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Sister Mary Walsh MBE

Tasmanian Honour Roll of Women logo
Mary Walsh

Awarded for service to Health, service to the Community

Born: 1914

Died: 1998

Entered on roll: 2005

Mary was a pillar of society in North East Tasmania, she took the place of a local doctor, she was on call 24 hours a day and never complained at 3 am calls. The community delighted in presenting her with a car and a home, and even shared their farm produce with her, which in turn she shared with the needy. (Eulogy 1998)

Mary Walsh and her twin brother were born in Strathalbyn, in South Australia. There were 10 children in the family. She completed her general nursing training at the Royal Adelaide Hospital and her midwifery training at the Queen Alexandra Hospital in Hobart.

Mary was Lilydale’s longest serving bush nurse, working there from 1940 until 1974. In the tradition of bush nursing, the Lilydale community was responsible for funding close to half of her annual salary. A nurse’s wages were dependent on the district’s commitment to fundraising. The people of Lilydale and the surrounding community sold eggs, jam and produce, as well as holding dances and an annual Bush Nursing Ball, to fund her wages. The Lilydale Council supplied her with a car and a home was found for her in the community. Her first surgery was in a former garage with no electricity. A Bush Nursing Centre was opened in 1948.

In 1953, it was reported that Mary travelled more than 800 miles a month to care for her patients. She delivered more than 40 babies during her career and there were no deaths, despite these deliveries taking place in cars, bush huts and private homes. She often drove mothers in labour to the hospital in Launceston.

Mary attended all local domestic sicknesses and injury, assisted men injured in sawmilling accidents or in the bush, and conducted a weekly child health clinic and regular medical checks at the local schools.

When Mary retired in 1974, her home was donated to the community and it became a base for the District Nursing Service. Mary returned to Adelaide and cared for her sister for a number of years. She was made a Member of the Order of the British Empire in 1966 in recognition of her dedicated service to her adopted community. In 2002, the Lilydale Community Day Care Centre was renamed the ‘Mary Walsh Centre’.

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