Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Rosa Zelma Huppatz (1906–1982)

by Sally-Anne Nicholson

This article was published:

Rosa Zelma Huppatz (1906-1982), nurse, was born on 20 July 1906 at Peters Hill, near Riverton, South Australia, fourth of eight children of Frederick Carl Huppatz, farmer, and his wife Annie, née Smith. Zelma’s Lutheran family valued compassion, duty and education. With a quiet but happy disposition, she tried to respect the feelings of others and to `discuss’ but not `argue’, believing it `a mark of a superior mind to disagree and yet be friendly’. At Riverton High School she was awarded a prize for the student who had the best influence on others. From 1929 to 1932 Zelma trained as a nurse at the (Royal) Adelaide Hospital. She then studied (1932-33) at the Metropolitan Infectious Diseases Hospital, Northfield. After her return to the Adelaide Hospital she became a senior nurse in charge of a ward in 1934. She undertook a midwifery course (1938-39) at the Queen Alexandra Hospital for Women, Hobart.

Having joined the Australian Army Nursing Service Reserve, Huppatz began full-time duty in the Australian Imperial Force on 9 February 1940. She sailed for the Middle East in April and disembarked in Egypt next month. At first she worked in a British military hospital at Alexandria, nursing soldiers, sailors, airmen and merchant seamen of many nationalities. From August she was with the 2/2nd Australian General Hospital at El Kantara. She was given responsibility for assisting junior staff to adjust to their hazardous work and living conditions. Her spare time and money were spent visiting Palestine. Back in Australia in March 1942, Huppatz was matron of the 101st AGH at Katherine, Northern Territory, before her promotion to temporary lieutenant colonel and appointment as matron of the 105th (Adelaide) Military Hospital in July 1945. Her loyalty and devotion to duty impressed her superiors. She was transferred to the Reserve of Officers on 2 August 1946.

Huppatz was then appointed assistant-matron at the Royal Adelaide Hospital; she obtained her infant welfare certificate in 1947 at Torrens House. In order to promote better nursing education she helped to establish (1949) in Melbourne the College of Nursing, Australia, of which she became a fellow and later president (1959-60). In 1950 she studied nursing administration there. Concerned that schools of nursing sometimes operated as service units rather than places of education, she advocated the `block system’ in which students would have several weeks out of the hospital to attend lectures and study. She was appointed matron of RAH in 1955, a post that she held until her retirement in 1966.

A member (1957-65) of the Nurses Board of South Australia, Huppatz was also State councillor (1948-65) and State president (1962-65) of the (Royal) Australian Nursing Federation. She was an active member of the Returned Sisters sub-branch of the Returned Sailors’, Soldiers’ and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia. In retirement she served (1967-79) on the board of the Home for Incurables and pursued her interests in theatre and music. She was awarded the Florence Nightingale medal by the International Committee of the Red Cross in 1963 and was appointed MBE in 1966. Never married, she died on 13 December 1982 at the hospital where she had nursed so many others, and was cremated.

Select Bibliography

  • J. Durdin, They Became Nurses (1991)
  • J. Durdin, Eleven Thousand Nurses (1999)
  • Advertiser (Adelaide), 4 May 1955, p 5, 11 Aug 1959, p 14, 30 May 1963, p 29, 15 Dec 1982, p 9
  • Australasian Nurses Journal, Jan-Feb 1983, p 8
  • series B883, item SX1490, and series A463, item 1965/5831 (National Archives of Australia).

Citation details

Sally-Anne Nicholson, 'Huppatz, Rosa Zelma (1906–1982)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 2007, accessed online 22 April 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 17, (Melbourne University Press), 2007

View the front pages for Volume 17

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


20 July, 1906
Peters Hill, South Australia, Australia


13 December, 1982 (aged 76)
Adelaide, South Australia, Australia

Religious Influence

Includes the religion in which subjects were raised, have chosen themselves, attendance at religious schools and/or religious funeral rites; Atheism and Agnosticism have been included.