Spirit of service: Belinda


Growing up, Belinda always wanted to be a vet. But when a job opportunity found her in Year 11, she began working as an Enrolled Nurse at Royal Canberra Hospital and found her passion in nursing.

Belinda attended university to become a Registered Nurse and was one of only six nurses in Australia to be accepted into the Australian Deference Force undergraduate nurses’ scheme.


That marked the beginning of more than 18 years of service in the Australian Army and Air Force as a nurse with specialist training in intensive care, aviation medical and emergency.

“I had just turned 30 and had only been married for six months when I found myself on a peacekeeping tour to Rwanda with the United Nations. Knowing I was to be deployed, we got married just in case something was to happen to me while I was away,” Belinda remembered.

“We had pre-deployment training in Townsville where we learnt how to fire weapons and were briefed on how dangerous the situation was, how to look out for mines and learnt some of the local language. We needed to be confident in protecting ourselves.

“We were nervous getting on the plane, we were scared. This was the first time Australia had been to war since World War II, it was really foreign to us and we didn’t know what to expect. The job was to enforce peace and to look after the locals.

“I was in intensive care and we treated lots of horrific injuries and amputations, many from gunshots and land mines. There was also lots of malaria, skin infections, pneumonia, and women who were pregnant. There are some patients I’ll never forget,” Belinda said. 

At the end of a six-month deployment, Belinda returned to Australia a Lieutenant and went back to university to further her study. She transferred to the Air Force and once again found herself off on deployment, this time to East Timor, a place she would visit twice.

She became second-in-charge of rotary and fixed wing medical retrievals, which would see her flying seriously ill patients to emergency care in Dili and Darwin.

“After East Timor, I went to Iraq and was embedded with the United States Military. We were handpicked to go and it was like winning a lotto to be chosen, only 35 Australians went amongst 25,000 Americans,” Belinda said.

“We cared for the local people as well as injured American soldiers. The conditions were horribly hot, in 50-degree heat, wearing a Kevlar helmet and jacket.

“We were mortared up to six times a day and because often the patients were ventilated we couldn’t move or leave them. Over time, we moved closer and closer to the air field so that we could transfer patients as quickly as possible to Germany where the major rehabilitation hospital was,” she said. 


A Squadron Leader at the time of her discharge, Belinda is highly decorated for her service, including medals awarded by the United States.

“For every deployment, you cannot prepare for war and for the conditions you will face. You become hard because you have to, but it’s a privilege to be able to go and do this for your country,” Belinda said.

“You also form the closest of friendships, I miss the great comradeship and I just loved my job and looking after people. It makes you appreciate life in Australia and you don’t ever take anything for granted.”

Belinda is also a mum to two sons and today is part of our Emergency Centre team at St Andrew’s.

“Experts thought I’d be too affected to ever work again, but I’ve proved them wrong. I love working in Emergency because it helps to keep me busy and allows me to continue doing what I love which is helping others.”

Preferring quieter commemorations these days, Belinda will enjoy spending ANZAC Day hiking in the mountains and at home making ANZAC biscuits.