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Abstract and Keywords

Australian psychology has a relatively long history that mirrors the story of modern psychology in Europe and America. It was born of colonialism, and its institutional structure retains significant provincial features. The discipline had its roots in the British-style public universities in the major cites, spreading from this academic base into various applied fields. Educational and clinical psychologists spearheaded this diversification. Although independent practice has recently become more common among Australian clinicians, most nonacademic work has developed in various government programs and agencies. Teaching and research has come to refl ect an internationalist perspective, but some local and particular influences have still given it a home-grown flavor.

Keywords: Australian, psychology, history, colonialism, academic, applied, public, provincial

Australia is an old continent, an island country with no common borders. Geographical isolation has always shaped its ecological, biological, and social destiny. Australia has had a long history of human habitation, with the indigenous Aboriginal population having roamed the land for thousands of years. After Englishman Captain James Cook charted the east coast of the country in 1770, it was declared an ideal place for a penal colony. The First Fleet arrived 18 years later, and the country was transformed as an unruly outpost of the British Empire, the white colonial population boosted by the regular arrival of convict transports and free-settlers. A rural farming economy emerged alongside the growth of large city centers, especially along the southeast rim. Australia quickly became one of the most urbanized nations in the world. Nonetheless, it remains relatively sparsely populated, given a land mass just shy of that of the United States, with Anglo-American customs a little at odds with surrounding Asia.

In the last decade of the 19th century, Australia consisted of six states—New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia, Western Australia, Queensland, and Tasmania—governed largely by elected local parliaments. In 1901, federation united these states, along with the Northern Territory, under the Commonwealth. The Australian Capital Territory was created to accommodate the nation’s capital, Canberra. The site was chosen as a compromise between rival cities Sydney and Melbourne, the respective capitals of Australia’s the two most populous states, New South Wales and Victoria. The primary and secondary school systems developed under each state’s jurisdiction, and so did the universities, at least initially. However, control of the tertiary sector has gradually been handed over from the various states to the federal government in more recent times.

Academic Beginnings at the Turn of the Century

The Western science of psychology followed the long path east of people, goods, and culture. As was the case in Europe and the United States, academic psychology in Australia began as an offshoot of philosophy, taught as one or several subjects in mental (p. 19) philosophy. Not surprisingly, it first appeared at Australia’s two oldest establishment of higher education, the University of Sydney and the University of Melbourne, both established in the early 1850s.

The University of Melbourne appointed the tall, red-bearded Scot, Henry Laurie, to a lectureship in philosophy in 1881, the first such post in the country. Sydney University followed suit with Francis Anderson in 1888, and both posts were quickly upgraded to chairs explicitly covering mental philosophy (O’Neil, 1987). Like almost all of the first generation of Australian academics, Laurie and Anderson were educated in Europe. Although Mother England was generally the strongest cultural reference point, these pioneer philosopher-psychologists had a predominantly Scottish background, for that is where psychology had gained its strongest institutional foothold in the United Kingdom in the late 19th century. Anderson’s Glasgow credentials gave Sydney philosophy and psychology a Scottish common-sense realism it has retained to this day. Gentleman-scholar Laurie had studied in Edinburgh, as had William Mitchell, who had been given a chair in philosophy at the University of Adelaide in 1894 (O’Neil, 1987).

Even so, early Australian mental philosophy had a wider set of intellectual influences than the free-thinking liberalism the 19th century Scottish “enlightenment.” As historian Alison Turtle (1988) put it, inspiration came from British empiricism and evolutionary biology, supplemented by German physiological psychology. For example, Laurie’s teaching of psychology at Melbourne emphasized the physiological experimentalism of Alexander Bain and the expansive social and scientific writings of Herbert Spencer. But he also came to admire, and wanted to emulate, the experimental and mental testing work being done in American and German universities.

A similar pattern of appointments occurred at other Australian universities. For instance, Adelaide graduate G. Elton Mayo took up a post at the University of Queensland as lecturer in logic philosophy and ethics in 1911, before becoming a full professor of philosophy in 1919. By 1913, all six Australian universities had made appointments in philosophy that took in psychology in some form. Not all the subjects taught emphasized experimental observation, but all included it to some extent. No institution offered a full course in psychology, and separate departments were still a pipe dream.

The year 1913 proved auspicious, however. When the University of Sydney took on Henry Tasman Lovell, it began expanding its subject offerings into a recognizable degree course. Taken in conjunction with experimental education, these psychology subjects would make up a B.A. degree. By 1919, a full course was in place at Sydney. By adding a fourth “honors” year to this undergraduate program 6 years later, the institution established the first full major in psychology in the nation. While nominally under the control of philosophy until 1929, Sydney psychology had already achieved functional independence. That year, Lovell was elevated to a full chair in psychology, and it would remain the only such position until after World War II.

The University of Western Australia in Perth followed Sydney’s example. The University had already chosen one of Laurie’s graduates, Philip Le Couteur, to teach mental and moral philosophy before the World War I. Le Couteur left in 1918, for a career as a private school headmaster, and for a time his position lapsed. In 1928, Hugh Fowler joined part-time lecturer Ethel Stoneman in the Western Australian philosophy department. Fowler had been educated at University College London under Spearman. His vision was clear: He wanted to establish an independent psychology department and gain a full-time position within it. Holding out on an offer from the Auckland Teachers’ College, Fowler achieved his ambition by the beginning of 1930 (Richardson, 1995).

