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Rosemary Opala Collection

Object Number: R11438

Rosemary Opala (1923–2008) was an Australian artist, writer, and nurse, and is regarded for her work as an environmentalist, historian, social commentator, and community activist. Her literary and artistic themes reflect her personal experiences and social outlook.  Rosemary qualified as a nurse in May 1945. She chose this career despite her artistic talents due to the demand for nurses during World War II.  She focused much of her nursing career on Peel Island’s Lazaret caring for patients with leprosy. Through both her art and writing, she became a significant commentator on the Lazaret’s history, its social stigma, and the controversial treatment of its patients.  She wrote extensively during her time on the island discussing cures, segregation, misunderstandings, the social life of nurses and patients on the Island, and the education and duties of nurses.

Throughout the 1950s and until the mid-1960s, Rosemary Opala had a career as a freelance writer, publishing short stories and essays in prominent Australian magazines on the themes of family life, childhood, inter-racial relationships, the assimilation of Australian migrants, the public perception of nurses, and the Australian environment.  In the 1990s she began to publish her writing again, predominantly focused on her passion for natural history and conservation. Many of her columns featured her own illustrations.

In 2004, Rosemary Opala was recognized by the Zonta Wynuum Redland Branch in the Women of the Redlands exhibition at Redland Museum. The museum also holds a collection of her sketches, art, writings, and other memorabilia.