An Excellent Group Of Women.


Some of you would know of Terrigal on the Central Coast of New South Wales with its beautiful beaches making it popular with locals and tourists alike. Back in the 1940’s it was a sleepy fishing village with a population of less than 500.

During World War 2 the Surf Lifesaving Association of Australia (SLSA) was stretched to provide rescue services along the beaches anywhere along the Australian Coast. From the Surf Club at Terrigal only four men were available to patrol the beaches when 72 men went off to war.

This led the female members of the club – mostly wives, sweethearts and sisters – to ask permission to become lifesavers. Their application to the controlling body failed though this did not deter them.

They were trained in surf lifesaving skills by chief instructor Harry Vickery and were assessed by Central Coast Life Saving’s inaugural president Dr E.A. Martin. In two exams some 30 women qualified for the equivalent of the bronze medallion, receiving certificates on Terrigal beach and going on to volunteer to patrol the area over the summer seasons.

These young women undertook their duties with enthusiasm and passion. They even made their own swimming costumes and uniforms out of sheets, curtains and the odd parachute­ despite not having been awarded their bronze medallions.

At wars end 70 men returned and resumed lifesaving duties with the women being relegated to their previous tasks.

It wasn’t until 75 years later in 2017 that the women who patrolled the beaches of Terrigal during World War 2 , those “peaches of the beaches”, were finally recognised. They were awarded their Bronze Medallions, most posthumously to the families, as well as a special Terrigal Parliamentary Award to acknowledge their contribution to the community.

The Surf Life Saving Association finally admitted women as full members in 1980 and now benefit from more than 80,000 dedicated female members of all ages across Australia contributing in activities from active patrolling, to surf sports, education and everything in between.

Celebrating the women from our past to the present who have helped shape Australia.
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Nancy Wake (1912- 2011)

AKA -The White Mouse

Born in New Zealand Nancy relocated to Sydney, Australia, as a child along with the rest of her family. She trained as a nurse and a journalist and moved to Paris in the 1930’s.

When World War 2 commenced she was living in Marseille with her French husband. When France fell to Nazi Germany in 1940, Wake became a courier for an established escape network where she helped Allied airmen evade capture by the Germans and escape to Spain which was neutral. She herself fled to Spain in 1943 and continued on to the United Kingdom when the Germans became aware of her activities, calling her The White Mouse. Her husband was captured and executed.

In Britain, Wake joined the Special Operations Executive (SOE) under the code name”Helene”. In April 1944 as a member of a three-person SOE team code-named “Freelance”, she parachuted into occupied France to liaise between the SOE and several Maquis groups, participating in a battle between the Maquis and a large German force weeks later. At the aftermath of the battle, a defeat for the maquis, she claimed to have bicycled 500 kilometers to send a situation report to SOE in London.

Immediately after the war, Wake was awarded the George Medal,[36] the United States Medal of Freedom, the Médaille de la Résistance, and thrice, the Croix de Guerre. She worked for the intelligence department at the British Air Ministry, attached to embassies in Paris and Prague.

It was not until February 2004 that Wake was made a Companion of the Order of Australia.In April 2006, she was awarded the Royal New Zealand Returned and Services’ Association‘s highest honour, the RSA Badge in Gold. Wake’s medals are on display in the Second World War gallery at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra.

Wake remarried in 1957 and returned to Australia with her husband.

Her autobiography is a fascinating read and numerous other books have been written ( as well as movie scripts) about her courageous deeds.

“I don’t see why we women should just wave our men a proud goodbye and then knit them balaclavas.” – Nancy Wake

Celebrating the women from our past to the present who have helped shape Australia.
#AtoZChallenge


NOTE:

When my daughters were in Primary School all those years ago there was an occasion where they celebrated famous Australians. Each child had to do a presentation about their favourite Australian.

There were talks about pop stars, cricket players – especially Shane Warne, and celebrities such as Steve Irwin, Wildlife Warrior.

