSM, Wharton Fellow, GAICD, said.
“The sculpture will be a powerful and long-lasting symbol of nurses’ selfless service to Australia and its citizens whether in war or in peace.”
Dr Charles Robb, a Brisbane-based artist, was chosen to create the work through an invitation design submission. Robb’s work tells more than just Bullwinkel’s personal story, but has captured the challenges and accomplishments of all Australian nurses.
“I've had the joy of spending the last few years spending time with and obviously working on the sculpture but also researching into Vivian’s awe-inspiring life,” Dr Robb said.
“The key thing that I wanted to achieve was to capture a likeness and a sense of the way she carried herself in the world. This quite strong and self-contained individual while reflecting the perseverance that drove her.”
The sculpture includes 22 inlaid stainless steel discs reflecting the 22 women killed in the Banka Island Massacre. The discs are arranged at the base of the sculpture as a reflection of the stars that would have been visible in the night sky on 16 February 1942.
Australian War Memorial Director, Matt Anderson said: "We are deeply grateful for the opportunity to commemorate Vivian Bullwinkel.”
“Vivian’s name should be renowned in every Australian household, as should the story of her inspirational life as a courageous leader, a proud nurse and the first woman to serve on the Council of the Australian War Memorial.”
Head of Art at the Australian War Memorial, Laura Webster, said: “Charles Robb has created a truly moving sculpture that represents the strength, kindness and warmth that comes across from reading about her incredible life.”
“Vivian Bullwinkel’s story is now set permanently in bronze at the Australian War Memorial.”