Bullwinkel bronzed at Australian War Memorial

A sculpture of Broken Hill nurse and midwife, Lieutenant Colonel Vivian Bullwinkel, has been unveiled in the grounds of the Australian War Memorial – the first of an individual nurse, or woman.

The sculpture will allow Ms Bullwinkel’s story to forever be set in stone and serve as a reminder of her military service and importance to Australian nursing, while also recognises fellow Australian nurses who have lost their lives, survived atrocities, or made sacrifices while serving their country.

“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”, Head of Art at the Australian War Memorial, Laure Webster, said.

The sculpture’s design includes 22 inlaid stainless-steel discs, reflecting the 22 women killed in the Banka Island massacre – of which Ms Bullwinkel was the lone survivor – with the discs arranged at the base of the sculpture as a reflection of the stars that would have been visible in the night sky on the night of February 16, 1942.

“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 inspiration life as a courageous leader, a proud nurse, and the first woman to service on the Council of the Australian War Memorial,” Australian War Memorial Director, Matt Anderson, said.

Australian College of Nursing CEO, Adjunct Professor Kylie Ward, said she was “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,” adding “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”.

Brisbane-based artist Dr Charles Robb was chosen to design the collaborative project between the Australian War Memorial and the Australian College of Nursing, with the work doing more than just telling the war hero’s story.

“I’ve had the joy of spending the last few years 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.”

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