When it was Pocahontas’ turn she did a flawless presentation on The White Mouse. God love her……

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Veena Sahajwalla

Veena Sahajwalla was named one of Australia’s 100 most influential engineers as well as one of Australia’s most innovative engineers by Engineers Australia 2015 and 2016 respectively. She is Professor of Materials Science in the Faculty of Science at UNSW Australia and also the Director of the UNSW SM@RT Centre for Sustainable Materials Research and Technology and an Australian Research Council Laureate Fellow. She also runs a mentoring program for women in science called Science 50:50 with the Australian Research Council which aims to inspire Australian women to pursue degrees and careers in science and technology. In 2022 Veena was recognised as the NSW Australian of the Year.

Before we share what this trailblazer has achieved – and boy, has she achieved- a little about Veena’s motivation :

Born in Mumbai, India, Veena saw first hand the piles of waste and the “pickers” who went through it on a daily basis looking for something reusable. This sparked her interest in saving waste from landfill.

She was one of a handful of women in India to study Engineering and gained a Material Science doctorate from the United States before relocating to Australia and is known internationally as the Inventor of ‘green steel’.  Essentially that means that recycled truck tires are a sustainable alternative to using coal as an environmentally friendly process that could prevent over 2 million tires from being diverted to landfills each year while simultaneously creating a renewable energy source. Tires can be ground into pellets and be used instead of coal as they release fewer greenhouse gases.

She also launched the first e-waste microfactory, which processes metal alloys from old laptops, circuit boards and smartphones in 2020. At the height of the pandemic, Professor Sahajwalla’s team turned the plastics from old printers into face shields for health workers at Port Macquarie Hospital. Her most recent success has been using old beer bottles and ageing mattresses, breaking them down and turning them into ceramic tiles for use in buildings.

What a woman!

Celebrating the women from our past to the present who have helped shape Australia.
#AtoZChallenge

UNITED

The Country Women’s Association of Australia , more commonly known as the CWA , is the largest women’s organisation in Australia. It has 44,000 members across 1855 branches. Its aims are to improve the conditions for country women and children and to try to make life better for women and their families, especially those women living in rural and remote Australia. The organisation is self-funded, nonpartisan and nonsectarian.

Formed in 1922 Australia Post is acknowledging the centenary of the CWA and all the good it has achieved in keeping rural women connected, and advocating on key issues such as access to medical and education services.

I think it fair to say that there is no such thing as an Aussie who hasn’t enjoyed a scone cooked from a recipe from the CWA (fundraising) Cook Book. 

Cheryl Thompson and The Desert Dreaming Centre



Cheryl Thompson is a First Nations Woman who left Barcaldine for University to obtain a degree in teaching after matriculating locally in 1988. She returned to her home town 25 years later where she has proved herself a true change-maker.


Thompson is the owner of the popular Ridgee Didge Cafe situated on the main road through town which employs indigenous students from remote towns who have come to Barcaldine for their schooling. Known as “Desert Murris” the School of the Air is not an option for their education because of lack of internet and other facilities. Cheryl not only runs the Hostel (without any Government funding) which accommodates these students but also offers them weekend shifts at the Cafe in order to teach the youngsters about responsibilities, work ethic, and managing their own finances. 


The students from the hostel are also involved in traditional Aboriginal activities and learn about the local Iningai history of the area through Thompson’s recently opened Desert Dreaming Centre, where they follow a curriculum that combines school work with learning about culture, art and tourism. A dedicated work room is strewn with artists’ materials where the students work on projects which are then sold at the Desert Dreaming Centre’s Art Gallery. Importantly, these students currently have a 100 per cent school attendance rate.


The Desert Dreaming Centre is also a tourist destination from which Thompson offers a variety of authentic aboriginal cultural experiences with the aim of “sharing the Dreaming”. Activities include Ocre Workshops, Boomerang Workshops, and creating artworks and message sticks. Sitting around a corroboree ring stories, song, and dances are shared, often involving the students, who are also being trained in other arms of Cheryl’s business activities such as the Barcy Base Camp (hospitality) and Trackers Tour Company. The latter includes the concept of Dreamtime Guides who are trained by Cheryl to present culturally appropriate and culturally safe information.


Cheryl is currently establishing a Bush Tucker Food Garden that will provide native Australian ingredients to be used during cooking demonstration classes with indigenous flavours added to dishes for their on-site restaurant.


