Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Officer, Doris Lyne (1898–1967)

by Cheryl Crockett

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 15, (MUP), 2000

Doris Lyne Officer (1898-1967), medical practitioner, was born on 28 June 1898 at Sidcup, Kent, England, daughter of Ernest Alfred Veale, master mariner, and his Australian-born wife Amy, née Glen Wilson. Doris's parents had met in Sydney. Her maternal grandfather James Glen Wilson, an artist attached to H.M.S. Herald, had arrived in Australia in 1853. Doris was educated at Cheltenham Ladies' College, Gloucestershire. Perhaps inspired by a family friend Mrs Elizabeth Garrett Anderson (the first woman to qualify as a medical practitioner in England), she was encouraged in her choice of a profession by her cousin Dr Laura Veale and uncle Dr Ellacott Ward. In 1915 she entered the London School of Medicine for Women (M.B., B.S., 1921).

Doris visited Australia in 1922, and returned the following year. At All Saints Church, St Kilda, Melbourne, on 14 May 1923 she married with Anglican rites Ernest Officer, a 52-year-old grazier. They lived on Zara station, near Wanganella, New South Wales, and were to have three children. Doris learned to ride and shoot; she played the piano, enjoyed hiking and read detective stories. An attractive young woman, she showed little interest in fashion.

In 1927 the Officers sold Zara and settled in Melbourne where Doris joined the Alexandra Club. In 1930 she resumed her medical career. A clinical-assistant in paediatrics (1932-46) at the Queen Victoria Memorial Hospital, she was also honorary medical officer at the Richmond Baby Health Centre.

After her husband died in 1936, Officer threw herself into her work, becoming honorary secretary of the Victorian Baby Health Centres Association, a post she held for thirty years. Tireless in her efforts, she stimulated State-wide interest in establishing baby health centres. She helped to improve existing facilities, introduced a travelling health-centre caravan, addressed meetings, edited the magazine, Baby Health, and wrote articles on child health for the Sun News-Pictorial. She mediated between voluntary health committees, local councils and the Department of Health's maternal and infant welfare division, and sought increased funding for a voluntary infant-welfare training programme for nurses.

During World War II she served as honorary medical officer to the Red Cross Blood Transfusion Service, and as medical officer at the Australian Women's Recruiting Depot and the Free Kindergarten Union of Victoria (1941-64). Dr Officer was a board-member (from 1943) of the Queen's Memorial Infectious Diseases Hospital (later Fairfield Hospital), lecturer in infant feeding and management at St George's Hospital, Kew, and president (1945-46) of the Victorian Medical Women's Society. Following her persistent submissions, the Carlton Home was transferred to the control of the V.B.H.C.A. and renamed the Queen Elizabeth Hospital for Mothers and Babies. She helped to organize its opening (1958) by Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, and later raised funds to build the Isabella Younger Ross lecture hall in the grounds. In the 1960s she was patron of the Nursing Mothers' Association of Australia and vice-president of the Children's Welfare Association of Victoria.

Officer was awarded Queen Elizabeth II's coronation medal in 1953 and appointed O.B.E. in 1959. She upheld the adage 'prevention is better than cure' and remained single-minded in promoting family health. Her last words to one of her children were: 'Bother, it's Health Week and I won't be there!' Survived by her daughter and two sons, she died of myocardial infarction on 31 July 1967 at Richmond and was cremated; her estate was sworn for probate at $93,502. At Fairfield Hospital a prize for nursing was named after her. Aileen Dent's portrait of Officer is held by the Queen Elizabeth Centre, Noble Park.

Select Bibliography

  • Baby Health, Sept 1967, p 2
  • Medical Journal of Australia, 27 Jan 1968, p 150
  • Age (Melbourne), 13 June 1959, 1 Aug 1967
  • C. D. Crockett, The History of the Baby Health Centre Movement in Victoria 1917-1976 (M.A. thesis, Monash University, 1997)
  • private information.

Citation details

Cheryl Crockett, 'Officer, Doris Lyne (1898–1967)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.online.anu.edu.au/biography/officer-doris-lyne-11288/text20143, published first in hardcopy 2000, accessed online 17 December 2018.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 15, (MUP), 2000

View the front pages for Volume 15

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