Women have driven society forward throughout history, whether in politics, sciences, health care, athletics or the arts.
In honour of International Women’s Day (8 March 2023), we are celebrating the contribution of two extraordinary women who paved the way for the creation of Silverchain Group and their legacy that continues to inspire us to create a better home care system for all Australians.
Silverchain has a rich history. Our people have long been pioneers, innovators, and leaders of care in the home in Australia. In 1894, the District Trained Nursing Society (later renamed RDNS Silverchain) was established in South Australia to provide skilled nursing care to vulnerable people in their own homes.
With the outbreak of the Boer War in 1899, the South Australian Government sent nurses to South Africa. Martha Bidmead was among those who volunteered and was responsible for six nurses.
On her return, Martha was the first South Australian woman awarded the Royal Red Cross for her service in South Africa during the Boer War. She also received the Queen’s and King’s South African Service medals.
In 1912 Martha was appointed Superintendent of the District Trained Nursing Society (DTNS), where she led the expansion of nursing care in the home by boosting the number of DTNS branches in South Australia from 18 to 32.
Martha also steered DTNS through the Spanish Flu outbreak in South Australia, ensuring nurses had access to personal protective equipment and the option to not care for infected patients. She retired after 15 years of service in 1926.
Meanwhile, in Western Australia, our earliest beginnings were as a children’s club run through the pages of a popular weekend newspaper, the Western Mail.
In 1905, Muriel Chase, writing as ‘Aunt Mary’, invited the Western Mail’s ‘Children’s Corner’ readers to join ‘Silver Links’ as her club of nephews and nieces so that they might help the less fortunate children of Western Australia.
These children, from all over Western Australia and as far as Queensland, paid an annual subscription of one shilling to join (approximately $1.47 today). In the first year, money raised was spent on Christmas presents for the sick and poor children of Perth. In 1907, enough money was raised to employ Silverchain’s first District Nurse, Sister Copley.
From little things, big things grow, and Silverchain merged with the Royal District Nursing Service in South Australia in 2011, and then expanded to the east coast. With an even longer heritage from RDNS, we’ve cared for multiple generations of Australians for nearly 130 years.
Ahead of International Women’s Day, we remember Martha and Muriel as pioneers of community nursing care and setting the foundations for the thousands of nurses, care workers, volunteers, fundraisers and supporters that followed.
From our earliest beginnings offering skilled nursing services to vulnerable people in their homes, to becoming the leading national provider of in-home health and aged care services, we’ve always looked after Australians. On International Women’s Day, we acknowledge and thank those who care for others with expertise and compassion.