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THEN AND NOW - Meet some of our local legends. Throughout the International Year of the Nurse and Midwife we will be showing-casing nurses and midwifes from our region and across the country who have made outstanding contributions to their professions.

Our careers pages lists current opportunities and we are looking to recruit positive and enthusiastic nurses and midwives who have a genuine interest in patient well-being, in a variety of clinical specialities.



Vera Louise Armstrong

  • Poppy, as she was known trained as a nurse and midwife in Wellington and was the first Matron at Hutt Valley hospital
  • She was instrumental in setting up training and nursing and midwifery practices at the newly opened Hutt Hospital in 1944.
  • Poppy graduated from Wellington Hospital (now CCDHB) in 1930 and two years later she gained her maternity qualifications.
  • Awarded a post-graduate course through the Florence Nightingale Committee scholarship, she travelled to England in 1939 but the course was abounded due to the outbreak of World War II.
  • She worked in hospitals in England looking after patients evacuated from London Hospitals and travelled through Canada before returning to work in Wellington and the Hutt in 1940.
  • Leaving Hutt hospital in 1946, she continued nursing and held numerous positions across the region
  • She passed away in 1980 at the age of 83 in the very hospital which had its beginnings under her supervision.
Source: ‘Hospital in the Valley’ by Craig Mackenzie. Published by the Dunmore Press in 1983

Meet Suzanne Aubert 1835 to 1926

  • She was born in France yet New Zealand, more specifically Wellington became her home.
  • She was known as New Zealand’s first “district nurse”
  • She was one of the first to use native herbal remedies from Jerusalem (up the Whanganui River) for non-Māori communities.
  • Suzanne was also heavily involved in looking after Wellington’s homeless and set up the first soup kitchen in the region which still operates today.
  • For more information see the Home of Compassion website.






New Zealand's first state registered nurse


  • On 10 January 1902, the world’s first state-registered nurses had their names entered in the register. Topping the list was Ellen Dougherty of Palmerston North.
  • Registration was recognition of years of work by Ellen.
  • After completing her certificate of nursing in 1887, she headed our accident ward and then the surgery ward before becoming acting matron by 1893.
  • In 1897 she became the matron of the new hospital in Palmerston North, a particularly challenging role as the hospital was not yet fully set up and received many patients with gruesome injuries suffered in forestry and railway construction activities.


Working on an hospital ship at ANZAC Cove


  • You might remember seeing nurse Charlotte (Lottie) Le Gallais. Her crying figure was re-created as a giant model in the large-scale ANZAC Day exhibition at Te Papa recently.
  • Lottie was the first nursed at Auckland Hospital and she was one of ten nurses selected for the first voyage of the New Zealand Hospital Ship during the First World War.
  • Lottie and her fellow nurses left Wellington on the Maheno on 11 July 1915. They arrived at the Dardanelles in Turkey on 26 August. There they immediately came face to face with the wounded. A lot is known about Lottie’s experiences on the Maheno from her diary and letters home including the suffering she saw.




As we reflect on the mahi of nurses and midwives, we take inspiration from this whakataukī:

“Titiro whakamuri kōkiri whakamua – Look back and reflect so you can move forward.”

In so doing we honour our ancestors and learn from past mistakes.