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A life devoted to our hospital

Wednesday, 2nd September, 2020

Sister Fay Newell Sister Fay Newell

By Craig Brealey

At the Cathedral on Monday, friends and colleagues of Sister Fay Newell OAM bid farewell to someone of whom it may fairly be said devoted her long and productive life to the Broken Hill Hospital.

Fay Louise Newell began her nursing training at the hospital in 1954, became sister in charge of the Women’s Medical Ward and, after retiring in 1991, returned to offer her services as a Palliative Care volunteer.

Throughout her career, she built steadily on the solid nursing training for which the Broken Hill and District Hospital was renowned, and worked for a time in Sydney and overseas. 

But she never stayed long away from the hospital - nor far, for that matter; her home was in Chloride Street, directly opposite the side entrance.

Her service to the hospital and the people of this city was recognised in 2008 when she was named Broken Hill’s Citizen of the Year at the Australia Day award.

The following year she was awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) for service to the community as a nursing sister, mentor to nurses and allied health professionals, palliative care volunteer and historian.

Fay Newell died at St Anne’s Nursing Home on August 24 at the age of 82.

In an article in the hospital’s newsletter in 2016, she remembered her 40 years at the hospital as “the time of my life”.

It began in 1954 when she moved in to the nurses’ quarters at Kincumber House to begin four years of training. The rules were strict.

“The Matron lived at the top of the stairs and you had to apply for leave and be back in time,” said Fay. “You couldn’t go to the pictures because that didn’t finish until 11pm. If you were late, you would get a ‘Go to Matron, nurse!’

“You weren’t allowed any visitors. It was like a convent, really.”

A neat appearance was demanded of the nurses at all times.

“You had to be immaculately dressed, no jewellery, no long nails - we had nail inspections. We had to buy our own shoes and they were the most expensive, beautiful shoes but most terrible to walk in.”

The uniform included an apron and cap.

“If you ever had a soiled apron, straight back home to get a clean apron before you were seen.”

The four years’ training in Broken Hill was “study, study, study!”, Fay said, but it was second to none. 

“The training was of the very best quality. We had a very good nurse training school and it was very well equipped. Broken Hill nurses were renowned as being amongst the best recruits anywhere.”

When she finished her training she went to work in Sydney at St Margaret’s, St George and Royal North Shore hospitals where she gained more qualifications and travelled overseas. 

On coming home, Matron Gladys Vance made her the sister in charge of the Women’s Medical Ward. The Chief Medical Superintendent of the 300-bed hospital at the time was Dr Vince Barron with whom Fay became a trusted colleague and friend.

She continued to further her education, gaining a Certificate in Coronary Care from the Royal Melbourne Hospital and matriculating in Broken Hill in 1979. She also received a Diploma in Teaching from the University of Newcastle in 1981.

When the Broken Hill Health marked its 130th anniversary in 2017, Fay was invited to officially open The Hospital Museum at the Sulphide Street Railway Museum.


* The Barrier Truth gratefully acknowledges the help of the hospital in the compilation of this article.

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