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For many years, perioperative nurses in the Northern Territory who were interested in membership of a professional group for this nursing specialty belonged as associate or other membership categories to groups in other states. Although this allowed them to receive a journal, it did not allow them to be active participants of the groups.

On 24 May 1990, a meeting was held to form a steering committee for a Territory perioperative nurses association. Hospitals represented at this meeting were Royal Darwin Hospital (June de Clifford, Libby Webb), Darwin Private Hospital (Jenny Bloomfield), Gove Hospital, Tennant Creek Hospital and Alice Springs Hospital (Darel Paterson). A committee of four was elected – June de Clifford, Carole Forbes, Jenny Bloomfield and Libby Webb. Over the next few months they met to work on a constitution and various other aspects of the group’s formation.

The first meeting for election of office bearers and councillors was held on 9 February 1991 at the Phoenix Hotel, Nightcliff. The first office bearers were as follows.

President – Jenny Bloomfield

Vice-President – Carole Forbes

Secretary – Libby Webb

Treasurer – Pat Hodge

Councillors to Australian Confederation of Operating Room Nurses (ACORN) – Debbie Jager and Libby Webb



The logo, ‘Red Rock Croc’, happened after the World Operating Room Conference in 1993, in Adelaide. A need was seen by Sharon Harding and Cheryl Winter to have a badge and other items. This was prompted by the international delegates desire to swap their badges etc. for Australian memorabilia. Sharon and Cheryl had the idea of a crocodile wearing cap, mask and safety glasses. The actual croc was drawn by Julie Brant, and the computerised art work was done by Paul James. The name ‘Red Rock Croc’ came from Heather Campbell and Mary Williams of Tennant Creek, who won the naming competition held at the 1994 NTPNA Conference. The croc has featured on several t-shirts in ochre and black, a very smart green blouse in 2007, badges, a stubby holder and our conference satchels. The Alice Springs people came up with the idea of a camel for their first conference. We have a banner featuring both the croc and the camel, which has been hung at our local conferences and on the ACORN stand at the national conference.


The Northern Territory Perioperative Nurses Conferences have been held in August 1994 and May 1996, 1999, 2001, 2003, 2005, 2007, 2009 and 2011. Two have been in Alice Springs, in 2001 and 2009. The first conference was held at Mirambeena in Cavanagh Street; the next two at the Sheraton (now the Plaza); in 2003 it was at the Casino, and in 2005, 2007 and 2011 at the Holiday Inn, Esplanade (the old Beaufort). The first conference dinner was held in the garden at the home of Helen and Jon Wardill, with a near disaster when the buses transporting the delegates failed to arrive. Our trade friends came to the rescue – with no hesitation they filled their cars and we all made it safely to Leanyer! Other successful venues for conference dinners in Darwin have been Cornucopia, the Museum and Crocasuarus Cove in 2011. Alice Springs have given us unique experiences with the Telegraph station in 2001 and the Desert park in 2009, with transport to and from in the buses used to transport patients from remote communities!

Educational sessions at conferences have always had a Territory flavour, with at least one session named ‘Territory session’. This gave members the opportunity to share experiences such as the Katherine floods, care of indigenous patients and issues such as consent and ear programs. The 2003 conference content was almost all relating to Darwin’s response to the Bali bombings. Maddie Bahnert gave a most moving talk about her personal involvement with the victims – not a dry eye in the house!

NTPNA members at national and international conferences

1995, in Sydney was the first ACORN Conference to have a NT speaker at national level. Cheryl Winter spoke on ‘The Katherine Eye Surgery Experience’. 1998 ACORN Conference in Perth there were three Territory speakers, Sharon Harding, ‘Trauma in the Territory”; Pauline Mattschoss, ‘Information systems’, and Libby Webb, ‘Occupational Health and Safety’. Libby’s paper was published in the ACORN Journal, and was used for many years in the Readings of at least two external perioperative education units. 2004, in Adelaide, Libby spoke on Preceptorship, and in 2006 in Canberra she spoke on the two Bali experiences. Libby Stewart spoke on Banda Aceh and HMAS Kanimbla’s role at the pre-conference session run by the International Federation of Perioperative Nurses (IFPN), 2005 in New Orleans.