Cheryl Thompson is a vibrant young woman who strives with passion and enthusiasm to  “close the gap” and “share the Dreaming”. She is most definitely another trailblazer.

Celebrating the women from our past to the present who have helped shape Australia.
#AtoZChallenge

Dr Hannah Helen Sexton  (1862 – 1950)



Better known as Helen this inspirational woman completed her Arts Degree in 1880. In 1887 she challenged contemporary female gender restrictions by approaching the Melbourne University Council for permission to become amongst the first women to enrol in medicine. Helen was the third woman to graduate in 1892 (MB,BS).


Along with Dr Constance Stone and six others she founded the first women’s hospital in Victoria – Queen Victoria Hospital for Women and Children – and became the first female honorary gynaecological surgeon at any Victorian hospital.


After having relocated to Europe Helen applied to join the British Army upon the declaration of World War 1. When her application was rejected she opted to fundraise for her own military hospital. The tented Hopital Australien de Paris in France opened in July 1915 and Helen was awarded the rank of Major within the French army.


She then took up a surgical position in the nearby Val de Grace Military Hospital which specialised in reconstructive surgery on injured soldiers.


After the war Helen resumed her practice at Toorak in Melbourne.





You can read about this trailblazing woman, along with at least 20 other Australian female doctors, who ignored official military policy and headed to the frontlines during World War 1 in Women To The Front. It is a fascinating read about history that remained almost invisible for 100 years.

Celebrating the women from our past to the present who have helped shape Australia.
#AtoZChallenge

Alice (Alys) Ross-King ( 1887- 1968 )


Prior to WW1 Alice became a qualified nurse becoming a theatre sister and acting Matron in a Private Hospital in Melbourne. In 1914 she enlisted as a staff nurse in the Australian Army Nursing Service, Australian Imperial Force, where she hyphenated her name so as not to become confused with another Alice King.

During 1915 Alice served in hospitals and hospital ships in Egypt and the Suez caring for soldiers from the Gallipoli campaign. In early 1916 she transferred to France where she served with No. 1 Australian General Hospital at Rouen in a stationary hospital taking care of soldiers who had served at the Somme before joining No. 2 Australian Casualty Clearing Station (2CCS), located close to the trenches near Armentières.

Ross-King had only been at the hospital for five days when it was bombed on the night of 22 July 1917. Four men were killed in the bombing and 15 others injured. Ross-King who was just finishing a shift returned to the wards and continued to care for the patients in the ward despite the fact that the canvas tents had collapsed on top of her and the casualties. Alice and the other nurses were described as busy “either carrying patients to safety or placing tables over their beds in an effort to protect them.” Alice and three other nurses were awarded the Military Medal for their actions during the attack. Ross-King was one of only seven nurses of the A.A.N.S. to be awarded the Military Medal during World War I.

Alice had become engaged to an AIF officer who was killed at Fromelles in July 1916. However, on her voyage home in early 1919 she met Dr Sydney Appleford who she married. They settled in Lang Lang, Victoria where they raised four children.

She helped Sydney with his practice at the same time training young women as members of the Voluntary Aid Detachments (VADs) who helped out on troop trains, canteens and Red Cross convalescent homes. With the outbreak of WW2 Alice enlisted into the VAD and when in 1942 that morphed into the Australian Army Medical Women’s Service (AAMWS) Alice was commissioned with the rank of major and appointed senior assistant controller for Victoria responsible for all AAMWS in the state of Victoria.

In 1949 Alice was awarded the Florence Nightingale Medal and in 1951 she resigned from the Army.

The Alice Appleford Memorial Award is presented annually to a non commissioned serving member of the Royal Australian Army Nursing Corps by the Ex-A.A.W.M.S. Association to perpetuate her memory.
Peter Rees book “ANZAC Girls” is the story of many courageous nurses from World War 1 taken from diaries and other historical documents held by the Australian War Memorial. It was made into a television series of the same name by the Australian Broadcasting Commission. The endeavours of Alice Ross-King are just one of the many highlighted. A five star read.


