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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Muntz, Jean Eileen (Jane) (1903–1969)

by Jan Bassett

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

Jean Eileen (Jane) Muntz (1903-1969), nurse, was born on 14 March 1903 at Alexandra, Victoria, youngest of seven children of Victorian-born parents William Jamison Muntz, civil engineer, and his wife Alice Elizabeth, née Irvine. The family moved to Kew where William was town (later city) surveyor in 1912-24. Jean attended Ruyton Girls' School from June 1917. After passing four subjects at the Intermediate certificate examinations, she left in December 1919, apparently intending to enter a business college. Little trace remains of her activities over the next decade.

She qualified at the Royal Melbourne Hospital in 1934 and held various nursing positions. To her disappointment, hypertension prevented her from joining the Australian Army Nursing Service during World War II. Muntz gained an infant welfare certificate in 1938, joined the Victorian maternal and child hygiene branch of the Victorian Department of Health in 1942, and became an infant welfare inspector in 1943. The Victorian government seconded her in 1946 to establish a State bureau to recruit and place nurses. Two years later Jane, as she called herself in adult life, was awarded a British Council bursary to study nursing trends abroad.

With a growing reputation in her field, Muntz was the first nursing adviser (1951-68) to the Victorian minister of health. In 'Nursing—Professional Responsibility', her 1954 Marian Barrett memorial lecture, she expressed some of her ethical views. She served on the Nurses Board (1953-58) and its successor, the Victorian Nursing Council (1958-68). The council—which formulated policy, set educational standards and controlled the registration of nurses—was established under the Nurses Act (1956), legislation she had done much to shape and which, according to Vance Dickie, minister of health, was perhaps her 'greatest monument'. In 1957 she was appointed O.B.E. She sat on the minister's committee of inquiry into nursing, set up in 1966, but died before its work was completed.

Miss Muntz was a co-founder and fellow (1950) of the College of Nursing, Australia, a council-member (1946-67) and president (1953-58) of the Royal Victorian College of Nursing, and a council-member (from 1950) and president (1961-66) of the Royal Australian Nursing Federation. She was also a foundation member and vice-president of the War Nurses Memorial Centre (from 1953 the Nurses Memorial Centre) and a member of the national Florence Nightingale Committee of Australia. Seeing herself as a citizen of the world, she served on both the grand council and board of directors of the International Council of Nurses, and attended several of its congresses: in 1965 she was a keynote speaker at Frankfurt, Germany.

Well groomed and dignified, Muntz was short, with a neat figure, even features, brown hair, direct blue eyes and a slightly florid complexion. For more than twenty years she shared a flat in East Melbourne with her close friend Jill Morey. Two of her many hobbies were reflected in presents from colleagues on her retirement—a tumbler for polishing semi-precious stones and binoculars for bird-watching. She died of an intracerebral haemorrhage on 30 November 1969 in South Melbourne and was cremated with Anglican rites.

Select Bibliography

  • M. K. Minchin, Revolutions and Rosewater (Melb, c1977)
  • J. and B. Bessant, The Growth of a Profession (Melb, 1991)
  • UNA, Nov 1954, p 336, June 1957, p 162, July 1965, p 218, June 1968, p 163, Sept 1970, p 21
  • private information.

Citation details

Jan Bassett, 'Muntz, Jean Eileen (Jane) (1903–1969)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 2000, accessed online 20 October 2020.

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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