Timeline of nursing history in Australia and New Zealand

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The timeline of nursing history in Australia and New Zealand stretches from the 19th century to the present.

19th century



Sydney hospital attended the site[clarification needed] of the first public hospital in Australia, the Rum Hospital, which was first opened and completed in July 1820s.[citation needed]


  • 1838 – The first trained nurses arrive in Sydney, five Irish Sisters of Charity.[1]


  • 1840 – Settlement of New Zealand as a colony and the establishment of state hospitals.[1]
  • 1841 – People considered to be mentally ill were considered criminals. The first case of insanity in New Zealand's society was recorded in 1841 (Papps, E, 2002).
  • 1847 – Wellington Hospital was established, The first New Zealand Hospital. Giselle's Journal, http://mylittleculturediary.blogspot.co.nz/2012/02/first-new-zealand-hospital-labyrinth.html (Barber, L., & Towers, R. (1976). Wellington Hospital 1847-1976. Wellington: Wellington Hospital Board.)
  • 1848 – The Yarra Bend Asylum was opened so that those mentally ill could be moved out of gaol. This Asylum was later known as Melbourne.[3]


  • 1860-1883 - Approximately 16,378 single women emigrated to New Zealand; 582 identified their occupation as a nurse, monthly nurse, sick nurse, trained nurse, nurse girl, midwife, hospital nurse or professional nurse. Orchard, S. (1997). More ‘ woman of good character’: Nurses who came to New Zealand as immigrant settlers.[4]
  • 1868 – Lucy Osburn and her four Nightingale nurses arrived at Sydney Infirmary (to become Sydney Hospital). They soon start the first nursing school.[1]


  • 1870 – New Zealand had 37 hospitals as a result of the population increase of the gold rush.[5]


  • 1885 – following the Hospital and Charitable Aids Act conditions improved.[6]


  • 1899 – Australasian Trained Nurses Association was founded in New South Wales.[1]
  • 1899-1902 – The years of the South African War. During the 1899-1902 South African (Boer) War, nurses from each state in Australia joined volunteer troops, serving as private citizens or with the British nursing forces. Daly, J. Jackson, D. Speedy, S. (2010). Contexts of nursing (3rd ed.). Chatswood, NSW 2067. Australia. Cecotti,L. Prejudice times meant that although hundreds of female nurses applied there was conflict with those already in the military. Few however did serve in South Africa.[1]

20th century



  • 1910 – Akenehi Hei, the first qualified Maori Nurse in New Zealand dies on 28 November 1910 after contracting typhoid from family members.[13]



  • 1938 – The New Zealand Social Security Act of 1938 marks the introduction of a comprehensive health system that mandated the provision of free care for all.[1]
  • 1939 – Registering of nursing aides commenced in New Zealand[15]
  • 1939-1945 – Australian and New Zealand nurses serve outside their countries in World War II.[1]



  • 1967 – New Zealand nursing undergo changes from being hospital-based apprenticeships to tertiary education institutions.[17]


  • 1971 – The Carpenter Report was released; a review released by New Zealand centred around the nursing education system, the report advocated training nurses in an educational environment. The government however decided that polytechs, not universities, were more appropriate for this; however the consequences of this were that nurses were only diploma level not degree level.[1]
  • 1973 – Christchurch and Wellington Polytechnics offer diploma-level nursing education; Massey and Victoria Universities (Wellington) start their post-registration bachelor's degrees.[1]
  • 1975 – First nursing diploma program in Australia in a College of Advanced Education (CAE) in Melbourne, followed quickly by programs in New South Wales, South Australia and Western Australia.[18]



  • 1990 – Last student graduated from New Zealand hospital program.[20]
  • 1992 – "Cultural safety" was made a requirement for nursing and midwifery education programs by the Nursing Council of New Zealand. Cultural safety allows effective nursing of patients and/or family members of those of another culture by a nurse who has reflected on one's own cultural identity and understands the impact of differing cultures in nursing practice and patient care. (Papps & Ramsden, 1996)
  • 1992 – The Australian and New Zealand national governments signed a Mutual Recognition Agreement. (Daly, Speedy & Jackson, 2010)[21]
  • 1996 – The Flight Nurse Association was created by the New Zealand Nurses Organisation (NZNO) to recognise the need of training and education of the same standards throughout New Zealand.[22]

