Pixie Annat MBE OAM

Pixie Annat MBE OAM

The Pixie Annat Story

Pixie Annat MBE OAM is Honorary Secretary of the CMFN, a member since 1975 and a Committee Member where she has been outstanding fundraiser and campaigner for the fund. “Pixie received a Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire in 1977 and a Medal of the Order of Australia in 1992 for her services to nursing” (Uniting Care Health, 2013). Pixie is “the Patron for the Australian National Flag Assoc. of Qld. and has, and still does, hold many other titles, such as President of the Lady Musgrave Trust, Chair of the Anglicare Southern Queensland Human Research Ethics Committee (HREC)” (John Oxley Library).

Pixie was Matron and CEO of the St Andrew’s War Memorial Hospital where she retired from in 1992 (Uniting Care Health, 2013). After her retirement “Pixie continued to make a huge impact on many people, immersing herself in charitable projects as diverse as supporting homeless women, providing scholarships for nurses (many of whom are now leading academics in university nursing schools), and as a volunteer at both the Royal Brisbane Hospital and St Andrew’s War Memorial Hospital” (Uniting Care Health, 2013).

Pixie Annat Biography

A book has been written about Pixie’s career by Colleen Clur, Pixie Annat: Champion of Nurses. It is filled with stories of Pixie’s life and memories. It is available here: Pixie Annat Biography.


Excerpt One

“They were bringing survivors [of the Centaur] into Brisbane …”

Excerpt length 42 seconds.

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Excerpt Three

“One of the most important decisions we ever made was the scholarships.”

Excerpt length 68 seconds.

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Excerpt Five

“We nurses wanted to keep on improving patient care.”

Excerpt length 39 seconds.

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Excerpt Two

“I became a member of the committee in about 1957.”

Excerpt length 1 minute 14 seconds.

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Excerpt Four

It was absolutely spot-on where he said it would be.”

Excerpt length 31 seconds.

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Excerpt Six

“There will always be people that want to look after people in need.”

Excerpt length 1 minute 53 seconds.

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Full Story

Well the real reason I became involved was because in 1943 my sister and I were sitting in the school grounds at Palmwoods School, near where our farm was and the headmaster's wife came out and said, the most terrible thing has happened, a hospital ship has been sunk off Morton Island and they're bringing survivors in to Brisbane at the moment, and it had happened the day before but there was no TV or anything in those days, she'd heard it on the radio and so we went home and said to our parents.

My father was an military officer in the first World War, my mother was a registered nurse and they were absolutely horrified they hadn't heard it on the radio at that time and it was so astounding that it could happen so near home and all those people had died and eleven nurses particularlythat really was so horrifying. And so when we came to Brisbane in 1946 mum and dad were invited on to the Centaur committee, in about 1948, when it started and Mr.

McDonald, the editor of the telegraph newspaper, the evening paperdecided to conduct an appeal throughout Queensland. Particularly because of the loss of the nurses and we got 80,000 pounds which was the equivalent of some millions now. And from there on I have been involved. The fund I became a member of the committee in about 1957 but before then my sister and I were on the younger set, and we were on the committee of the younger set and that was raising money for Cantaur House in Queen street and of course And the Centaur House was purchased with the 80,000 pounds, and it was the old Exton House in Queen street.

And from then on, the role of the committee was to make sure sufficient money was coming in to keep it refurbished and to provide really the hub for the profession in Queensland. Which it was for 20 years, that building. We had accommodation rooms for overnight stayers, for girls during their midterm and child welfare from the country, and international visitors we also had conference rooms and it was always full of nurses doing something.

And it was a real there was a feeling of getting on with the profession and the whole place And it was just tremendous and the younger set raised quite a lot of money by holding parties in the evenings and we also had a fencing club in there and my sister excuse me My twin sister was seven inches taller than I and she was much more athletic than I, and she became the runner up for the national champion from our little club.

But we had nurses from the RBH there Also the younger set members who weren't nurses and we did have that for about four years and it made a lot of friends for the fund because there were a number of fencing clubs in Brisbane in those days and most of them were all fellows.

And we had to fight with these fellows, fencing and fun and alland the Centaur younger set was very much out the front and promoting the fund and the committee members, the younger set was very much happen in front and promoting the fund and the committee members some of them were Dame Anabel Rankin, later a senator

She was Australia's first Female diplomat. She was the High Commissioner to She was the High Commissioner to New Zealand at one stage and she was on the committee, my parents were on it, Mr. Bob Hancock, he was a very well-known Brisbane business man, and Miss Hazel Johnson who was the she was a nurse who was the I think she was at the Royal Brisbane hospital and she looked after all the linen and everything like that to make sure that there was sufficient linen in the hospital and the nurses quarters and so on, and Miss Johnson was a tremendous worker and she and Mr Hancock really lived the committee for years then she married laterin lifeThe committee for years and then she married later in life and went to New Zealand to live, but in the meantime, as I said, we were very busy in Cantaur House with all different nursing groups and conferences interstate conferences.

and national conferences were held there and so it was just really the home for the profession. Well by this time 1971 the cost of buildings real estate generally had grown enormously and we thought to ourselves well if we sold in the main street of Brisbane we could have very good price which we did and so we built one what's now called Atalia On The Park up near St Andrews hospital on Wickham Terrace and it was purpose built and it was purpose built with both accommodation and conference rooms and the activities of the profession just transferred to there and had its offices there and Royal Australian Nursing Federation had its offices there and and all the nursing people from all the different groups such as Maternal and Child Welfare and hospital groups the ones who were say administrative people they all had rooms there, offices so it was just a home for the profession really again.

