A NSW Government website

Lives of service

Blue Plaque recipients have demonstrated commitment to strengthening education opportunities, improving health services, and providing support for Australians on battlefields far from home.

Many of these celebrated recipients are women. In the late 19th and early 20th century, participation in charitable causes gave women an opportunity to harness their skills and energy to better society. Individuals and organised groups of women tirelessly campaigned to improve the lives of those in their local communities.

A photograph of three Sisters of the Little Company of Mary attending to newborn babies in cribs in the hospital’s maternity ward which operated between 1959 and 1988
Sisters from the Little Company of Mary working in the maternity ward, c. 1959–1988. Image courtesy of Calvary Riverina Hospital archive

Little Company of Mary Sisters

The Little Company of Mary, a Catholic religious order, established the Calvary Hospital in Wagga Wagga in 1926.

The Sisters of this order – also known as the ‘Blue Sisters’ after the blue veils they wore – played a vital role in providing compassionate healthcare to the people of the Riverina district and beyond.

Today, the hospital continues to serve the local community.

Read more about the Little Company of Mary Sisters.

A young Father Dunlea with a large group of boys of all ages standing in front of a building at Boys Town in Engadine, now known as the Dunlea Centre.
Father Dunlea and boys, c. 1940. Image courtesy of Dunlea Centre: Australia’s original Boys’ Town archive 

Fr Thomas Dunlea

Father Thomas Dunlea was an Irish-Australian Catholic priest. He was known for his work with vulnerable youth and alcoholics. In the 1930s, after discovering that some parishioners were living rough, he set about caring for the homeless boys among them. In 1940, he established a permanent shelter which he named Boys’ Town. In 2010, the shelter was renamed the Dunlea Centre in Father Thomas’s honour.

Read more about Father Thomas Dunlea

A group of local women from the Camden Red Cross sewing circle. While some are spinning yarn for knitting socks, others knit and sew articles of clothing for injured troops. Taken circa 1917, photographer unknown.
Women from the Camden Red Cross sewing circle at work around 1917. Image courtesy of Camden Historical Society 

Camden Red Cross Sewing Circles

The Camden Red Cross sewing circles played a vital role on the home front during World War I and World War II. The sewing circles attracted local women from across the district who were able to use their skills to manufacture clothing and supplies for the war effort.

As bloody conflicts raged thousands of kilometres away, women met in this building, originally known as the School of Arts, to diligently sew or knit items such as shirts, pyjamas, mittens and medical supplies.

Read more about Camden Red Cross Sewing Circles

A lithograph by Thomas Fairland based on an oil painting by Angelo Collen Hayter. Caroline Chisholm sits at a table reading some papers.
Portrait of Caroline Chisholm. Thomas Fairland lithograph from painting by Angelo Collen Hayter, 1852 . Image courtesy of National Library of Australia  Rex Nan Kivell Collection; NK4885. ANL

Caroline Chisholm

Caroline Chisholm was a pioneering humanitarian who fought to improve conditions for immigrant women and families. After discovering the New South Wales Government had no system to support new immigrants, Caroline met every incoming ship to offer help with employment and accommodation. The cottage on Mill Street is one of two terraced dwellings that Caroline converted into an immigrant hostel. Known as Caroline Chisholm Cottage, it is believed to be the nation’s only surviving site of her charitable works. In honour of her tireless contribution, her face was featured on our first five-dollar note.

Read more about Caroline Chisholm