Golden Plains Shire Council will recognise the contribution of local women with a new public artwork in Linton, thanks to a grant from the Victorian Government.
Council has secured $116,811 from the Victorian Government’s Victorian Women’s Public Art Program for the creation of a 1.75m bronze sculpture to celebrate the contribution of Linton-born war surgeon and Director of Infant and Maternal Health, Dr Vera Scantlebury OBE. Council will also contribute $39,575 (including $9,680 in-kind contribution) to the project.
The artwork, by local sculptor Lucy McEachern, will sit in the historic township of Linton which is home to numerous memorials but none which recognise or represent women. The sculpture will be sited in the memorial Avenue of Honour and will sit opposite an existing memorial to the Linton men who served in World War 1.
Born in 1889, Vera was the daughter of local Linton GP, Dr George Scantlebury, and the former Linton postmistress, Catherine Baynes. Vera completed her medical degree at the University of Melbourne in 1913 and wanted to contribute her skills to the war effort. However, as female doctors were not accepted in the Australian Army, she had to pay her own way to England to join the British Army, where female doctors were permitted to work. Although, they were not given official enlistment status nor allowed to wear the insignia of rank. For two years, Vera worked as a surgeon in a London military hospital treating injured soldiers being sent over from France.
When Vera returned home to Australia after the war, she became the first Director of the Victorian Infant Welfare Scheme. This was a ground-breaking role which saw her caring for the health and wellbeing of babies and mothers for decades to come.
In 1938, her contribution to the field of infant and maternal health was officially recognised with an OBE. She transformed a voluntary system into the professional statewide and universal one we have today. Vera died in 1946 from breast cancer.
The artwork is due to be completed by November 2022.