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    Olive Anstey, courtesy of Australian Nursing History Project.
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Anstey, Olive Eva (1920 - 1983)

CBE, MBE

Born
9 August 1920
Perth, Western Australia, Australia
Died
1983
Occupation
Nurse

Summary

Olive Eva Anstey was born in Perth in 1920. Against her mother's judgment, Olive pursued her desire to become a nurse, completing her general training at Royal Perth Hospital. Olive eventually became a top nursing administrator who was well respected and admired for the compassion and leadership qualities she brought to her chosen profession. Throughout her career Olive was a staunch advocate for better working conditions and pay for nurses, working on various committees with the goal of obtaining recognition of nursing as a profession. She was appointed as a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) in 1969 and in 1982 was appointed as a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) for her service to nursing.

Details

Olive Eva Anstey's mother couldn't understand why her daughter wanted to abandon her relatively well-paid career as a bookkeeper for Betts and Betts, to become a nurse. 'When my mother heard she thought I was nuts,' Olive said. But the desire to be a nurse would not be quashed and Olive quit her pen-pushing job and a dramatic cut in salary to become a student nurse. She recalls that the conditions and facilities for nurses and patients alike were not very good. And neither was she good at obeying rules that she thought were senseless:

'I must admit I didn't take too kindly to the discipline. We had to stand up straight with our hands behind our backs when we spoke to a nurse the station above us on the hierarchic ladder... I was a bit of a rebel and used to spend a fair bit of time on the assistant matron's doorstep.'

When Olive eventually became a top nursing administrator she was one of the first to relax the regimentation but not the standards of nursing. She quickly earned the respect and admiration of nurses, although throughout her life remained surprised that she rose to the top, where she had a reputation for being a compassionate leader.

Born in Perth, Western Australia on 9 August 1920, Olive was educated at St Patricks College and Perth Technical College. She later completed her general nursing training at Royal Perth Hospital and then undertook a midwifery course at the Royal Hospital for Women in Sydney. She worked at Riverton Hospital, the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital and the Public Health Hospital in South Australia before being appointed first matron of the Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital (then Perth Chest Hospital) in July 1958 - it was a position she would hold until her retirement in December 1981.

Throughout her nursing career Olive was a staunch advocate for better working conditions and pay for nurses. She worked tirelessly on various committees with the goal of obtaining recognition of nursing as a profession to be valued. These include the Council of the Royal Australian Nursing Federation (Western Australia) where she served variously as a council member; as vice-president; as president; and as senior vice-president. She also served as senior vice-president and then president of the Federal Committee of RANF and as a member of the Florence Nightingale Committee (Western Australia). She also represented Australia at some of the council meetings of International Council of Nurses in Frankfurt-am-Main.

In 1969 Olive was appointed as a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) and in 1982 was appointed as a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE). In 1974, as a tribute to her lifelong contribution to nursing, a multi-storey building, Anstey House, was named after her. Several months after her death almost in 1983, a $250,000 national appeal was launched as a memorial to commemorate Olive's significant contribution to national and international nursing. Established in April 1984, the fund was designed to provide scholarships for nurses wishing to further their studies.

Archival resources

Australian Dictionary of Biography, Australian National University

  • Olive Anstey; Australian Dictionary of Biography, Australian National University. Details

National Library of Australia Manuscript Collection

  • Papers of Barbara Fawkes 1954-1984, 1954 - 1984, MS 9670; Fawkes, Barbara (1914 - 2002); National Library of Australia Manuscript Collection. Details
  • Records of the Florence Nightingale Committee, 1982 - 1983, MS 9041; National Library of Australia Manuscript Collection. Details

National Library of Australia Newspaper Microcopy Reading Room

  • Biographical cuttings on Miss Olive Anstey, nurse, BIOG; National Library of Australia Newspaper Microcopy Reading Room. Details

Digital resources

Title
Olive Anstey
Type
Image
Source
Australian Nursing History Project

Details

Judith Ion

Site-wide information and acknowledgements

National Foundation for Australian Women The University of Melbourne, eScholarship Research Centre

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