Celebrating history

By Professor Mike Morgan, Head, Melbourne Dental School

On Anzac Day this year, off the coast of Queensland’s Fraser Island, a plaque was laid beside the wreckage of the TSS Maheno, a former passenger liner that served as a hospital ship  for the New Zealand Government during World War I. I have a personal link to the TSS Maheno through my grandfather, AH Vivian Morgan, an ‘x-ray specialist’ onboard the ship during  wartime and a Sergeant and Staff Sergeant in  the Second New Zealand Division Medical Corps.

Two years ago, I mentioned this link and the story of the TSS Maheno (which you can read in full here) to Dr Ross Bastiaan AM RFD at the launch of the Medical History Museum’s exhibition and publication ‘Compassion and Courage’. An alumnus of the Melbourne Dental School and periodontist, Ross has placed over 270 large bronze commemorative plaques at sites of military conflicts involving ANZAC troops all around the world. The TSS Maheno is now included in this list, with descendants of the ship’s crew and those rescued by them during her time as a hospital vessel coming together at the unveiling.

The story of TSS Maheno and the service it provided in times of conflict is memorable, and it is fitting that we celebrate her history.

History was also celebrated in August this year when we marked 20 years since the University of Melbourne graduated its first cohort of oral health practitioners. This is a profession that developed in New Zealand in the years following World War I, when there was dire need for childhood oral health care and education. Though it was the mid 1990s before the University emerged as a leader in this field, we have since graduated nearly 350 students from the Diploma of Oral Health Therapy and the Bachelor of Oral Health. To mark this occasion, we held a reunion for all those connected to oral health on Friday 25 August at University House at the Woodward.

All who attended would agree that the reunion and preceding tour of the clinical school provided a wonderful opportunity to celebrate the history and strong connections in this community, and to share fond memories of teaching and learning oral health at the University. It was also an opportunity for the Melbourne Dental School to celebrate and recognise the achievements of students, graduates, staff and volunteers who have contributed to the success of this program over the past 20 years.

We are immensely proud that our graduates are now located all over the world, working in disciplines including public health, policy development, Indigenous health, emergency care, community health, private practice and much more.

Thank you to all who attended and helped celebrate this important milestone amidst  the rich history of our School and Faculty. Pictures of the event can be viewed here.

Dr Ross Bastiaan AM

Dr Bastiaan is a periodontist who has made and installed military history plaques in more than 20 different countries. These plaques can be found at Menin Gate in Belgium, the start of the Kokoda Trail in Papua New Guinea and at Sandakan in Borneo, amongst many other locations. They explain, often in more than one language, the role of Australia and New Zealand in military conflicts. Dr Bastiaan also negotiates with governments and communities to arrange appropriate placement of the plaques, funded through his own contributions and over $1 million raised by Dr Bastiaan to support the initiative.