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Lifelong friendships formed at Footscray

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Lifelong friendships formed at Footscray

For three years, a group of students from the 39th Preliminary Training Group undertook rigorous Hospital Based Training while living on campus at Footscray Hospital to become nurses. 

Those years not only laid the groundwork for their careers in healthcare but also forged lifelong friendships that former student and nurse Adele Ryan remembers fondly. 

She recalls how quickly they bonded, a bond that's stood strong over the years. Decades may have passed, but those connections remain. 

“We all shared the same experiences, we lived together, studied together, and went through good and bad times together,” Adele said. 

In that first year, the student nurses were put to work. They were on shift every weekend, and when they weren’t working they were together in the nurses’ home.  

“Because we shared the experiences of life and death, for us to look after people in those situations, and coming from moderate backgrounds, life was confronting. We needed each other.

“Coming off shift, we would listen to each other. We were each others counsellors, and were understanding of each other. We laughed and cried together.” 

Adele remembers fondly the opportunities they were given through the Hospital Based Training program. 

“Footscray at the time was a highly respected place to be so we had the very best doctors coming through from Melbourne. We really did learn from the best. Mavis Mitchell was an exceptional Matron of the hospital and ran the place like a tight ship.” 

After their three years of training was complete, everyone went off to start their lives and careers. Some got married, some moved out of Melbourne, some continued their career in health care. 

While life took them in different directions, their friendships remained strong. For the first five years after their time at Footscray, they exchanged letters and shared their new experiences during phone calls but didn’t see much of one another. After that they started meeting up every five years, a reunion of sorts. About ten years ago they started meeting twice a year for lunch. 

Seven members of that 1964 class got together last month to celebrate their 60th anniversary, Elizabeth Hayes, Valerie Hayes, Adele, Judith Jackson, Annette Brown, Nancy Hayes and Robyn Munyard. Susan Thompson was absent on the day. 

“You grow together, even if you don’t see them for a while you still know them. We’ve been there for highs and lows in everyone’s lives. Births, deaths and marriages, we all support each other,” Adele said. 

“All these years on we still have such a high regard for the hospital, and the friendships it brought us. It’s not often you get to have friends for this long.”

Photo above: Final day of training
Photo above right: Elizabeth Hayes, Valerie Hayes, Adele Ryan, Judith Jackson, Annette Brown, Nancy Hayes and Robyn Munyard.