Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Katrina Zepps (1918–1980)

by Judith Godden

This article was published:

Katrina Zepps (1918-1980), registered nurse, was born on 15 November 1918 at Glukhov, Ukraine, Russia, daughter of Alexander Chalders and his wife Praskovia, who were Latvian refugees from World War I. In 1922 the family returned to Latvia and Alexander became prison governor at Jelgava. There, Katie qualified (1943) in general nursing and midwifery at the Red Cross hospital. That year she married Adolfs Ozols, who was killed in action in 1944. She joined the staff of a military hospital and was evacuated ahead of the advancing Russians. Charge sister (1945-46) at the displaced persons' hospital at Lübeck, Germany, she entered the medical faculty for displaced persons at the Baltic University, Pinneburg. On 21 February 1947 at Lübeck she married Olegs ('Alec') Zepps, a Latvian electrical engineer; her marriage was childless.

Knowing almost no English, the couple reached Melbourne in the General W. M. Black on 27 April 1948. They settled in North Queensland and worked in the cane-fields. By 1950 Alec had his own business as an electrical contractor; Katie, having learned English, was a Queensland registered nurse (1951-60), mainly at Tully District Hospital. They were naturalized in 1955; she visited her sister in the United States of America in 1956-57. Moving to Sydney with her husband, Katie joined the staff at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital in January 1961. She gained a certificate in ward management (1963) and a diploma in nursing education (1964) from the New South Wales College of Nursing. At R.P.A.H. she was successively deputy-principal (nurse education) and tutor in charge of the preliminary training school.

In September 1966 Zepps was appointed education officer at the college of nursing. As deputy-principal from 1967, she helped the college to survive severe financial crises. In 1972, on a travelling scholarship, she investigated nursing education overseas. One year later Zepps became executive director of the college. After its teaching programmes had been transferred to the New South Wales College of Paramedical Studies, she was one of a small group who carved out a new and highly successful role for it by developing short courses and seminars for graduate nurses. Almost single-handed she fought to save the college library (later named after her). She retired from the college in 1976 but, elected to its council, served as president (1979-80) and senior vice-president (1980).

Katie Zepps inspired great affection through her warmth, passionate commitment and professionalism. Regarding herself as an Australian, she took pride in her hard work and encouraged others. She sought assistance and support for overseas students educated at the college under the Colombo Plan and helped migrant nurses and their families, especially those from the Baltic countries. From 1976 until her death she was executive-secretary of the New South Wales branch of the Royal Australian Nursing Federation. She was a fellow of the New South Wales College of Nursing and an honorary fellow of the College of Nursing, Australia. In 1977 she was appointed M.B.E. Survived by her husband, she died suddenly of a cerebral haemorrhage on 8 July 1980 at her Turramurra home and was cremated with Lutheran forms.

Select Bibliography

  • H. Creighton and F. Lopez, A History of Nursing Education in New South Wales (Syd, 1982)
  • M. Dickenson, An Unsentimental Union (Syd, 1993)
  • New South Wales College of Nursing, Annual Report, 1980
  • Lamp, Sept 1980, p 27
  • naturalisation files, J25, items 1954/3791 and 1956/679 (State Records Office of Western Australia)
  • New South Wales College of Nursing Archives (Glebe, Sydney)
  • private information.

Citation details

Judith Godden, 'Zepps, Katrina (1918–1980)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 2002, accessed online 18 April 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 16, (Melbourne University Press), 2002

View the front pages for Volume 16

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]

Alternative Names
  • Chalders, Katrina

15 November, 1918
Glukhov, Sumy, Ukraine


8 July, 1980 (aged 61)
Turramurra, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

Cultural Heritage

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