Well I think one of the most important decisions that we ever made was to make a living memorial in the form of the scholarships for PhD students and And those who achieved their PhD status were made Centaur fellows. and there the ones with the hats so that was probably the most important decision we made after we sold the building. The second one was simultaneously, we decided to make a silver medal awards available to undergraduates that were chosen by the universities and they were certain strings attached to it and so the seven Queensland universities with nursing programs contact me every year when they havemade a decision about who would get the silver medal and they receive the silver medal which is worth almost $500 now.

And they're heavy. And they also have a copy of the historyOne important person I forgot to mention, previously was Captain John Foleywho wrote the history. He was a wonderful support to the committee. And he was also encouraging for the committee to keep on doing things and he always said to me, that the one who made it possible for them to find the wreck was the man who gave the the position to the USS Mugford when Mugford picked up all of the survivors, he was spot on.

When they found the thing it was absolutely where they said it would be. And so Captain Foley was just tremendous I was a memeber of the committee and what we really wanted was to let the public know that nurses wanted to keep on improving patient care and one of the only ways we could see to do it was to grant scholarship Scholarships so that people can do proper research, get support while they were doing their research, and make a difference.

And of course we've seen that happen with people like Linda Shields, who's leaving us now from Queensland to go down to Bathurst. But she's been at James Cook for some years. She did a lot of work in Indonesia, for family care, family centered care. And most of our fellows have gone on to become either professors or people of some importance and influence in the health field, and that's what we wanted.

The support through the scholarships is probably the most important one. Secondly the awarding for encouragement for the girls, the fellows in universities as undergrads because we encourage them to look to the future and to keep in touch with us, not all of them do because a lot of them go off somewhere else but some do keep in touch and what is really fascinating me now is that they how much older the Is that how are much older the students who are doing their undergraduate courses are and once you've received this silver medal and I think it's great I feel like I can do it and they are happy to do it and I don't think nurses have ever promoted what the profession does in the community sufficiently, and I was reminded of this when the Courier Mail rung me one day and asked me if I knew a nurse who had been in Singapore who would be prepared to speak who be prepared to speak at the International Women's Day this would have been about six years ago I suppose.

So I thought of Margaret Hamilton who was evacuated from Singapore when it fell and she told me always of the bravery Bravery and the skill of the captain and the officers of that ship and trying to get the ship off Singapore Harbour with the bombs falling all around and so on so I asked Margaret she was a hundred in July this coming July and I asked Margret if she'd come and speak at International Women's Day at the city hall I didn't know they were going to be a thousand women there I might add and she said to me do you think I can do that I said yes you can do that Margaret I heard you speak at Bribie when you went up there to my sisters to speak to the Lionesses and I said that's the sort of thing and I said that's the sort of thing we'd want you to do.

Well, of course, she walked into the city hall and she looked atall the young women there and I said, now all you have to do is walk up those stairs when they give you the, and just stand up there Margaretup Well she spoke for 25 minutes and she could see it all happening and everybody in that city hall could see it happening too and when she finished, they gave her a standing ovation and when she got down she said you know they clapped me, I said, "Margaret they gave you a standing ovation." Do you know so many of those young women came up to that table and said, "We didn't even know about this." What are their parents talking to them about? What do they talk to them about? So, she's got very frail now and I did see her last year now took her to the second tenth we have got a lot to do with the second tenth which was at the fall of Singapore And they were in Changi and so on Terrible and they have a ceremony at the Anzac square every year and Centaur is always there as support and I look at those men and I think I don't know how they lived.

Mm-hm. And I said to Doctor Bob Goodwin last year when he was down. I said Bob how did you really live through all that? On Burma Siam and then Changi and so on. And he said, you couldn't have done it if you hadn't had a mate, a mate that looked out for you. He said, we looked out for each other and he said that's why the Australians managed so much better than the other Dutch and British and so on because they didn't do that.

What these people suffered was just unbelievable, unbelievable. My mother trained at the same time at the RBH in the first World War and her cousin was a POW was a POW of the Japs and she died. Three days after peace was declared and she never knew, it was peace. And I said to Mr Savage who was who'd both on the Burma Siam railway and away in Japan, he wrote a book called Guest of the Emperor and he said, when I come back after being a POW in Burma and Japan, he said I decided to become an accountant.