ACORN council and board

The first Councillors were Debbie Jager and Libby Webb in 1991. In 1995, Debbie left the Council and her position was filled by Chris Crimmings, who completed her term in 2000. Libby continued as Councillor until 1998. Rose Blackford was her replacement, 1998 to 2002. 2000 to 2004, Debbie Jäger, did a second stint, 2002 to 2006, Sharon Harding, 2004 to 2008, Cheryl Winter joined the Board in 2006 and not long after her move to Director, in 2008 she became ACORN President, and completed a second term in this position, ending in 2010. Libby Webb lined up for a second stint in 2006 and was joined by Tamara Logan in 2007. In 2008 Tamara was replaced by Renae Jacob, who was on the Board until 2010. Renae was replaced by Rose Gaston (Blackford), who took the Director’s role for 2010 to 2012. Tamara Logan took on Representative for this time, however resigned, and the position was filled by Sharon Harding, early in 2012. Wendy Rogers replaced Rose Gaston at the end of her term in 2012.

Another first for Cheryl Winter, is to be the first NTPN ACORN President, a position she took over in 2007, when the President for that term resigned. Cheryl filled to this position for a further two years, 2009/2010. Cheryl as the ACORN President, and a member of the NTPN has represented Australia at several overseas conferences, AORN, AfPP, and in China with the J&J contingent. Another first for Cheryl and the NTPN was her election to the position of IFPN Treasurer in 2011.

International conference attendance

International conference attendance saw Libby, June and Mollie Pocock at the World Conference in Singapore, 1991. The World conference in Adelaide, in 1993, saw a big NT contingent, including Sharon Harding, Cheryl Winter, Libby Webb and ??????. Libby attended the Association of Operating Room Nurses (AORN), 1996 in Dallas, and in 2005, New Orleans with Cheryl Winter. Sharon Harding has attended ??? World conference in Barcelona, and in the same trip the Association for Perioperative Practice (AfPP, formerly NATN) in the same trip. Libby and Viv Dunlop attended the World Conference in Christchurch in 2001. Cheryl , with her representation of ACORN on an internation level during her term as President became a regular attendee at AfPP conferences, the first of which was in 2007, and AORN Congresses. Much of her time at these was spent as the Australian delegate at IFPN meetings.

Members of note

Despite the group representing only six hospitals it is an active close knit organisation, defying the distance between places. Gove members in the earlier days were great supporters due to the dedication of Dace Price, who passed away in June 1996. Her attendance at NTPN functions was always supported by her husband, Denis, who was made an Honorary member in 1996. Katherine has been the scene of several meetings. Fran Battye was an early supporter of the group, followed by Sue Walker, Jane Bartley, Chris Shepherd and Rose Gaston (Blackford). Tennant Creek keep contact when numbers allow, their contribution of note being the naming of the logo. Alice Springs was represented by Darelle Patterson when the Steering Committee was formed, however we lost touch with Alice for a couple of years. Active membership commenced in 1996, with Helen Kirby and Karen O’Farrell. The 2009 conference was made possible by the hard work from Dale Heers and Maria Berridge, as well as others in the team and support from Darwin members, Tamara Logan and Libby Webb.  Darwin has seen many members come and go, however there are many who have been keen supporters, including Rosemary Gaston (Blackford), Chris Crimmings, June de Clifford, Viv Dunlop, Carole Forbes, Sharon Harding, Bev Hinchliffe, Suzanne Hook, Marg Fleming, Debbie Jäger, Barbara Kulbac, Mary Margetts, Jo O’Mullane, Terry Sleigh, Libby Webb, Lesley Stewart and in more recent times Tamra Logan, Louise McArthur and Renae Jacob.

The NTPN shield was the idea of Sharon Harding, made in the shape of the NT, to record office bearers and Board members. The shield was made in 1999 by Hamilton Sleigh, and his helpers. It records the Steering committee, Inaugural Committee and office bearers.

Life members

June de Clifford was made a Life Member in 2000 in recognition to her contribution to the NTPN and constant support. Additionally, she was a constant advocate of education in the field of perioperative nursing. Nurses at all levels will attest to the encouragement and opportunities they were given by June. Libby Webb received Life membership in 2009, she to that date had been an office-bearer for whole time the group had been going, Secretary for much of this time, and a stint as President, 2001 to 2008. In 2011, a further two Life Members were added, Cheryl Winter and Sharon Harding. Cheryl, for her many firsts, and representation on ACORN board, then as ACORN President. Sharon, a constant worker for the group, office bearing positions as President and vice president, and on ACORN Board. Both of them have been the source of great entertainment with their scripts at conferencing closing, one of note being the Irwin take off.

