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Hobbs, Victoria Alexandra (Vicki) (1907–1995)

by Jennie Carter

This article was published online in 2019

Vicki Hobbs, with Herbie, c.1970

Vicki Hobbs, with Herbie, c.1970

State Library of Western Australia, 48142579

Victoria Alexandra May Hobbs (1907–1995), nurse and historian, was born on 24 May 1907 at Subiaco, Perth, only child of New South Wales-born James Joseph Hobbs, mechanic, later a bootmaker, and his Victorian-born wife Charlotte, née Emery. Vicki was educated at South Perth High School (later Raith Girls’ Grammar School), a small private school. A bright student, she felt out of place because her parents ‘kept a shop … others were children of professors and people at the university’ (Hobbs 1989). Her mother died when Vicki was twelve. After leaving school at sixteen, she attended Stott’s Business College. She found employment in an office, but lost her position to ‘a cheaper person’ (Hobbs 1988) when she turned nineteen. In 1929 she commenced three years of nursing training at (Royal) Perth Hospital. She later completed a year of midwifery training at King Edward Memorial Hospital for Women. Between 1935 and 1940 she worked at Fremantle, Grosvenor, St Helen’s private, and Harvey hospitals.

Hobbs volunteered for service in World War II and on 26 June 1940 was appointed as a staff nurse (sister from December), (Royal) Australian Army Nursing Service (Corps), Australian Imperial Force. Posted to the 2/4th Australian General Hospital, she served in the Middle East (1940–42), including a stint (March–April 1941) at Tobruk, Libya; Ceylon (Sri Lanka) (March–July 1942); Australia (1942–45); and on the islands of Morotai, Netherlands East Indies (Indonesia) (June–July 1945), and Labuan, British Straits Settlements (Malaysia) (July–November 1945). Sisters were commissioned as lieutenants in March 1943 and she was promoted to captain in August. She continued in the army after the war, with postings to military and repatriation hospitals in Australia, the troopship Duntroon for a return voyage to Japan (January–March 1949), and the Long Range Weapons Establishment’s range at Woomera, South Australia (1949–51). On 12 March 1952 she transferred to the Reserve of Officers.

In 1952 Hobbs attended the Royal Victorian College of Nursing, Melbourne, gaining a certificate as a sister tutor the following year; she became a fellow of the college in 1956. She worked as principal tutor at the School of Nursing, Perth, until her retirement in 1969. That year she bought a reel-to-reel tape recorder to interview nurses for her book, But Westward Look: Nursing in Western Australia, 1829–1979 (1980). For her services to nursing, particularly in recording its history, she was appointed OAM in 1987.

Standing five feet three inches (161 cm) tall, with large grey-blue eyes, Hobbs was a slight woman whose ‘wry sense of humour and eye for the ridiculous made her approachable to staff and students’ (Hunt-Smith 1995, 47). She enjoyed a lively social life in retirement, travelling widely and writing histories, short biographies, articles, plays, and poetry. The historian of the Western Australian returned sisters’ sub-branch of the Returned Services League, she documented each member’s service details and civilian work. She also worked on a history of St Mary’s Anglican Church, West Perth, of which she was a lifelong member.

Unmarried, Hobbs shared her home with her ducks and cats. She survived a car accident in 1994 but never fully recovered. When she realised that she was ‘for the chop’ (Hunt-Smith 1995, 47), she arranged her own funeral. She died on 21 May 1995 at Hollywood Private Hospital, Nedlands, and was cremated. She donated her extensive collection of private papers, oral histories, and photographs to the J. S. Battye Library, State Library of Western Australia.

Research edited by Rani Kerin

Select Bibliography

  • Hobbs, Victoria. Interview by Chris Jeffrey, 1985. J. S. Battye Library of West Australian History, Oral History Collection. State Library of Western Australia
  • Hobbs, Victoria. Interview by F. Welsh, 1988. J. S. Battye Library of West Australian History, Oral History Collection. State Library of Western Australia
  • Hobbs, Victoria. Interview by S. Meggitt, 1989. J. S. Battye Library of West Australian History, Oral History Collection. State Library of Western Australia
  • Hunt-Smith, Betty. ‘Nurse Taught the Art of Caring.’ Listening Post, Spring 1995, 47
  • J. S. Battye Library of West Australian History, State Library of Western Australia. MN2119, Hobbs, Victoria Alexandra
  • National Archives of Australia. B883, WX3367

Additional Resources

Citation details

Jennie Carter, 'Hobbs, Victoria Alexandra (Vicki) (1907–1995)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/hobbs-victoria-alexandra-vicki-28408/text36039, published online 2019, accessed online 20 November 2019.

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