He said we invited a group of Japanese businessmen for lunch at the Queensland Club, and he said one of them, and this man looked at me and said, Mr. Savage have you ever been to Japan? Oh yes, yes he said. I'd been there almost two and a half years. Well, that's a long time he said, people don't usually stay that long people don't usually stay that long, and he said actually I was a POW, and the man looked at him and said, how you must hate us. Just like that.

Russel looked at him and said it was a long time ago. They did not know how much I did hate them And he said when the flying fortresses flew over Tokyo, and there was no gun fire, they knew the peace had been declared that was the only way they knew. It hadn't been announced, and about four of them decided to see what was in the little building at the entrance to this POW camp.

He said the POW camp was much worse than Burma Siam he said people starved to death and he said, four of them went up and jimmied open the door into this little hut and it was full of Red Cross food parcelsAnd they had been there for the whole time they had there was full of them thousandsand they could have all had something to eat.

But he said they treated their civilians exactly the same way as treated us he said it was terrible. And do you know I'm talking too much now I went to went to the ICN conferencein Tokyo, in 1977 and the head of the Japanese Nurses Association on the day we were going to have a big dinner handed over to the new President of the ICN who was to be the Australian Olive Anstee she said to me, are you looking forward to the dinner tonightand I said yest I am. And she said for the first time in Japan's history the royal family will be present for something for women. I thought that was interesting, and it was the Crown Prince who's now the emperor.

And he married this Princes Yukiko or Mishiko or whatever her name isand And she she was a commoner, and he decided that they would come and he and the Princess arrived at this dinner. We had the most marvelous dinner and we the Japanese nurses were so proud of the fact that they royal family was present for womenthe fact the Royal Family was present for women.

Because they had never been shown that respect before. When I was in my more junior years, the only male nurses there were, were in the mental health field. And I could remember once being so angry because we were told the nurses, the male nurses up at Goodna refused to pay their membership to the union they have different union and the government paid the it. Yeah their union dues. We were so angry.

I and have known some very good male nurses and as long as they are interested in nursing. Somebody said to me they never understood why I went into administration cuz I was so interested in the clinical area. And I said I went there for one reason so that people in the clinical area could be heard, because nobody every bothered asking them in the olden days. They were told But anyway, thank goodness that changed because we had a nurses registration board but the chairman was always a doctor, preferably male. I don't think nursing will always be nursing.

People want to look after people who are in need and I think one of the things I used to tell the students at St Andrewsremember that the people coming to hospital it isn't as familiar to them as it is to us and I tell them the story when I was in charge of private wards in the generaldistrict's in the late 50s.

This woman came in this afternoon. And I knew she was a case of malignancy and she was going to have this massive surgery. And she had it, and she came from outside Toowoomba. And I remember she came down on the bus to come into hospital, and when she was going home about a month later. A month later, I said to her well I hope you feel you've been cared for well.

She said, I want to tell you something. She said, do you remember the afternoon I came in. I said yes I do very well. She said, I had made up my mind as I walked along that corridor to the entrance of the ward, that if anyone To the entrance of the ward, that if anyone as much as scowled at me, I'll go home on the next bus knowing that I was going home to certain death.

Now how frightened do you have to be of a situation. And she said, everybody smiled at me and I thought I could live with it. She recovered and fortunately I don't know how long she lived of course we didn't hear afterwards, but I can always hear that lady saying that to me and I told the students at St Andrews.

Hospitals is a second nature to us, but it isn't to other people to other people.

Pixie’s Volunteering History Since 1992

  • Volunteer, St Andrew’s War Memorial Hospital (2007 to present)
  • Commissioner, Anglican Community Service Commission (2005 to present)
  • Chairman, Spiritus Ethics Committee (2005 to present)
  • Member, Older People Speak Out (2001 to present)
  • St Andrew’s Anglican Church Lutwyche (Synod Representative 1999-2002, Minute Secretary 1998 to present)
  • Hon. Secretary, Royal Brisbane Hospital Nurses’ Association Inc (1998 to present) 
  • Lady Musgrave Trust (President 2002 to 2014, Director 1996 to present)
  • Member/Chairman, Qld Fertility Group Ethics Committee (1992 to present)
  • Centaur Memorial Fund for Nurses (Honorary Secretary 2000 to present, Member 1975 to present)
  • Order of the British Empire Queensland Association (Executive Committee/President 2002 to present, Member 1977 to present)
  • Zonta Club of Brisbane (Member 1986-2007, President 1992-1994)
  • Member/Chairman, St Luke’s Nursing Service (1992-2005)
  • Chairman, St Luke’s Ethics Committee (1995-2005)
  • Director, TriCare Ltd (1994-2001)
  • Volunteer/Member, Centaur Younger Set (1940s-1950s)

(Uniting Care Health, 2013).