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Portrait bust of Dr Christine Rivett
, c. 1950 cast 1955-6

by Daphne Mayo

cast bronze

Amy Christine Rivett (1891–1962), born into a gifted Victorian family, attended the selective Sydney Girls’ High School and studied medicine at the University of Sydney before moving to Brisbane, where she became superintendent of the Hospital for Sick Children in 1915. A disciple of Marie Stopes, intimately familiar with Brisbane’s brothels as municipal medical officer in charge of the health of licensed prostitutes, she was an early and persistent advocate of birth control. Having gained her master’s degree in surgery in 1918, from 1919 she practised in Wickham Terrace, where her doctor brother Edward joined her in 1920. (Another brother, Sir David Rivett, was CEO and then Chairman of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, which became the CSIRO.) In 1929 Christine Rivett became the first Queensland woman to gain an A Class pilot’s licence, and became a foundation member of the Queensland Medical Women’s Society. Meanwhile, in 1927, Edward Rivett, a devotee of alternative therapies and homeopathy, had bought a Walter Burley Griffin house in Castlecrag, Sydney, which he proceeded to convert to a private maternity hospital. Before World War II, Christine Rivett spent some months studying gynaecology and tropical diseases in England and Germany; after the war, she joined her brother in Castlecrag, practising obstetrics and experimenting in telepathy and ESP. Brother and sister died within a few months of each other.

Daphne Mayo (1895–1982), sculptor, graduated from the Brisbane Technical College in 1914 and was awarded Queensland’s first publicly-subscribed travelling art scholarship. In 1923 she received the gold medal for sculpture at London’s Royal Academy of Arts and was enabled to travel and study in Italy. On her return, Mayo worked tirelessly to promote appreciation of the arts in Queensland. Christine Rivett was a patron of the arts, and the women were friends. Mayo’s remarkably diverse works include the tympanum and Concert Hall medallions of Brisbane City Hall, and the bronze entrance doors of the Mitchell Wing of the State Library of New South Wales.

Collection: National Portrait Gallery, Canberra
Gift of Mr Justice Ian Callinan 1999
Donated through the Australian Government's Cultural Gifts Program
Accession number: 1999.31