Matilda "Mattie" O'Brien
Portrayed by: Cate Wolfe
We are introduced to District Nurse Matilda "Mattie" O'Brien reading the banned book The Catcher in the Rye. Even when Constable Danny Parkes said that he could arrest Mattie for reading that book, she was
not intimidated. This is the first impression we have of Mattie's self assured character.
She may not always play-by-the-rules but Mattie has a true sense of injustice. Mattie goes in to bat for the Bad Girls at the Reform
School / the Aboriginal children at the orphanage / the protesters at the Eureka Stockade.
Mattie quite often aids & abets Lucien in his shady ways of getting to the truth. They have an open & easy-going relationship; an unwavering trust in the goodness of each other.
Mattie is fiercely loyal to her friends - but this does not blind her to their faults.
Mattie has a thirst for knowledge in her chosen career of nursing - a career her father disapproves of.
Lucien encourages Mattie to expand her medical knowledge, gets Mattie to analyse samples & gain confidence by discussing her findings with him. Mattie also steps outside her normal nursing role to gain greater life experience of human nature. She is challenged with gruesome murder scenes, delivering the news a loved one is dead, learning to keep-it-together when she just want to run & hide.
Mattie also finds comfort in Jean's down-to-earth manner. Difficult situations are viewed & reacted to calmly by Jean; in Mattie's nursing, this calmness is essential - so when Jean & Mattie join forces, even the most daunting is handled without hysterics. Jean teaches Mattie to knit (for example); by this simple action, Jean is teaching Mattie how to distress & laugh at life. The close bond that develops between them is lifelong.
Mattie strength of character grows over the years - facing her own disappointments (in love & in life).
She is loved like a daughter by Lucien & Jean - & in return, Mattie values their opinion of her more highly than her own father's.
When Mattie finally makes the decision to go to London to further her studies, it is to Jean she turns to first with her news. Telling Lucien is almost impossible.
She leaves with Lucien (& Jean's) blessing - not sure what is ahead for her, but knowing she has the strength to conquer anything.