Celebrating our volunteers: Ruth Zionzee

A Lifetime of Nurse Leadership

The Drummoyne Community Centre has always drawn special people to volunteer with us, and one of the many wonderful people is Ruth Zionzee.

She began her career in nursing as part of the first intake at the Preliminary Training School at Balmain Hospital in 1950, a revolutionary school at the time. Always a maverick, Ruth had previously worked at the office of Lever Brothers (now Unilever), but felt compelled to enrol in nursing despite her father saying “no daughter of mine is going to be a nurse.”

Those who know Ruth will recognise her strength, determination and positivity, in this decision. And it was with this energy that she completed her training in 1954 with flying colours. She received a Silver Medal for Proficiency, which has never been awarded before or since. “If you were to ask my fellow trainees about this award, I suspect they’d say it was for telling risqué jokes everyday!”

Throughout her career, Ruth has worked at every level of nursing – from hands-on nursing at the Royal Hospital for Women in Paddington as a midwife, to Lever Brothers in a commercial role, contributing to nursing and health care in an occupational setting.

In 1970, she enrolled in the post-graduate Occupational Health Nursing Certificate course run by the NSW College of Nursing and graduated with high distinction. Her achievements as an outstanding nurse and leader were recognised by Unilever who appointed her to junior management as a senior nursing sister 1971. She continued to rise in Unilever and her last role as Principal Occupational Health Nurse saw her leading a team of seven nurses, playing an important role in industrial nursing and injury prevention.

While working in a male-dominated company, she strived for the equity pay rise of nurses in the industrial court in 1974, and was called upon as a key expert witness.

Ruth is 93 years young and was a registered nurse from 1954 till 2013. While technology continues to advance and assist, she believes that the core foundations of nursing can be found in the past though caring for the patient: “Nurses still provide hands-on care, whether this involves dressing wounds or bathing patients.”

Ruth was recently awarded a Certificate of Appreciation from the Honourable Margaret Beazley AC KC, Governor of New South Wales. Attending the Jean Arnott Luncheon Ruth was recognised and honoured for her contribution to the advancement of women and her community over many years.

With this wisdom and rich experience, Ruth continues to advocate for the occupational health and safety of nurses today. She loves hearing about the camaraderie and fellowship of nurses and believes that nurses should have the strong leadership to feel supported and informed.

Ruth has been a regular at DCC for many years. She brings her smiling, vibrant personality and energetic nature to events like our recent October Fashion Parade Fundraises, and attends the For Love of Music Program, and we love seeing her here. Whether she’s on the catwalk or telling another lively joke, she has been an enthusiastic participant in our events and activities and is a core part of our volunteer group.

Thank you, Ruth, for your endless energy, your constant curiosity for learning and your continued sense of purpose. We can’t wait to see you at our next event!

And if you would like to meet volunteers like Ruth or get involved with Drummoyne Community Centre, read more at our “Get Involved” page. https://dcc.org.au/get-involved/