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Community & Business

31 August, 2022

Honouring Nobby’s daughter

The Sister Kenny Memorial on Tooth Street in Nobby pays homage to Sister Elizabeth Kenny, who, with novel physiotherapy techniques, helped improve the lives of thousands of children suffering from the crippling disease polio.


Tony and Tricia Wallen are doing their part to keep the memory of Sister Elizabeth Kenny alive. A replica World War I nurse’s uniform, like the one Sr Kenny would have worn, can be seen on their left and Sr Kenny’s bust on their right.

Despite constant opposition from doctors to her groundbreaking approach from doctors and medical organisations, when it came to Sr Kenny’s treatment, the proof was in the pudding.

Her use of physiotherapy to treat polio victims was unmatched by other approaches in its success.

Although the volunteers who form the Sister Kenny Memorial Committee are small in number, they work tirelessly to keep the memory of Sr Kenny alive.

Among them are husband and wife Tony and Tricia Wallen who serve the committee as treasurer and secretary respectively.

They are joined by president Jan Lowing and a handful of other volunteers.

Mr Wallen said over recent years, the committee has been working hard to renovate and improve the memorial.

 They were assisted by a $3,000 grant from the Culture, Heritage and Arts Regional Tourism (CHART) grant program of the Australian Government, which went towards painting the interior of the building.

Mrs Wallen said they have updated many of their displays and created digital copies of photos to help with preservation.

Community donations have helped considerably as well over the years.

Donation name plaques that were at the back of the building and somewhat hard to read were recently moved  to the front of the building, next to the front door.

Born in Warialda in northern New South Wales in 1880, Sr Kenny and her family moved to Headington Hill in 1895.

By 1911, she had established herself in a private bush nursing hospital, St Canice’s on Norman Street in Clifton.

Elizabeth Kenny became a Sister during World War I, where she served as a nurse and was even wounded by shrapnel.

One of the main misconceptions some have about Sister Kenny is the belief she was a nun.

The title of Sister in fact comes from her military service, where Sister is a rank the equivalent of first lieutenant for nurses.

After returning to Australia, she lived in Nobby  and this is where she began regularly treating children for polio.

As her technique proved successful, she travelled around Australia and eventually the United States and Europe, helping thousands of children while having to overcome criticism from the medical establishment.

She met with United States President Franklin Roosevelt and Pope Pius XII and served as an official representative of the Menzies government.

She established several clinics with her daughter Mary McCracken-Kenny, whom she adopted from a ‘broken’ home in 1926.

This is just the tip of the iceberg of Sr Kenny’s story.

The Sister Kenny Memorial hosts an amazing amount of material covering with immense detail all aspects of her life.

Anyone wanting to learn more about Nobby’s daughter can visit the museum on the weekend from 10.30am for just a gold coin donation.

During other times, you can simply collect a key from the Nobby Store or Rudd’s Pub and go have a look.

The groundwork for creating the Sister Kenny Memorial began in 1989 but the building was not open until 1997.

Mr Wallen said in the early days, Nobby CWA branch played an instrumental role and used the building for meetings.

Sister Kenny was the inaugural president of the Nobby CWA branch, which folded in 2016.

Another important Sr Kenny site to visit is her grave at the Nobby Cemetery on Mount Kent Boundary Road.

Further afield, to this day Sister Kenny lives on in the United States through the Courage Kenny Rehabilitation Institute in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

The Sister Kenny Institute, founded by Sr Kenny herself in 1942, has merged with other medical institutions along the way to became the Courage Kenny Rehabilitation Institute.

AN EVENING WITH SISTER ELIZABETH KENNY

Mr Wallen said over the past several months, the committee has been working diligently towards digitally remastering a tutorial film from the 1940s of Sister Kenny.

The cost of digitising the film has been considerable at $3,500.

The committee has been helped by a kind donation of $1,000 from Member for Condamine Pat Weir as well as from other donations by the community.

Mrs Wallen said as physical film deteriorates, by digitising the film it will have the chance to be preserved for the benefit of future generations.

To celebrate the remastering, on Saturday, 8 October there will be ‘An Evening with Sister Elizabeth Kenny.’

The event will begin at 5pm at Sr Kenny House before moving to Pepperina Gallery for finger food and drinks, then presentation of the film.

The month during which the event is being held, October, is special as it is Polio Awareness Month.

Among the invited guests are included representatives of Polio Australia and relatives of Sr Kenny.

Tickets are $28 donation. 

R.S.V.P. by Saturday, 1 October 2022 to SEK@tt-w.com

On the following Sunday, 16 October, a simplified film will be shown for the less technically inclined.

It will be supported by a Sunday market at the Sister Kenny Memorial.



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