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Honouring women who have served

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Colonel Susan Neuhaus (Ret’d) stands in front of the Australian War Memorial after her address on Anzac Day.

Colonel Susan Neuhaus (Ret’d).

Former Army surgeon Susan Neuhaus CSC used her address at the 2018 Anzac Day Dawn Service in Canberra to reflect on the service of women and younger members of the veteran community.

She acknowledged the thousands of women who have served ‘with gallantry, have been prisoners of war, and have died wearing the uniform of this nation’ since the Boer War.

Dr Neuhaus, now a general surgeon and surgical oncologist in Adelaide, was the first female doctor to be posted overseas from Australia as regimental medical officer in 1993 when she spent 9 months in Cambodia. She was later deployed in Bougainville and Afghanistan.

She completed her PhD on the mechanisms of the spread of cancer in 2000 at the University of Adelaide. Since retiring from the Australian Defence Force (ADF) in 2010, Dr Neuhaus has written extensively on the service of women, from the experiences of mothers on deployment, to the female military surgeons of World War I and the health needs of servicewomen and female veterans.

During her Dawn Service address, she recalled the horror of the 1942 massacre of the nurses of the Vyner Brook, forced by their Japanese captors to line up on the beach and walk into the sea.

‘They were under no illusion about their fate,’ Colonel Neuhaus said.

‘In those last moments before the machine guns opened fire, Matron Drummond turned to her nurses with words of comfort and of courage … Her words speak for a nation … “Chins up girls, I’m proud of you and I love you all.”

Dr Neuhaus also talked of the changing nature of Anzac Day.

‘Today, my thoughts are with those that I have served with – some of whom I knew, and more that I didn’t – who now have their names also inscribed in the walls behind me,’ she said.

‘And I think of the names that have, sadly, yet to be written.

‘And of those whose names will never be recorded, even though their wounds – not always visible – are carved just as deeply into them, as names into granite.’

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