Healthcare Opinion

Honouring resilience: Lieutenant Colonel Vivian Bullwinkel and the impact on nurses, especially Filipino nurses in Australia

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As nurses in Australia eagerly anticipate the forthcoming unveiling and dedication ceremony of Lieutenant Colonel Vivian Bullwinkel at the Australian War Memorial, we find ourselves standing at the threshold of a significant moment in nursing history.

The ceremony holds great meaning for nurses across the nation, but it carries a special resonance for Filipino nurses, who have played a crucial role in shaping Australia’s healthcare landscape. Lieutenant Colonel Vivian Bullwinkel’s story is one of resilience, courage and unwavering dedication.

As a survivor of the Bangka Island massacre during World War II, she represents the epitome of nursing – selfless care, compassion and strength in the face of adversity.

The forthcoming ceremony is a powerful tribute to the countless nurses who have served in the Australian Defence Force and cared for wounded soldiers on the frontlines. It symbolises the recognition and appreciation of nurses’ vital role in providing care during times of war and peace.

Lieutenant Colonel Vivian Bullwinkel

Portrait of Lieutenant Colonel Vivian Bullwinkel Courtesy: Australian War Memorial

For nurses across Australia, the unveiling and dedication of Lieutenant Colonel Bullwinkel is a profound moment of remembrance and gratitude.

We are reminded of the sacrifices made by our nursing predecessors, who risked their lives to provide comfort and healing to those in dire need. This ceremony not only commemorates Lieutenant Colonel Bullwinkel’s extraordinary service but also serves as a reminder of the bravery and resilience that all nurses possess in the face of adversity. 

In the words of Adjunct Professor Kylie Ward, CEO of the Australian College of Nursing, “I feel a great sense of responsibility to keep her memory alive, and those of her colleagues. Lieutenant Colonel Vivian Bullwinkel was a giant of change and transformation for our profession. She was also a formidable Australian hero whose name and face should be known by all.” 

Ward’s statement captures the essence of the ceremony and the impact it has on nurses across the country. It is time to reflect on the courage and dedication that unites nurses as a profession, transcending time and borders. 

However, this ceremony carries an even deeper significance for Filipino nurses in Australia. Filipino nurses have been an integral part of the Australian healthcare system for decades, contributing immensely to patient care and the overall well-being of the population. Many of us have left our homeland, family and friends in search of better opportunities and a chance to serve in a foreign land.

Lieutenant Colonel Bullwinkel’s dedication ceremony is a powerful recognition of the contributions of Filipino nurses to Australia’s healthcare sector. It celebrates the rich diversity and cultural heritage we bring to the profession and reaffirms our commitment to providing compassionate care to those in need.

It also serves as a reminder of the sacrifice and resilience that many Filipino nurses embody as they navigate the challenges of being far away from their loved ones. It is a tribute to the strength and courage that drives us to deliver the highest standard of care, even in unfamiliar environments. 

The ceremony highlights the importance of recognising the significant contributions of migrant nurses to the Australian healthcare system. Like many others, Filipino nurses have embraced the opportunity to work abroad, providing much-needed care and filling essential roles in the healthcare workforce. Our dedication and expertise have enriched the Australian healthcare landscape and strengthened the nation’s healthcare delivery. 

For Filipino nurses in Australia, this ceremony fosters a sense of community and unity. It unites us in pride and inspiration, reminding us of the shared journey we have undertaken to serve in a foreign land, upholding the values and ideals of nursing. We celebrate Lieutenant Colonel Bullwinkel’s legacy as one that resonates with our own experiences – a dedication to caring for others, no matter the circumstances. 

As we come together to honour Lieutenant Colonel Bullwinkel’s legacy, we must also acknowledge the challenges that nurses face in the modern healthcare system. The ceremony presents an opportunity to advocate for improved working conditions, equitable remuneration, and greater recognition of the indispensable role nurses play in society. 

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As Executive Director of Filipino Nursing Diaspora Network, Dr. Babate spearheads strategic initiatives, nurturing a strong sense of community among Filipino nurses across the globe. His visionary leadership fosters collaboration, empowers nurses, and advocates for the recognition of their invaluable contributions in the healthcare sector.

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Professor Violeta Lopez, RN, PhD, FACN is a trailblazing figure in the nursing community, renowned for her exceptional academic achievements and unwavering dedication to promoting nursing excellence. As President of the Filipino Nursing Diaspora Network, she leads the organisation with utmost passion, commitment, and an emphasis on cultural inclusivity. Her expertise in nursing research inspires innovative strategies to empower Filipino nurses worldwide.

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