Dispatches from the Frontline: Geraldine Cook-Dafner

Dispatches from the Frontline is a performed reading by Geraldine Cook-Dafner of excerpts from the diary of Australian Sister Nan Reay, a Victorian World War 1 nurse who served on the “frontline”. These “dispatches” celebrate this nurse’s personal resilience, courage and persistence and are used to reference contemporary issues of care, duty, resilience and courage embodied daily by “front line workers” during the COVID pandemic

During Melbourne's first lockdown I started to record the diary of Sister Nan Reay, every night for half an hour at dusk. It was strange listening to the language of war to describe our fight with the pandemic, as I recorded a diary of a young Australian woman at another "frontline" 103 years ago.

 When reading the diary, it seemed that our language has not changed in over 103 years. In fact, the practices of keeping people alive – good hygiene, quality care, respect for knowledge and each other, tolerance and humour are enduring human qualities to help us survive. 

The diary takes us to the most tragic aspects of the war, but also includes light hearted moments of camaraderie and humour. I believe it resonates so directly with the lived experiences of frontline workers across the world during the Covid crisis. 

This project was produced with the assistance of Naomi Edwards and Alex Dafner.