In his imagination, this wonderful gig allows the Geelong Copywriter to time-travel to amazing eras and learn about truly inspiring ladies. Here’s another in the series…
A passion to serve the less fortunate, a symphonic ear and an eye for detail drove Vera Deakin to places most young women at the turn of last century would have baulked at adventuring to. Vera Deakin’s determination to serve made her no ordinary woman.
Born into the privileged surroundings of high society and affluence, Vera was educated by her aunt Katie before attending Melbourne’s Church of England Girls’ Grammar School. By the age of 12, her father was the Prime Minister of Australia. He held this position for the better part of the next decade. Consequently, had she been so inclined, Vera Deakin could have chosen a life of security, material pleasure and stability. She was not so inclined…
During her father’s term in office at age 22, Vera and Katie Deakin travelled to Berlin and Budapest so Vera could further her musical studies in cello and singing. What an escapade that must have been – touring the capitals of Europe, visiting the grand opera houses and witnessing the growing brutality to the Jews just prior to World War I! Well, it certainly left an impression on the young girl from the prosperous suburb of South Yarra whose father ran a fledgling country half a world away.
When war broke out, Vera was in London. Immediately, she put her shoulder to the wheel and one of her strengths instantly came to the fore – organisation. She gave structure to a group of Melbourne girls in London to undertake work benefitting the war effort. However, this was to be a short lived experience for Vera as her and Katie’s trip was nearing its end and they returned to Australia.
Driven by her first-hand knowledge of the European situation, Vera wasted no time when back home and joined the fledgling Australian branch of the British Red Cross Society and completed a course in home nursing. In what must have been a frustrating twist for her, she then accompanied her parents to San Francisco in 1915. So, on their return to Melbourne, she was more enthusiastic then ever to play some part in the war effort abroad. Her parents, however, were opposed to this.
Having been forbidden to continue her musical studies by her parents, then having her European journey cut when she was on the verge of serving and now being stifled by her protective parents again, Vera could take no more. She contacted (Sir) Norman Brookes who worked for the Red Cross. He encouraged her to join immediately. Fed up with her obstructions, defiantly, Vera left all that was comfortable to her and set off for Cairo. The day following her arrival, she opened the Australian Wounded and Missing Inquiry Bureau.
The Bureau’s work involved discovering the whereabouts and fate of missing Australian soldiers in the Gallipoli theatre. Given the communication methods of the day and the continuing campaign, Vera’s organisational abilities were tested to the limit. Undaunted by these obstacles, Vera led her team of volunteers to unearth this often tragic news which was then relayed to thousands and thousands of grief-stricken relatives back home. She was a small but important cog in the war machine and many benefitted greatly from her passionate drive and sense of urgency. She was 25.
Vera Deakin saw her future, heard the call and shouldered the burden. In so doing, she brought enormous comfort to many.
You go girl!