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ANZAC unsung heroines honoured by UC screenwriter

ANZAC unsung heroines honoured by UC screenwriter

Claudia Doman

15 August 2014: The untold stories of Australian and New Zealand nurses who served during World War I have finally been shared thanks to a University of Canberra academic and her latest television project ANZAC Girls, which launched on ABC TV on Sunday night to an audience of over one million Australians.


A behind the scenes shot of the successful ABC mini-series ANZAC Girls, written and produced by UC lecturer Felicity Packard. Photo: Alysa Grigoriev

Creative writing lecturer and University of Canberra Distinguished Alumni Award winner Felicity Packard is producer and lead writer behind the Screentime produced six-part drama series which shines a spotlight on the role that five ANZAC nurses played while deployed at Gallipoli and the Western Front. 

"The first episode had more than one and a half million viewers nationally, so it was a tremendous opening!" Ms Packard, who studied Professional Writing at the University, said.

Drawing from the book The Other ANZACs by Peter Rees as well as diaries, letters, photographs and other historical documents, ANZAC Girls tell the stories of these women who joined the Australian Army Nursing Service during WWI.

Felicity Packard

UC's creative writing lecturer and alumna Felicity Packard. Photo: Michael Latter 

Ms Packard and fellow writer Niki Aken, also a University of Canberra alumna, said it was very rewarding to be able to tell this largely unknown part of Australian history.

"History tells us that many senior army officers didn't want the nurses there, they felt [they] were in danger and also that they didn't have anything to offer as medical professionals. It was a case of 'war is no place for the weaker sex' but the nurses in this series proved them wrong," she said.

"The main driver to write this series was a desire to dramatise a part of the ANZAC story that's largely unrecognised." Ms Packard said. "Very little is known about the role of WWI nurses. The war, especially the Gallipoli campaign, has been seen through almost exclusively male eyes. But there were all these brave young women who served the whole four and half years, enduring incredible hardship and trauma."

Ms Packard, who had shared a preview of the creative vision behind ANZAC Girls during a public lecture at the University last October, offered a glimpse into the process of writing the series, which was filmed in South Australia.

"Niki and I began the writing and research process in late 2012 so by the time we began shooting last July we had all six scripts at a pretty refined stage. There are still a million creative decisions to be made though. Working with Lisa Scott (series producer) and our production team we found amazing ways to achieve pretty much everything we had included in the scripts – including camels, pyramids, gas attacks and bombing raids!"Ms Packard is not new to TV drama success. She has received multiple awards for her work on the original series.

Ms Packard is not new to TV drama success. She has received multiple awards for her work on the original series Underbelly and for Underbelly: A Tale of Two Cities and Underbelly: Badness. She has also written for other television shows including MDA, McLeod's Daughters, Home and Away and Blue Heelers.

Watch the lecture here: