The Northern District School of Nursing was established in Bendigo in 1950, as the first regional training school for Nurses in Australia. It continued to serve northern Victoria until its closure in 1989. Their history was recorded in a 352 paged book, published in 2015, entitled “The First of its Kind: Nurse Education and Training at the Northern District School of Nursing.”

The Northern District School of Nursing Graduates’ Assoc. (NDSNGA) announced at a meeting in February 2019, at which I was present, they needed to employ someone to list their extensive photographic and documents collection. I felt that my skills and knowledge would be suitable, so I contacted a committee member I have known for many years. The committee accepted my offer.

Undertaking the initial site visit in March 2019, to view the collection and prepare a quote, was daunting. What would I find? How would I gauge the degree of difficulty, therefore a suitable hourly rate? How would I fulfill the expectations of the NDSNGA committee, so that my work would also match the needs of Bendigo Regional Archives Centre (BRAC), which will hopefully become the final, permanent home for this collection?

Volunteer members of the NDSNGA spent years completing individual catalogue sheets for each photo and document. My task was to interpret their notes and compile the information into a format- Excel spreadsheet was my choice- easily read by anyone. Headings were logical extensions of the information captured on the catalogue sheets- a description of the photo/document; further information about it; date created; physical format; name of donor; date of donation; physical condition of photo/document.

I also decided that use of highlighter colour-coding would assist in the easy identification of:

  1. historically significant photos and documents (orange).
  2. conservation issues with the physical condition (green).
  3. observations by me not noted on the sheets, or errors made on the sheets (yellow).

At the final count, this collection is made up of over 700 Photos, and hundreds of documents, both spanning 1950-2000s. Highlights include:-

  • a complete set of every Preliminary Training School (PTS) class photo of student Nurses from 1950-1989 ie. PTS 1-108.
  • a full set of the first decade of Annual Reports from March 1950-June 1961.
  • copies of the School’s original Prospectus booklet circa 1949-1950.
  • Minutes of the first administrative meetings held between the Charities Board of Victoria and senior staff from NDSN.
  • complete lists of every student’s name in every PTS.
  • an example of a PTS 1 student’s small A-Z “Procedure Book” containing handwritten definitions of all medical procedures undertaken from 1950-1953.
  • Minute books from meetings of the NDSNGA.
  • a nearly complete set of NDSNGA annual Newsletters to members, spanning 1986-2019.

I am very grateful to the NDSNGA for putting their trust in me, giving me ample time to complete their project, and respecting my judgement when it came to interpretation of the catalogue sheets, and flagging the most historically significant photos and documents in their collection. I believe this collection will be enormously valuable to future historians and researchers. And…I personally learnt so much from this journey into the unknown world of self-employment.

Michele Matthews, Bendigo.