Bush Nursing

The Drysdale and District Bush Nursing Association which became Drysdale Community Health and eventually Bellarine Community Health

Quick Links: B.N.C / C.H.C | Centre Opened |Drysdale Health| Gate Volunteers | Leslie Getsom | Norma Mortimer |

B.N.C 1992 – 1987 and C.H.C 1987 – 1994

Bush Nursing in Victoria was commenced after the arrival of Lord Dudley and his wife to Victoria in 1908, where he was Governor for many years. Lady Dudley was very interested in the hospitals but realised that in the country areas there were no services available to the people for midwifery, accidents etc., as the distance to travel to the nearest hospital was usually many miles by horse and jinker.

Some of the larger towns such as Sale had a hospital which was opened in 1868. She decided with the help of some interested people to organise a bank of dedicated nurses to go out to the country and help the people.
In 1911 the first B.N.C was established at Beech Forest and so the Victorian Bush Nursing Association was founded and continues today assisting many people in the outlying areas of the state.

In 1922 the Drysdale Progress Association invited some reputable citizens to a meeting to see if a Centre could be opened in Drysdale, and the principles of Bush Nursing could be explained to them by Sn. Cameron of the V.B.N.A. All present were very enthusiastic to see a Centre commenced and sufficient guarantors were secured to be responsible for the Sisters’ salary. A nurse was applied for and in Nov. 1922 Sr. D.A. Whtycross was appointed and the service commenced from her home on the corner of Wyndham Street and Barrands Lane on December 14th 1922. During the first 6 months, 928 visits were made by Sr. Whtycross.
The first committee consisted of Messrs. Frank Armytage J.P. owner of “Spray Farm” President; Mrs Jim Bennett, Tom Maetley (later M.P.) Vice Presidents; Hon. Secretary George Lunn and Hon. Treasurer Horace Gallop. Other committee members were Madams J. Anderson, G. Tilbray, Curtain, Messrs. S. Rodgers, L. Peel, G. Tau and Mrs G. Lunn as Secretary. Hon. Auditors:- Rev. A.H. Westley and E.A. Edmonds.

Copy of first Annual Report to 30th June, 1923.
The service continued to run successfully from various home in the town and by quite a succession of nurses usually working under the direction of a doctor. Sister Whycross and her sister (Sr. Jackson) eventually sold their home in Drysdale and went to Geelong where they took over a Private Hospital in Pakington Street, known as “Cambray” which conducted for many years. Today the building is known as a reception parlour.
Fund raising for the Centre was mainly a Baby & Flower Show held every spring.
The Sister was now operating from a room at the front of Mr. & Mrs. Reg Knightsbury’s home 21 Princess Street.

In 1939 Councillor George Wisbey very generously donated the block of land at 15 Princess St and a disused farm house was purchased from the Ibbotson family in Port – Queenscliff Road.
The house was repaired, painted etc. and was moved onto the block. This provided accommodation for the Sister and the front room was used as the surgery. This building is where the B.N.C. was conducted until the present time. * (In 1987 B.N. changed over to a C.H. Centre as the Health Department decided the area with all the development had outgrown the title and work of Bush Nursing, and we would not be able to get any funds for a new building unless the changeover was made). * In 1965 – 66 the Committee decided to add 2 rooms to the building:- a surgery and waiting room which we still use as such today. More fund raising efforts were taken on and we were able to get the “manning” of the Show Gates and with the help of the Fire Brigade Members and many other locals, we are still doing this great effort after 20 odd years.
In 19.. we were able to purchase two blocks of land at the corner of Elgin & Eversley Streets with the view of building the new Bush Nursing Centre but with the change to C.H. this did not happen.
Of course D.B.N.C was one of the earliest centres to operate and the V.B.N.A. were very disappointed to see us change. The Committee and members voted overwhelmingly for the change, mainly because the H.D. advised us that no many would be made available to build a B.N.C. in this developing area.
Verna McCelland