Celebrating the women from our past to the present who have helped shape Australia.
#AtoZChallenge

Queenie McKenzie ( 1915 – 1998)

Queenie (or Mingmarriya) was born on the banks of the Ord River in the Kimberleys to an indigenous mother and white father at a time when children with mixed parentage were often removed by the Government and sent to an institution. In an effort to keep her safe her mother rubbed charcoal into her skin enabling Queenie to remain on the cattle station where she worked as a cook and gained a love and understanding of country. She is quoted as saying “Every rock, every hill, every water, I know that place backwards and forwards, up and down, inside out. It’s my country and I got names for every place”.

She displayed this feel for the land in her contemporary Indigenous art which remains among Australia’s most collectible with many artworks being autobiographical, and others depicting the violent colonial past.

McKenzie’s importance has been recognized by the government of Western Australia, which declared her as a “State Living Treasure” the year of her death.


Celebrating the women from our past to the present who have helped shape Australia.
#AtoZChallenge

Michelle Payne  (1985 – )



William Shakespeare wrote In a Midsummer Night’s Dream, “ Though she be but little she is fierce”. He could have been writing about Michelle Payne.


The youngest of 10 children, Michelle followed in the footsteps of seven of her siblings by becoming a jockey, a male dominated industry.


Growing up on a farm in Central Victoria, Michelle is the youngest daughter of the ten children of Paddy and Mary Payne. Tragically, Michelle’s mother Mary died in a motor vehicle accident when Michelle was only six months old, leaving Paddy to raise the children as a single father. A career in the saddle always beckoned for Michelle and she rode in her first competitive race at the age of 15 on a horse trained by her father.


Michelle suffered several major injuries in her racing career though these never impeded her desire to ride. As a young girl cleaning out her father’s stables her dream was to win the Melbourne Cup.


In November 2015, Payne was the first woman to ride the winner of the Melbourne Cup in its 155 year history when she steered 100-1 shot Prince Of Penzance to victory ( coincidentally wearing the colours of the suffragette movement: purple, green and white.)


The training strategy used in the lead-up to the race included a consistent horse-jockey relationship. Payne said, “It’s not all about strength, there is so much more involved, getting the horse to try for you, it’s being patient.”


In her speech after her Cup win Payne famously said that “ ……… they think women aren’t strong enough but we just beat the world”. She later said that she hoped her win “helps female jockeys”.


She took out her training license in 2016 and has trained over 30 winners, has ridden 770 career winners and continues to work alongside her brother Stevie.


In October 2016, she was awarded the Don Award at the Sport Australia Hall of Fame awards. The Don Award is “awarded to a sportsperson who, ……, is considered to have most inspired the nation”.

In May 2017, Payne received international recognition when awarded the Longine Ladies Award in America. The award paid tribute to “distinguished women whose careers have shown a positive influence and exceptional commitment to the equine cause”.

In 2021 Payne was awarded the  Medal of the Order of Australia in the 2021 Australia Day Honours.


The movie, Ride Like A Girl released in 2019, portrays the realisation of Michelle’s dream. ( Note : the film was ripped by critics but had audiences cheering and clapping in their seats.)

Celebrating the women from our past to the present who have helped shape Australia.
#AtoZChallenge

ODE


This time next week, on the 25th of April, Australians and New Zealanders will commemorate ANZAC Day.

The Ode of Remembrance has been recited to commemorate wartime service and sacrifice since 1921. The Ode is the 4th stanza of the poem For the Fallen by Laurence Binyon.

In 1919, Binyon’s poem was selected to accompany the unveiling of the London Cenotaph and was adopted as a memorial tradition by many Commonwealth nations. The poem was read at the laying of the Inauguration Stone at the Australian War Memorial in 1929.

Ode of Remembrance

They shall grow not old,
as we that are left grow old;
Age shall not weary them,
nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun
and in the morning
We will remember them.

Response:

We will remember them
Lest we forget

At this time it is important to remember all the woman who have served or who are serving in the Defence Forces in the many varied roles. We remember our nurses, doctors, and VADs, as well as the women who worked on the land ensuring the nation remained fed. Of equal importance are all the mothers, wives, sisters and sweethearts, who “kept the home fires burning……”.

Celebrating the women from our past to the present who have helped shape Australia.
#AtoZChallenge