2020 Marian Barrett Lecture

Wednesday 14 October 2020, 6pm

Register Here

"Good nursing is the chief requirement":
nursing, epidemics, and public health in Australia since 1850

Speaker: Dr Madonna Grehan

In this celebratory year of the International Year of the Nurse and the Midwife, please join the Department of Nursing for the Marian Barrett Lecture, a historical perspective on nursing during epidemics.


The ongoing Covid-19 pandemic of 2020 has demonstrated that nursing is not only an essential, but effective, response in a public health crisis. In past epidemics in Australia, nursing was also recognised as pivotal: during the emergence of smallpox, when typhoid raged in Tasmania in the mid-1880s, and as influenza flourished after the First World War. For typhoid cases, “good” nursing was declared the chief requirement to aid recovery. Amid influenza in 1919, good nursing was pronounced as indispensable to public health.

In this timely historical overview of nursing and infectious diseases in Australia, Dr Grehan examines the concept of “good” nursing. What did “good” nursing mean for patients so afflicted in the nineteenth century and beyond? How was “good” nursing in epidemics connected with public health? What relevance does a history of nursing in epidemics have for nurses in practice today?

Photograph of Dr Madonna Grehan

Dr Grehan is a Registered General Nurse and Midwife, an independent historian, and Honorary Fellow at the University of Melbourne’s School of Health Sciences. Dr Grehan held the CJ La Trobe Society  Fellowship at State Library of Victoria in 2013 and the John Oxley Library  Fellowship at State Library of Queensland in 2015. She is immediate Past President of the Australian and New Zealand Society of the History of Medicine.

The 2020 Marian Barrett Lecture will be by videoconference. You can book here.


When: Wednesday 14 October 2020

Time: 6.00-7.00pm