Many of the older residents of Drysdale, who have been interested in the Drysdale Bush Nursing Centre since its early days, were among the many people so gathered for the opening of the new unit on Saturday afternoon.
Mr. S. Hutchison president of the Bush Nursing Committee welcomed official guests, Sir Thomas Maltby and Lady Maltby and Cr. R. Guyett and Mrs. Guyett.
Present also were former Sisters of the Centre, Sister O. Peel, Sister Cuthbertson, Sister V. McLeannan (formally Sister Nash), Cr. Guyett representing the president of the Bellarine Shire, officially declared the new unit of the centre open, and spoke of the early days of the work of the centre in Drysdale.
The first Sister was Sister Whycross who resided at the home of her sister in Wyndham Street, these women turned their home into a hospital, and managed it for many years. Meetings were held in the Shire Hall. In 1939, the present building was purchased on the land donated by the late Mr. G. Wisbey, who was president of the committee for many years. Times were not so good in those days, and money was scarce, and there was a time when Mr. W. Wisbey and Mr. W Nicholls gave money to keep the centre going.
Sister B. Nielsen who is in charge at present, was to be commended on her excellent work, said Cr. Guyett. Approximately 200 people each month either visited the centre or were visited by Sister Nielsen in their homes.
Sir Thomas Maltby a foundation member of the Bush Nursing Committee, spoke of his early days at Drysdale, when there was not a doctor for miles around, and when one did come it was on horseback. Funds had to be sought by house to house canvass, and Sir Thomas Maltby recalled some incidents which happened to him while he was out collecting. One gentleman offed five pounds, and said “he would make it £10, if they would include a veterinary surgery.” Now there were many children of those early members attending the centre.
Sir Thomas Maltby said “We are told when things are bad, but not always do we know when dad things have been avoided by good things happening and this centre is one of the good things. Of the many things I have been associated with, although some may have been more spectacular, this is one of the most beneficial and useful. It is up to the local residents to back up the work being done, a work which does not destroy, but keeps alive and well the children, men, women, of our community.
Guests and friends then inspected the new building, and later were served afternoon tea by members of the committee, assisted by Drysdale Girl Guides. Flowers were presented to Mrts. Guyett by Mrs. D. Cantwell, vice-president of the Bush Nursing Committee.
Mr. S. Nash expressed thank to all local residents who had made the afternoon a success, and to the Bowling Club, which had cancelled its social competition, so that members might attend.

Drysdale Community Health Centre

Many years of hard work, fund raising & planning by the Committee of Management & the Drysdale/Clifton Springs communities at large will soon come to fruition.
The Building Chairman Mr John Brumley said the new Community Health Centre in Palmerston Street, Drysdale is expected to be ready for occupation by mid February. The official opening will be performed by the Minister for Health, Ms Marie Tehan on Monday, 28 March at 3.30 pm.
The total cost of some $500,000 has been raised locally, and a number of people have worked very hard at such things as manning the gates at the Geelong Show annually for the past 22 years, catering, raffles & Debutante Balls to name but a few. The service clubs of Drysdale, Rotary & Lions, have been unstinting in their support, as have other local community organizations.
The much loved Drysdale Bush Nursing Centre has been a vital part of the town for over 70 years, and in 1988 changed its focus from Bush Nursing to Community Health. In amalgamating with the Centres at Portarlington, Queenscliff, & Ocean Grove in 1992 the Drysdale Community Health Centre became a member of the Bellarine Peninsula Community Health Service.
To-day’s economic climate and the rapid progress of better & more accessible health care have added impetus to the need for streamlining of services offered at the local level.
The essential services of Physiotherapy, Podiatry, Maternal & Child Health facilities, Community Health Nursing, both clinical & welfare, as well as Health Education programs will continue. Support of groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous, Overeaters Anonymous, Hospice Volunteers, Adult Day Activities, Ladies Auxiliary, are also vital aspects of the Centre’s services. District Nursing & care of the terminally ill is a constant need, ably met for all who require it.
Expansion of other services through the greater Bellarine Peninsula Community Health Service will be accessed as the need arises, e.g. Speech Therapy, Dietetic Advice & consultations with the Social Worker and the Psychologist.
The work of the Centre is greatly enhanced by the input of several different groups of Volunteers, including Hospice Volunteers, Volunteer Drivers & Volunteers who assist in some areas of clerical work. This valuable assistance is greatly appreciated.
The forward vision of those who have worked so hard to provide the local community with much needed health care ensures smooth progress into the 21st Century.

