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Remembering Dorothea Tomkins, ABM Missionary

February 17, 2020

The following excerpt is taken from an interesting article published in the Anglican Focus about Dorothea Eleanor Florence Tomkins. She was a former ABM missionary who served as a nurse alongside May Hayman and Mavis Parkinson, both martyred during the 1942 Japanese occupation of New Guinea. Dorothea survived the war and retired in 1967, having given 30 years of her life to missionary work.

A mysterious end to an ‘other worldly’ life

“Dorothea Eleanor Florence Tomkins was born in 1903 to a family dedicated to the Church. Her uncle and some cousins were priests, and the missionary work that she would herself engage in was well established within the Tomkins family. Determined to be a nurse, she trained at the Royal Brisbane Hospital from 1925, later working as a staff nurse at the Nambour Hospital for some years. In 1937 Dorothea felt ready to begin training for missionary service. She trained at a facility set up by the then Australian Board of Missions called ‘The Women’s Missionary Training Hostel’. She would have known fellow students May Hayman and Mavis Parkinson, and both Dorothea and May Hayman were posted as missionary nurses to the Diocese of New Guinea, overseen by future Archbishop of Brisbane Philip Strong.”

Remembering Dorothea in an ‘In Memoriam’ that we have a copy of at the Records and Archives Centre, Archbishop Strong wrote, “I remember so well when she first joined our staff…how frail I thought she looked. And frail in body she remained all through the years…But a wonderful faith animated that frail body and always triumphed over it. It seemed as if our Lord’s words to St. Paul were specially applicable to her: ‘My strength is made perfect in weakness’, and ‘When I am weak, then am I strong’ and ‘My grace is sufficient for thee.’”

“She was fearless and indefatigable, often running stations almost single-handedly while the mission was short-staffed. Strong remarked in the same document that he had complete confidence in her, “…wise and enlightened and loving management of the affairs of the Church and in her oversight of Papuan fellow-workers, teachers, evangelists, medical trainees, Church Councillors and even Papuan Clergy.” She was said to be completely trusted by the Papuan population and loved for her gentleness mixed with steely resolve.”


>> Please read the full article A mysterious end to an ‘other worldly’ life by Archive Researcher Adrian Gibb at this link:


[Image: Dorothea Tomkins as a nursing sister in New Guinea during the late 1930s (Courtesy of the Records and Archives Centre, Anglican Church Southern Queensland)]