AFGW NSW is delighted to congratulate one of our longest standing members Ms Merle Parkes AM on her recent recognition at the NCW NSW Jean Arnot Memorial Luncheon.

This annual event now in its 26th year celebrates women in their nineties who have made a significant contribution to their local communities. Merle has been a significant contributor in the areas of nursing and education and some of her achievements are featured below. 

Congratulations Merle! 

Merle Elecia Parkes AM

Merle was born in 1927. After completing her basic nursing education, she gained her midwifery and infant welfare qualifications, spending five years in various clinical roles before turning her career towards education. Merle was appointed as principal nurse educator at the Royal Perth Hospital in 1962 and, from this point onwards, her career was devoted to nurse education.

She was an innovative leader, introducing study days for students to attend lectures and establishing assistance to students by clinical nurse educators to help them in practical work on the wards. Additionally, Merle was instrumental in the appointment of a clinical psychologist to support students.

These initiatives were novel at the time and demonstrate her commitment to students. In response to her assessment of need, two new components to the teaching program were developed. One, of 20 hours, focused on personal and professional development. The other was a community health nursing component. She was involved in rewriting the curriculum and introduced it at Royal Perth Hospital in 1968.

A strong advocate for tertiary based nurse education, Merle made a significant contribution over a 20-year period in seeking and finally achieving the changes that took place in the educational preparation of nurses. These were introduced Australia wide in the 1990s.

Merle held senior and leadership positions during times of great upheaval and change in education and had gained extensive experience in clinical nursing, teaching and administration of schools of nursing within the hospital and higher education systems. She was renowned for assisting those around her to keep perspective and balance. This, combined with her extensive experience in nursing educational matters and practicalities, made her one of the architects of the new, tertiary education system for nurses in Australia.

Merle holds the degrees of Bachelor of Arts from the University of Sydney and Master of Commerce from the University of Western Australia; and the Sister-Tutor’s Diploma, awarded by the University of London.

In 1997, Merle was made a Distinguished Life Fellow of the Royal College of Nursing, Australia (now the Australian College of Nursing).