Bali nurse

Following the Bali Bombings in 2002, NTPN looked for an appropriate way to give something to the perioperative nurses from Sangla Hospital, Bali, who worked in very trying circumstances to care for Australians who had been injured in the bomb blasts. Rose Gaston came up with the concept to assist a fellow perioperative nurse to spend time in the operating theatre at Royal Darwin Hospital (RDH) as an appropriate gesture to thank them. $1,000 was allocated from the NTPN to fund the visit. The first visit was arranged after a visit to Komang Ayu Mustri (Director of Nursing) by Rose Gaston, Viv Dunlop and Shelley Lawler on a Bali holiday in ?2004. The first nurse, Wayan Winarta, came for a month in 2005, to coincide with the NTPN Conference, the second nurse was Made Bindari in 2007, again attending a NTPN Conference. This gesture was further strengthened by the second bombing in 2005. The third visit, two nurses, Wayan Winarta again and Nyomen Setiasa, was in 2009. support from RDH in accommodation was not forthcoming, and after asking Wayan where he would prefer to be, an apartment, or Libby and Peter’s home, he chose the latter. 2011, we had the Ketuts, Purnawan and Gelgelm, again accommodated at Libby and Peter’s. Adist was the sixth nurse, not actually sponsored by NTPN, but funded with AusAid money. In July 2012, Libby was funded by RDH and AusAid to spend time at Sangla Hospital, to look at work practices etc and give feed back to assist with their accreditation. On that visit and one when on holiday earlier that year, the nurses who had been to RDH were obviously keen, where possible, to improve their work practices and implement the standards etc they had seen in Darwin. This has been strengthened further with other nurses coming to RDH in a variety of areas, now known at Sanglah as ‘the kangaroos’.

Prior to Made’s visit Libby Webb and her husband Peter visited Sangla Hospital. Wayan introduced them to Oka Rusmini Pasuana, Nursing Co-ordinator for the Emergency Dept (which includes a theatre suite) and Dr Andre Dipa, the Chief of Foreign Patient Handling Team. Libby and Peter visited Sangla again in 2009, to set up the third visit, and again in 2011. Many of our nurses now visit the ‘Bali nurses’ on a social level, and have been shown over the hospital.

NTPN provided $1,000.00 towards the visits on each occasion, covering the airfare and some incidental expenses. Accommodation for the 2005 and 2007 visits was provided by Royal Darwin Hospital in the Staff Village at no cost to the NTPN or the visiting nurse. In 2009 this was provided at Libby and Ppeter’s home. Meals were provided by Darwin Private Hospital (DPH) in their Bistro, at no cost to the NTPN or the visiting nurse. The first two visits coincided with the 2005 and 2007 NTPN Conferences, the NTPN covering their registration for the conference. The nurses brought a small amount of spending money with them, for everyday expenses, however in the current economic climate, this may be difficult. On all  occasions there was someone the nurse could call on when needed.

NTPN members who are RDH Operating Theatre staff have been able to liaise personally with senior staff from Sangla Hospital, which has been very good for public relations. They indicate that the nurse’s visits have been very beneficial to the nurses personally, as well as other staff at Sangla Hospital. Their enthusiasm and gratefulness for assisting with the visits indicates the importance of the visits to the nurses and the hospital. Wayan, the first nurse keeps touch with staff from RDH, which has been a good channel of informal communication. The nurses have been chosen by Sangla Hospital. We stipulate that they have a reasonable level of English.

2012 ACORN Conference

A big event for Darwin, was the ACORN conference in Darwin 22–26 May, 2012. The Darwin Convention Centre proved to be a perfect venue for ACORN’s needs. Lesley Stewart and Libby Webb presented papers at the conference. RDH managed to cut back operating sessions for the time, and had a big attendance of staff who otherwise would not have been able to attend such an event and thoroughly enjoyed themselves. Alice Springs and Katherine were also well represented, as well as many past members who were living interstate attending. The Priscilla Queen of the Desert dinner at the casino was a sensation, with the Darwin weather ensuring a superb night.