ANZAC Day – April 25 – marks one of Australia’s most significant national occasions. For previous Australian Physiotherapy Association (APA) member, 96 year old Mrs Marjorie Orr, it is a reminder of her time in service as a physiotherapist during World War II.

Mrs Orr, who plans to march tomorrow, treated wounded allied soldiers and POWs, including Germans and Italians in Australia, New Britain and New Guinea.

“My role as a physiotherapist was to assist with the rehabilitation of injured soldiers to get them fit for duty or to return to civilian life as quickly as possible.

“The war increased the need for physical therapy and ongoing rehabilitation due to such a large number of injured soldiers,” Mrs Orr said.

As Australia prepares to commemorate the landing of Australian and New Zealand forces at Gallipoli and recognise the sacrifice of all Australians who have served in war, the day evokes difficult memories for Mrs Orr.

“The Australian hospital ship, Manunda, brought in casualties from various conflict areas, often in a pitiful condition. When a hospital ship came in, day or night, all hell broke loose as the hospital prepared to receive them. Some walking, some on crutches and others on stretchers,” Mrs Orr said.

At the beginning of World War I, many health professionals and members of the general public were sceptical of the use of massage therapy in treatment. APA CEO Cris Massis says the effectiveness of physiotherapists highlighted their importance to the medical profession.

“The necessity of physiotherapy was highlighted as a result of warfare. During testing times, the war forced many doctors to recognise the benefits of massage, remedial exercise and electrotherapy.”

“To quote the official historian of medical services in World War I, Arthur Butler: It was the demand for treatment that created the supply of physical therapy and physical therapists,” Massis said.

The Australian Physiotherapy Association (APA) is the peak body representing the interests of Australian physiotherapists and their patients. It is a national organisation with state and territory branches and specialty subgroups. The APA represents more than 17,000 members who conduct more than 21 million consultations each year.