Helping to champion women in STEM

Mairi Neil

Takes a battler to know a battler

Student Achievement Award winner Mairi Neil is set to turn her research on a crusading World War II nurse into a film.

Pioneering Melbourne nurse and peace activist Fleur Finnie – who suffered physical disabilities—won tributes from the Royal Melbourne Hospital and the Women’s International League of Peace and Freedom following her death at age 88.

The RMH Vale for Ms Finnie (1919-2007) revealed a woman ahead of her time: "Fleur had a long and distinguished career in nursing and dedicated her life to social justice, the peace movement, children and the environment," it said.

The film – for which Ms Neil has spent her master's writing a draft script—is based upon her research, and a candid account of nurses’ work conditions Ms Finnie published in her memoirs, Don’t Stand on the Grass.

"Fleur Finnie was an inspirational nurse who conquered disability to become one of the first nurse educators to promote holistic medicine and push for more educational and professional development hours for nurses," Ms Neil said.

The $1,000 from Ms Neil’s Swinburne Achievement Award will be used for an evaluation of her script by professional screenwriters, and to help pass on Ms Finnie's legacy to a new generation of Australian nurses.

"The script addresses gaps in our history, celebrates a woman's achievement, and is a story of the quintessential Aussie battler," Ms Neil said.

Ms Neil, who graduated in March this year with her Master of Arts (Writing), has fought her own battles. After her husband died she raised two teenage daughters and supported them through university.

Mid-way through her master's she was diagnosed with advanced breast cancer and had to undergo chemotherapy and three major operations. She also developed pneumonia but was determined she would finish her degree.

"When you’re in a major health crisis, it's head-spinning. Having the study to do saved me. To be involved in studying for a degree, on a subject I loved, made me feel I had a future."

Ms Neil has since embarked on a doctoral thesis at Swinburne.

A great believer in helping give people a voice, Ms Neil founded and still coordinates the Mordialloc Writers' Group, publishing seven anthologies of members' , 60 of whom were first time authors.

Mairi Neil, Student Achievement Award winner

The funds will be used for professional screenwriter evaluation of Mairi's script

Mairi Neil, Student Achievement Award winner