21st century


  • 2000 – Review of undergraduate nursing education by New Zealand Nursing Council[1]
  • 2002 – Deborah Harris, New Zealand's first Nurse Practitioner.[23]
  • 2004 – The Health Practitioners Competence Assurance (2003) Act comes into full power on 18 September, in New Zealand, these cover the requirements for nurses to have current competences relating to their scope of practice.[24]
  • 2005 – The Nursing Council of New Zealand published a comprehensive guideline on cultural safety in nursing education and practice.[1]
  • 2010 – A national registration for all nurses and midwives comes into force in Australia in July 2010. (Daly, Speedy & Jackson, 2010)[21]
  • 2010 – Nurses' Health Study 3 begins enrolling: Female RNs, LPNs, and nursing students 20-46 are encouraged to join this long-term women's health study. Study remains open until 100,000 nurses are enrolled.[19]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n Crisp & Taylor, 2009
  2. ^ Crisp & Taylor (2009) Fundamentals of Nursing, Milestones in Nursing History: Elsevier, Australia. (3rd Ed., Ch, 1, pp 4.) Pub. Houstan, L.
  3. ^ Crisp, J., & Taylor, C. (2009). Fundamentals of nursing (3rd ed., p.4), Chatswood, Australia: Elsevier Australia
  4. ^ during the period 1860 to 1883. In N.Chick & J.Rodgers (Eds.) Looking back, moving forward: Essays in the history of New Zealand nursing and midwifery (pp. 5–16).
  5. ^ (Potter and Perry's fundamentals of nursing. Crisp & Taylor, 2009, page 4
  6. ^ (MacDonald,1990)
  7. ^ Lyon (May 1977). "Short history of PHWS (Private Hospital, Wakefield Street) First= E. E.". The Australasian Nurses Journal. 6 (10): 18. ISSN 0301-018X.
  8. ^ Dock, Short History, p 268
  9. ^ Sue Light. "British Military Nurses - Scarlet Finders". scarletfinders.co.uk.
  10. ^ "Māori nurses – Women's health – Te Ara Encyclopedia of New Zealand". teara.govt.nz.
  11. ^ "History of Nursing in New Zealand". Health Times.
  12. ^ Wood, P.J.,(2008). Professional, practice and political issues in the history of New Zealand's remote rural 'backblocks' nursing: The case of Mokau, 1910-1940. Contemporary Nurse: A Journal for the Australian Nursing Profession,30(2), 168-178
  13. ^ Dow, D. (2009). Remembering the unsung heroines. New Zealand Doctor, 36.
  14. ^ Crisp, Taylor, Douglas & Rebeiro, 2013
  15. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 10 February 2013. Retrieved 19 July 2012.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  16. ^ Smith, Russell G. (1999). In Pursuit of Nursing Excellence. A History of the Royal College of Nursing, Australia 1949-99. Various libraries: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-551051-8.
  17. ^ Adlam, K; Dotchin, M.; Hayward, S. (2009). "Nursing first year of practice, past, present and future: documenting the journey in New Zealand". Journal of Nursing Management. 17 (5): 570–575. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2834.2008.00932.x. PMID 19575715.
  18. ^ Crisp, J., Taylor, C., Douglas, C., & Rebeiro, G. (2013)
  19. ^ a b Dave. "Home - Nurses' Health Study". nhs3.org.
  20. ^ Crisp & Taylor, 2009, p 4
  21. ^ a b Daly, J., Speedy, S., & Jackson, D. (2010). Contexts of Nursing. (3rd ed). Sydney, Australia: Churchill Livingstone Elsevier.
  22. ^ "New Zealand Flight Nurses Association (NZNO)". nzno.org.nz.
  23. ^ "Our people". Waikato Newsroom. Archived from the original on 13 October 2014.
  24. ^ "Health Practitioners Competence Assurance Act". Ministry of Health NZ.


  • Allan, V. (2004). A new way of living: the history of the Spinal Injuries Unit in Christchurch. The Guttmann Story (pp. 7). Christchurch, New Zealand: Canterbury District Health Board.
  • Bullough, Vern L. and Bullough, Bonnie. The Care of the Sick: The Emergence of Modern Nursing (1978).
  • Craven, Ruth F., & Hirnle, Constance J. (2007). Fundamentals of nursing: Human health and function (5th ed). Philadelphia, PA: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.
  • Craven, R F., & Hirnle, C J. (2009) Fundamentals of nursing: Human health and function (6th ed). Philadelphia, PA: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.
  • Crisp, J., & Taylor, C. (2009). Potter & Perry's fundamental of nursing (3rd ed.). Chatswood, Australia : Elsevier Australia.
  • Crisp, J., Taylor, C., Douglas, C., Rebeiro, G. (2013). Potter & Perry's fundamentals of nursing (4th ed.). Elsevier Australia.
  • Dingwall, Robert, Anne Marie Rafferty, Charles Webster. An Introduction to the Social History of Nursing (Routledge, 1988)
  • Donahue, M. Patricia. Nursing, The Finest Art: An Illustrated History (3rd ed. 2010), includes over 400 illustrations; 416pp
  • Harris, Kirsty. Girls in Grey: Surveying Australian Military Nurses in World War I History Compass (Jan 2013) 11#1 PP 14–23, online free, with detailed bibliography
  • Papps, E., (2002). Nursing in New Zealand. Auckland, New Zealand: Pearson Education New Zealand.
  • Papps, E., & Ramsden, I. (1996). International Journal for Quality Healthcare. Vol 8, No 5, pp. 491–497
  • Wood, Pamela J. and Maralyn Foureur. "Exploring the maternity archive of the St Helens Hospital, Wellington, New Zealand, 1907-22," in New Directions in the History of Nursing: International Perspectives ed by Barbara Mortimer and Susan McGann. (Routledge, 2004) pp 179–93 online

Further reading