Nurses’ Memorial Candlelight Vigil
Representing the Premier, Minister for Health and Ambulance Services, the Honourable Yvette D’Ath MP; Leader of the Opposition, Shadow Minister for Tourism, Shadow Minister for Olympics and Paralympics, Mr David Crisafulli MP; Federal Member for Brisbane, Assistant Minister for Waste Reduction and Environmental Management, Mr Trevor Evans MP; President, Centaur Memorial Fund for Nurses, Colonel Julie Finucane OAM RFD; Vice-President, Centaur Memorial Fund for Nurses, Dr Judith Dean; President, Defence Service Nurses RSL Queensland Sub-Branch, Major Ann Martin; Acting Chief Nursing and Midwifery Officer Queensland, Ms Deborah Miller; other dignitaries and distinguished guests.
I begin by acknowledging the traditional custodians of the lands on which we gather, and extend my greatest respects to Elders past, present and emerging, and to all First Nations people who have served and continue to serve our country in the armed forces.
This evening we gather in the calmness of Brisbane’s Anzac Square to reflect on a shocking event that brought war closer to our city than it ever has, before or since.
On the 14th of May 1943, Japanese torpedoes sank the Australian Hospital Ship, Centaur, in the waters off Moreton Island, resulting in the loss of 268 lives, including 11 out of the 12 nurses on board.
Not only were all on the ship non-combatants, but the Centaur was unarmed and displayed the insignia of the Red Cross; so the attack was considered an atrocity.
Of her fellow nurses, Sister Ellen Savage was the only one to survive, and despite being significantly injured herself, she courageously helped others to safety, later receiving the George Medal for her bravery.
As we pay tribute to this one inspirational nurse, we also remember her colleagues, who died that day, and all the other nurses who have served and continue to serve our country at home and overseas.
Sister Ellen’s dedication is symbolic of what nursing has always represented, in times of peace and conflict—compassion, determination and diligent professionalism—qualities that are captured so skillfully in Anzac Square’s poignant nurse/soldier statue.
Nurses truly are remarkable people.
On battlefields they have been referred to as “brave angels” tending to horrific wounds of body and spirit, yet at the same time, having to confront their own fears, suffering from injuries, being held captive as prisoners, or sadly losing their lives.
In peace, our nurses are called upon to fight other battles, as we have seen so vividly during the past few years, when COVID-19 became the new, invisible foe.
The pandemic has highlighted the incredible commitment nurses bring to their profession, as they deliver outstanding care to each patient with expertise and assurance.
It is clear, that while many years may have passed since the Centaur was lost, the vital importance of nursing remains ever constant.
This is why I am so pleased that the Centaur Memorial Fund for Nurses, formed back in 1948—and of which I am proud Patron—continues to honour the memories of those who perished, by supporting further education and research amongst those who work on the nursing frontlines of today.
As Governor, I also thank the Defence Service Nurses RSL Queensland Sub-Branch for supporting this annual vigil—which is a significant, valued addition to our State’s official memorial activities.
I know that your joint efforts to honour this legacy help to promote greater awareness of the tremendous contribution being made now, while inspiring our future nurses and midwives.
We Will Remember Them.
Lest We Forget.