Robyn White's story

Robyn White (born Robyn Wilkin) was living in Newcastle and working as a registered nurse at a local hospital before joining the Australian Army. Prior to enlistment she had joined the Australian Army Reserve in 1988 as a musician, even though by her own admission she couldn't really play her instrument – an alto sax –very well.

Robyn’s father had served in the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) while she was growing up. His service influenced her desire to join the services. As a registered nurse, Robyn could apply to join as an officer.

The first unit Robyn served in was 6 Camp Hospital, a small medical centre in Albury-Wodonga at Latchford Barracks. Most of the patients at the inpatient facility were trainees and apprentices. From there, Robyn moved to 1 Field Hospital in Sydney. While working there as a nursing officer, she was offered an opportunity to serve in Rwanda.

Like many who served in Rwanda, Robyn knew little about the place but her service would have a life-changing effect on her.

The United Nations Assistance Mission for Rwanda (UNAMIR) was established by United Nations Security Council Resolution 872 on 5 October 1993. The first members of Australia’s tri-service force under Operation Tamar arrived in Rwanda in late August 1994.

Although based in Kigali, Robyn was also stationed in a small base located in the grounds of Butare Hospita, south-west of the capital, from where the medical team would visit the displaced persons’ camp in Kibeho.

While working in Butare, Robyn witnessed a horrific obstetric event, made all the more distressing because she was thinking of her sister back home who was due to have a baby. As distressing and tragic as that incident was, it planted the seed that drove her to become a midwife. She wanted to better understand the situation she had witnessed.

Similarly the work of Dr Trevor Gardner while in Rwanda was pivotal in inspiring Robyn to become a doctor.

Last updated: 11 September 2023

Cite this page

DVA (Department of Veterans' Affairs) (2023), Robyn White's story, DVA Anzac Portal, accessed 23 September 2023,
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