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Byron Shire
December 1, 2022

Northern Rivers’ own Florence Nightingale

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Nurse Nell Riordan. Photo supplied.
Nurse Nell Riordan. Photo supplied.

Ellen Riordan, known as ‘Nell’, was awarded seven medals for her service in the ANZAC Nursing Corps in both World Wars. Southern Cross University will now honour the local nurse’s legacy with an annual lecture series that is aimed at stimulating discussion around the provision of health and healthcare.

Nell came from modest beginnings as the daughter of a Richmond River dairy farmer and trained as a nurse at the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital in Sydney where she is now listed on the RPA Honour Board

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.

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.

Riordan family support

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 inaugural Nell Riordan Lecture, will be held on Friday September 8 at 6pm in Lismore and both the health community and the general public are invited to attend.

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’.

The lecture will be held at Southern Cross University Lismore Campus, Room Z1.81B in Z Block. RSVP and more information: [email protected]


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