Betty Margaret Schofield, Parramatta’s Woman of the Year, 1975. Image: Women of Parramatta

Betty Margaret Schofield was a Matron and Director of Nursing at Parramatta Hospital for almost twenty years from February 1966 to 1981. Born in 1920, Betty graduated in nursing from the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital in 1942, and attained significant nursing qualifications throughout her career including being a Fellow of the New South Wales College of Nursing and a member of the New South Wales Nurses’ Registration Board. She also held executive positions on various committees relating to nursing and administration. Betty also completed a post-basic certificate in ear, nose and throat nursing at the National Hospital in London and was a registered Midwifery Nurse and Registered Mothercraft Nurse. [1]

Many innovations occurred under Betty’s leadership at Parramatta Hospital.  One was the introduction of the Pink Ladies’ Auxillary, which enabled volunteers to offer their services towards the care of patients. Another was the Candy Stripers, who were people that were able to work in Parramatta Hospital for a short time so that they could decide if nursing was the career that they imagined it to be. [2]

A significant moment in Betty’s career as a nurse was the Granville rail disaster, which remains New South Wales’ worst rail disaster. On the morning of the 18 January 1977, eight-three people were killed and 210 injured when the Mount Victoria to Central train ran into the supports of the overhead bridge, resulting in the bridge collapsing onto the carriages. Mr N. Gilbert, Chairman of the Parramatta Hospital Board during 1977 recorded the following:

On being informed of the Granville Rail Disaster, senior officers immediately dispatched the hospital Emergency Disaster Team to the site… Meanwhile, at the hospital, every off-duty nurse and doctor had reported for duty and numerous local doctors offered assistance. Truck loads of pharmaceutical equipment arrived unrequested from the drug companies. Wards were cleared in preparation for the influx of the injured and a triage nurse was placed in the Accident and Emergency Department to classify the injured and to arrange for some of them to be transported to other hospitals. As co-leaders on this occasion, the Director of Nursing, Miss Schofield and Medical Superintendent Dr Cable, deserve great credit. The staff’s effort was magnificent. They were an extremely well organised highly disciplined team and there was absolutely no panic. [3]

In addition to her significant nursing career, Betty also dedicated herself to over 40 years’ of volunteer work. This included serving on the City of Parramatta Council’s Arts Advisory, Heritage Advisory and Physical Access Advisory Committees. This community service was recognised, and in 1975 Betty was chosen to be Parramatta’s Woman of the Year. In 1977, she also received an Order of Australia Medal and Queen’s Jubilee Medal for her contribution to the community.

On the 17 January 2000, Betty Schofield died and was buried at the Woronora Memorial Park in Sutherland, Sydney.

Caroline Finlay, Regional Studies Facilitator, Parramatta Heritage Centre, City of Parramatta, 2020

[1] Women of Parramatta. (1977). Parramatta, NSW: Ladies Auxiliary of the Parramatta Trust. p. 99.
[2] Graduate Nurses’ Association. (197-?). A History of Nursing in Parramatta. Parramatta, NSW: Author. p. 67.
[3] Cumberland Area Health Service. (1988). Caring for Convicts and the Community. Westmead, NSW: Author. p. 82.