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Betty Dorothy Lyons (1921–1986)

by Judith Cornell

This article was published:

Betty Dorothy Lyons (1921-1986), nurse educator, was born on 26 May 1921 at Condobolin, New South Wales, elder child of John Joseph (Jack) Jacobs, business manager, and his wife Eileen Jean, née Hunter, both born in New South Wales.  Her secondary education was obtained as a boarder at St Catherine’s School, Waverley, Sydney.  After training (1940-44) as a general nurse at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, she completed midwifery in 1945 at King George V Memorial Hospital, Camperdown.  On 12 May that year she married Thomas William Lyons, a clerk, at St Andrew’s Church of England, Summer Hill.

In 1955 Mrs Lyons undertook a sister tutor diploma at the New South Wales College of Nursing; she was made a fellow of the college in 1956.  Appointed to the council in 1957, over the next twenty years she served fourteen terms, including five as vice-president and four as president.  From 1956 to 1959 she was tutor sister in charge of the school of nursing at the St George Hospital, Kogarah.  A gifted teacher, she inspired many student nurses to realise their potential in a system that did not always recognise individuality.  In 1960-61 she was employed as an assistant administrator, a post that included the function of student adviser, at the college of nursing.  She served on the council, and as president, of the Australasian Trained Nurses’ Association.

Lyons was the nurse adviser to the New South Wales Nurses’ Registration Board from 1962 to 1974.  A foundation member of the Australasian Nurse Registering Authorities Conference, a group that met biennially to discuss the issues surrounding nurse registration, she also served (1972-78) on the expert panel in nursing of the Commonwealth government committee on overseas professional qualifications.  Divorced in 1961, she had married Bernard William (Bill) McKillop, a clerk, on 20 August 1965 at the district registrar’s office, St Leonards.  In her professional life she continued to be known as Betty Lyons.

In 1974 Lyons was appointed the secretary and executive officer of the Nurses Education Board of New South Wales.  Her role in the transfer of nurse education to the tertiary sector gave her great satisfaction.  She studied at the University of New England (BA, 1975).

Following her retirement in 1978, Lyons joined the board of the Rockdale Community Mobile Nursing and Other Health Services, holding numerous offices including a five-year term as president.  She was a charter member and the first vice-president of the Soroptimist Club of St George.  Warm, caring and loyal to her friends, she always had time to listen to people.  Her sense of humour lightened the mood at many meetings.  She was awarded Queen Elizabeth II’s silver jubilee medal in 1977 and was appointed MBE in 1979.  Survived by her husband and the two sons of her first marriage, she died of cancer on 27 December 1986 at Kogarah and was buried in Woronora cemetery.

Select Bibliography

  • St George and Sutherland Shire Leader, 15 January 1987, p 21
  • Lamp (Sydney), March 1987, p 21
  • College of Nursing records, Sydney
  • private information and personal knowledge

Citation details

Judith Cornell, 'Lyons, Betty Dorothy (1921–1986)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 2012, accessed online 18 May 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 18, (Melbourne University Press), 2012

View the front pages for Volume 18

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Betty Lyons, 1970

Betty Lyons, 1970

State Library of New South Wales, 46024

Life Summary [details]

Alternative Names
  • Jacobs, Betty Dorothy
  • McKillop, Betty Dorothy

26 May, 1921
Condobolin, New South Wales, Australia


27 December, 1986 (aged 65)
Kogarah, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

Cause of Death

cancer (cervical)