Geelong Show – Gate Volunteers

Just as great results can be achieved by a family working together for a common cause, or a team of sportsmen working together to win a Championship – so it was that the people of Drysdale joined together with the local Fire Brigade to work for our local Bush Nursing Association!
When it was explained to us that we could “man” the gates and parking areas at the Geelong Show, with money to be paid to the Bush Nursing – it seemed a very formidable task, but typical of a country town, all banded together, and with very good leadership and directions from the Fire Brigade Officers, and with lots of fun and laughter, we became experts at our task.
It was the togetherness that made it such a great experience over the years. Sons and daughters grew up and joined the team, and more recently we have grandchildren just waiting to be old enough to be in the ticket box, or join the “blue coat” brigade.
As the town grew, and Clifton Springs developed, many more people joined the team, all with a common aim.
Now after 23 years, we are still forging ahead, looking forward to the day when the results of our work, added to the money raised by a hardworking Committee, will see the new Drysdale Community Centre open and functioning.
Eva Deeth

Leslie Ann Getsom

Leslie Ann Getsom was born in Plymouth England, on 25th August 1915. She was the first child of Edith and George Getsom, followed by her brother Allyn 13 years later. Her father was a Chief Petty Officer in the Royal Navy. Here brother passed away 10 years ago and she is survived by her sister-in-law Grace and two nieces Janice Jones & Hazel Atherton.
Leslie became a nurse – qualifying as a Children’s Nurse at the Barnardo’s Homes. Then a qualified Registered Nurse at the Seaman’s Hospital at Greenwich, London, and a midwife at the Middlesex Hospital. Later on she furthered her studies at Bristol University with a degree in Community Health and also Tropical disease – Leprosy intending to go to Africa and work in a leprosy colony. During the war years she worked in various counties of England as a midwife.
However thing changed and she came to Australia in 1952 with her friend (Mrs Rae Hill) arriving in Perth where Leslie worked for the Blue Nurse Organisation S.W. of Perth at Katanning for 12 months. They then ventured over to Victoria and Leslie worked at the Freemasons Hospital in Melbourne for 12 months as Night Sister. Then she joined the Bush Nursing Association.
Leslie worked at Pyramid Hill Bush Nursing Hospital for 5 years and then at Avoca for 7 years, arriving at Drysdale in 1968 where Leslie worked until her retirement in November 1980, after 13 years.
Leslie was a dedicated nurse and worked long hours at Drysdale. Eventually she was able to get help, a new waiting room and surgery were built, and a reliving Sister to let her have time off each week, and relieving for holidays. She was well known in the district and acquired many friends through her work at the Bush Nursing Centre. After retiring she went to England and Europe to visit friends and relations and returned to live in Drysdale. She had not enjoyed good health for the past 3 years and spent 18 month at Ann Nichol House at Portarlington and the last 18 months at “The Homestead” at Wallington, where shed passed away peacefully on the 19th May.
Leslie made many valued friends during her nursing days at Drysdale, and we were much the better for having known her and we will certainly miss her.

Norma Mortimer – Drysdale Bush Nursing Mgmt. Committee

I am proud to have lived my whole life in Drysdale. My interests apart from business and family, have all included using my skills to help the people of Drysdale. I especially enjoyed my early years of being on the Drysdale Bush Nursing Management Committee. My time as treasurer enabled me to ensure that the money, raised by so many hard working people of Drysdale, worked hard itself! The realisation of a Community Health Centre in Drysdale was a dream come true and probably the highlight of this part of my lie. All of Drysdale celebrated this long awaited, hard earned, very necessary facility that was so long overdue.
As the Peninsula Health Services all came together I was proud to continue to represent the local people on the new Board of Management, while still striving for a fair, efficient, well run service for all.
The small committee that I started on lead me to a governance role for the whole peninsula. Along the way I shared friendship and fellowship with many other like-minded people. I am proud of what we achieved and continue to wish that the Board strives for the best service available for all the residents of our very special part of the world.
Thank you for this honour.
Norma Mortimer

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