University Of Tasmania

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Recovery in our bones: the story of Martha Entwistle, Australia’s earliest convict mental health nurse

conference contribution
posted on 2023-05-24, 16:48 authored by Raeburn, T, Liston, C, Hickmott, J, Cleary, M
This paper presents the remarkable life story of Martha Entwistle, the first convict mental health nurse to have worked in Australia’s earliest mental health asylum at Castle Hill, NSW. Primary historical sources from archival collections in Australia and the United Kingdom, reveal that Martha Entwistle was a resilient woman who experienced many traumatic life experiences herself prior to being involved in the care provided at Castle Hill. Although difficult to compare with modern day conceptualisations of nursing, Martha was not paid for her work, but her services as a nurse within the asylum were highly valued by the superintendent of the service. She nursed in a harsh colonial environment, short of adequate resources, during an era of fast-paced social, economic and technological change. Martha Entwistle’s experiences provide a historical account of the role and what it was like to be an early convict mental health nurse and there are parallels between Martha’s role as a mental health nurse and the role of today’s nurses. This account of Martha Entwistle’s life will enables nurses to reflect on the advances made in mental health nursing and contemporary models of care.


Publication title

ACMHN 43rd International Mental Health Nursing Conference


School of Nursing

Event title

ACMHN 43rd International Mental Health Nursing Conference

Event Venue

Hobart, Tasmania

Date of Event (Start Date)


Date of Event (End Date)


Repository Status

  • Restricted

Socio-economic Objectives

Mental health

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    University Of Tasmania