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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Wing, Marie Naomi (1903–1985)

by John E. Hassall

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 18, (MUP), 2012

Naomi Wing, with J. Hunter and U Thang Maung , 1958

Naomi Wing, with J. Hunter and U Thang Maung , 1958

National Archives of Australia, A1501:A1663/​6

Marie Naomi Wing (1903-1985), medical practitioner, was born on 2 October 1903 at Narrabri, New South Wales, eldest of three surviving children of Michael William Hardy, monumental mason, and his wife Maud Louise, née Facer, both born in New South Wales. After attending Narrabri District and North Sydney Girls’ High schools, Naomi studied medicine at the University of Sydney (MB, BS, 1927). She chose Sydney Hospital for her junior residency and in 1928 was the resident medical officer at Lithgow Hospital. On 26 December that year at Blackheath she married, with Congregational forms, New Zealand-born Lindon Worlledge Wing, a fellow graduate with whom she went into general practice at Pambula until 1935 and then at Cooma until 1950. They then travelled overseas for twelve months, during which Naomi studied with the rheumatologist Ian Duthie in Edinburgh. Frank Cooksey, a specialist in rehabilitation medicine in England, influenced her.

Back in Australia, Wing began a specialist practice in rheumatology in Sydney in 1951, and in 1953 was appointed assistant rheumatologist at Royal South Sydney Hospital. Later that year, while visiting rheumatology clinics in the United States of America and Britain, she came to recognise the importance of organised rehabilitation services.

A persuasive and often irresistible lobbyist, Wing enjoyed the friendship of judges and politicians, and the influence that these friendships afforded. In 1956 the Hospitals Commission of New South Wales approved the formation of a pilot rehabilitation service at Royal South Sydney Hospital, and in 1958 the unit was officially incorporated as part of the hospital. She remained as its director until she retired at the age of 70 in 1973, when she was succeeded by Dr John Baggott.

Her dedication to rehabilitation medicine was recognised in 1976 with the construction of the Naomi Wing Rehabilitation Centre, which retained its pre-eminent position in the provision of rehabilitation services until its closure in 1993, after RSSH became part of the Prince of Wales Hospital group. She was responsible for gaining much of the funding for this centre.

As well as training generations of loyal and devoted occupational therapists, Wing helped to establish rehabilitation services at other hospitals in Australia. In 1969-70 she was a member of the steering committee for the A. T. Conybeare inquiry to examine the feasibility of establishing a system for the rehabilitation of injured workers in New South Wales. She also served as president of the Australian Association of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation.

Among the last of a small number who conducted specialist medical practice without a higher degree, nevertheless Wing was an influential figure in the emerging specialty of rheumatology in Australia. A foundation councillor of the State branch of the Australian Rheumatism Association, she was the association’s federal president in 1963 for its first international congress, during which the South-East Asia and Pacific Area League against Rheumatism was formed. In 1968 she helped to establish the Arthritis and Rheumatism Patients’ Aid Society (from 1976 the Arthritis and Rheumatism Council of New South Wales), an organisation that would raise funds for research and education and represent the interests of arthritis sufferers. Appointed OBE in 1968, she was elevated to CBE in December 1979. In 1984 she retired from her private practice in Macquarie Street.

Ray Robinson, another trailblazer in the field of rheumatology, remembered Wing as a good friend and loyal colleague who, nonetheless, with ‘black eyes flashing . . . could speak her mind in no uncertain terms when she was in disagreement’. But many who wilted before this femme formidable were soothed by the warmth of the smile that followed. She died on 27 February 1985 at Hornsby and was cremated. Predeceased by her younger daughter (1941) and husband (1977), she was survived by her son and elder daughter.

Select Bibliography

  • G. Sherington, Rheumatology in Australia (1990)
  • R. Robinson, A Half Century of Rheumatology (2006)
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 13 Sept 1973, p 5, 11 Feb 1980, p 12, 4 Mar 1985, p 6
  • Medical Journal of Australia, 30 Sept 1985, p 311
  • private information and personal knowledge.

Citation details

John E. Hassall, 'Wing, Marie Naomi (1903–1985)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/wing-marie-naomi-15764/text26952, published first in hardcopy 2012, accessed online 18 September 2020.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 18, (MUP), 2012

View the front pages for Volume 18

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