Brazil, Dame Johanna (Sister Mary Phillipa ) (1896–1988), Sister of Mercy, teacher, and nurse, was born 25 December 1896 in Kilfinane, Co. Limerick, daughter of Thomas Brazil, farmer, and Julia Brazil (née Devane). Educated at the local convent national school, she was one of a group of thirty candidates recruited in 1913 for the Sisters of Mercy in Melbourne, Australia. Johanna continued her secondary education for a further two years at the Sacred Heart College, Geelong, Victoria. She entered the Convent of Mercy, Melbourne, 6 March 1915, and received the habit of the Sisters of Mercy, taking the religious name Sister Mary Phillipa, 26 October 1915. She made her first profession 10 January 1918, and her final (perpetual) profession on 31 January 1923.
Sr M. Phillipa qualified as a registered teacher at the Mercy Teacher Training College, Ascot Vale, in 1919. She taught in St Mary's School, Coburg, and later became principal of the school. In 1925 she commenced nurse training in the Mater Hospital, Brisbane, Queensland, receiving her state registration in 1928, and was assigned to St Benedict's Private Hospital, Malvern, in 1929. Then she was given responsibility for the planning of a 120-bed private hospital in Melbourne. Between March and October 1930 she and a companion toured catholic, protestant, and Jewish-American hospitals in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago, New York, and Michigan, and the Mayo Clinic in Rochester. The Mercy Private Hospital in Melbourne was opened 2 December 1934 by Cardinal Joseph MacRory (qv), archbishop of Armagh. Four years later a 50-bed extension was completed. The hospital building was of a revolutionary design, having work-efficient work areas which were more than thirty years ahead of their time in Australia and elsewhere. These included a central sterilising unit, a central hospital stores, and a centralised food-service system. The hospital was set up as a private non-profit-making hospital, falling into a new category defined as ‘intermediate hospital’ in 1929. Sr M. Phillipa established a school of nursing in February 1936 and also planned the 339-bed Mercy Maternity Hospital, costing £6,000,000, which was opened 30 January 1971. The Mercy hospital and its two neighbouring hospitals, the Freemasons' and St Andrew's, were locally known as ‘the Micks, the Macs, and the Masons’.
In 1953 Sr M. Phillipa was elected secretary general of the Melbourne Sisters of Mercy, and a year later was elected the first provincial of the newly amalgamated Mercy Congregation of Victoria and Tasmania, serving from 1954 to 1959. She was invested as Dame Commander of the British Empire (23 August 1979) for her outstanding services to the people of Victoria, especially in the field of health care. On 1 August 1981 she became the first nun to receive a doctorate of laws from Melbourne University in recognition of her contribution to society, and in particular for her services to women in the city of Melbourne. Dame Sister Johanna Brazil died 1 January 1988 and is buried in the community cemetery in Melbourne.