Sydney Nursing School support showcase

Beth Spence Scholarship | Merit Prize for Postgraduate Studies | Skellern PhD Scholarship and Endowment Fund


Seashells Foundation

The Seashells Foundation has partnered with Sydney Nursing School at the University of Sydney, to develop the "Beth Spence Scholarship" in honour of the late Beth Spence. This scholarship is offered in perpetuity, and will be for a PhD student studying in the area of care coordination.
Read more about the scholarship

Caring for the people who care for us
The Seashells Foundation is a community-based charity seeking to identify areas and projects that need help or encouragement, in turn hoping to provide them with the support they need. The foundation is named after a child-care group established by the founding family's late mother, and hopes to be modelled around her caring nature. The foundation aims to reflect the attitude of a close neighbourhood and provide everyone in Sydney with ability to access this care. The Seashells Foundation is focusing on the Nursing profession, mainly the area of training and education. Their fundraising will aim to suffice prominent and urgent needs in the community spanning from financial servicing to applied aid work.
More about the Seashells Foundation


Sydney Nursing School thanks donors John and Diana Hutchison who recently committed to establishing the first philanthropically-funded merit prize for students completing a Master of Nursing degree at Sydney Nursing School, the University of Sydney. The John and Diana Hutchison Merit Prize for Nursing awards the successful recipient $2500.

It was offered for the first time in Semester 2, 2013 with the intention for the prize to be offered in perpetuity.

Professor Jill White, Professor Kathy Dracup, Diana Hutchison, John Hutchison, Daniel Martin

The motivation behind this inspired act of generosity comes from the personal admiration John and Diana share for nurses through their own personal experiences. John, a graduate from the University of Sydney (Faculty of Arts), and Diana hope that their gift will serve as encouragement for others to support nurses and midwives and to provide extra motivation for postgraduate students to excel in their studies.

  • ''We have always admired the dedication, professionalism and selflessness of nurses who are often unappreciated, especially financially. Having experienced hospital stays in recent years, our admiration is even greater. We hope awards such as this for excellence in postgraduate studies will reward recipients and encourage them to pursue studies and/or travel.” – John and Diana Hutchison
  • The first scholarship recipient was Kelly Lewis who hopes to furhter her understanding and knowledge in the area of burn injury.


Josephine Akellern with Rebekah Olgilvie

A chance meeting in London in 2011 with Professor Jill White, Dean Sydney Nursing School, led David and Josephine Skellern to set up a scholarship and endowment fund to the value of $700,000 to assist mid-career nurses and midwives at Sydney Nursing School to undertake or complete a PhD.

Josephine Skellern has a background is in paediatrics and midwifery and maternal and child health and studied nursing (GradDipNursEd ’79) at what was then Cumberland College of Health Sciences, which became part of the University in 1990.

Josephine values nurses’ work as of “vital importance to society and I wanted to support postgraduate research. When it comes to caring for patients there needs to be a deeper pool of research to draw on.”

David Skellern, an academic and successful information and communications technology entrepreneur, recognised nursing students often having “a different profile from many other students. They may not normally consider postgraduate research. They need flexible scholarships to encourage the best students to maintain family life around their research – support to help pay the mortgage, and time to raise children. They are still not getting a fabulous income, but we’ve chosen a level that will be enough to tip the balance for some.”

Rebekah Olgilvie is the inaugural recipient of the Skellern PHD scholarship commencing in Semester 2, 2013. Rebekah's thesis topic: Major traumatic injury in young people aged 16–24 years.

Rebekah is a Trauma Nurse Practitioner with 18 years emergency nursing and trauma experience. Her role as Trauma Coordinator of the Shock Trauma Service at the Canberra Hospital is complex and often very challenging. And as a “busy nurse and mother with six children between her and her husband (who is often overseas), a sustainable living enthusiast with a very large vegetable garden and a handful of chooks to keep her grounded”, Rebekah is very much the kind of nurse making a significant contribution whom the Skellerns had in mind with their support for a nursing and midwifery scholarship.

With adolescents and young adults at highest risk for traumatic injury findings from Rebekah’s innovative mixed methods PhD study, the first of its kind nationally and internationally, will provide new understandings on the experience of major traumatic injury for young people, and the role of family in supporting them.

Sydney Nursing School is grateful to Josephine and David Skellern. Professor White says, “It is wonderful to find people who understand the importance of nursing research to positive patient outcomes and at the same time understand the complexity of the lives of the nurses who are best placed to do this research.”

Josephine Skellern announced Rebekah Olgilivie as the inaugural recipient of the Skellern PhD Scholarship at Sydney Nursing School’s annual Drinks with the Dean during Research Week in June 2013.