As the nation’s second oldest institution, the University of Melbourne might also have been expected to follow suit. However, Henry Laurie’s plans for expansion were largely shelved in the wake of a financial disaster that rocked an already cash-strapped university early in the new century. In 1912, he was succeeded by William R. Boyce Gibson as professor of philosophy, who immediately instituted “psychology, logic, and ethics” as a first-year elective. Several notable educationalists cum philosophers taught this subject, including Ken Cunningham and P.M. Bachelard. Although advanced psychology would also become part of the final honors syllabus, little provision was made for experimental work. In contrast, developments at the Teacher Training College adjoining the university gave experimental and applied psychology a much firmer footing in Melbourne (Buchanan, 1996). Educational institutions would prove to be an important complementary pathway in the development of Australian psychology, providing a particularly crucial entry point into applied professional practice.

Early Educational Initiatives

Victoria was the first state to make primary education compulsory, secular, and free in 1872, with New (p. 20) South Wales and other states quickly following suit. Not surprisingly, the nation’s first Teacher Training College had been founded in Melbourne in 1890. Under the direction of Frank Tate, psychology was taught in the College as a component of the instruction given to teachers; this teaching was based largely on the texts of William James. In 1903, John Smyth succeeded Tate as principal and set up a crudely equipped classroom that represented the first experimental psychology laboratory in Australia. Smyth had gained his Ph.D. in Edinburgh and, like many of his generation, had visited Wundt’s laboratory in Leipzig. Enthusiastic about the experimental approach, Smyth put Matthew Sharman in charge of the laboratory in 1913 (Buchanan, 1996). That year, Lovell set up a similar laboratory in the Sydney philosophy department (Turtle, 1988).

The use of standardized testing in France and the United States set an example that Australian educationalists and would-be psychologists eagerly followed in the prewar years. Testing soon became an integral part of teacher training. For example, students in the diploma of education course in the Melbourne Teachers’ College were introduced to tests of memory, attention, and fatigue, and to the new Binet intelligence tests. Binet’s 1911 scale also proved a hit with staff at the Sydney Teachers’ College. More significantly, the new mental tests provided for a practical administrative knowledge, the technical centerpiece for an emerging applied specialty.

Up until the turn of the century, feeblemindedness had been a medical province. Now, the states began to make provisions for special education, with Victoria and New South Wales leading the way. In 1911, the Bell Street Special School set up in Melbourne, assessing and treating feebleminded and maladjusted children. Stanley Porteus was appointed head, despite the fact that he had no formal background in psychology. Porteus quickly came to the conclusion that the Binet tests were unsuitable for many of the children he encountered; they were far too dependent on verbal faculties and did not tap foresight, initiative, and planning. Instead, he developed his own set of maze tests of intelligence that he is remembered for. In 1917, Smyth also engaged Porteus as a lecturer in the Teachers’ College, the first appointment of a psychologist there.

Australian psychologists were not yet ready to capitalize on the opportunities provided by wartime mobilization like their U.S. counterparts did with their massive testing program. However, in the early 1920s, various state governments initiated school psychological services to deal with the special education needs of children identified as different—the delinquent, the precocious, and especially the intellectually deficient.

In Tasmania, as one of the first generation of academic appointees, Morris Miller had worked closely with the state government drafting policy on mental deficiency. Miller became director of the new State Psychological Clinic, also attaining a professorship of psychology and philosophy in 1928. Many of these state educational psychologists were women, with new clinics staffed by Constance Davey in South Australia, Ethel Stoneman in Western Australia, and Lorna Hodgkinson in Sydney. Testing was a staple of their practice, and children the priority. Even so, both Miller’s clinic in Tasmania and Hugh Martin’s “worry clinic” in Sydney saw adults as well (Cooke, 2000; Turtle, 1988).

The services these educational clinics offered were ad hoc and fragile, liable to fall by the wayside due to staff shortages and the vagaries of government funding. Nevertheless, this kind of educational and vocational counseling was the dominant mode of applied psychology in Australia between the wars, and it provided a lead-in for the development of clinical psychology as a distinct specialty.

Another important national initiative linking psychology and education occurred in Melbourne in 1930, when the Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER) was set up, with assistance of the Carnegie Corporation. Ken Cunningham was made director. As an independent body, ACER’s brief was to study education, to form a central information resource, and to facilitate and support educational reform. It was sustained by U.S. funds for the first 13 years of its operation. It quickly became a major source of psychological research. Projects were undertaken in which specific grants were obtained, or else directly from core funding (Turtle, 1987). One of the first things ACER did was to adapt and standardize intelligence and aptitude tests across the nation.

Academic and Applied Growth in the 1920s and 1930s

Psychology expanded steadily between the wars, within the academic institutions where it had taken root. For example, under Lovell’s stewardship, the number of Sydney graduates increased from five in 1929, to 21 in 1938. By the late 1930s, both Sydney and Western Australia offered an M.A. in psychology based in part on an experimental thesis. (p. 21) Both universities also began to build connections outside academia, selling their expertise and tools to business, government, and the wider community. Sydney was particularly important for the development of industrial psychology. Bernard Muscio had taken up Anderson’s chair in logic and mental philosophy in 1922, and immediately set up Australasian Association of Psychology and Philosophy, the first professional representative body, and the Australian Journal of Psychology and Philosophy to go with it. Although the Association provided a valuable forum, psychologists would remain the junior partner in this alliance. Numbers and power went with the philosophers. For example, Association office holders tended to be philosophers, as were the editors of the Australian Journal of Psychology and Philosophy (O’Neil, 1987; Turtle, 1988).

Bernard Muscio died suddenly in 1926, becoming antipodean psychology’s version of the tragic young genius. However, A.H. Martin took over Muscio’s interest in industrial psychology, establishing the Australian Institute of Industrial Psychology in 1927, affiliated with C.S. Myers’ Institute of Industrial Psychology in London. Martin had taken a Ph.D. in experimental psychology at Columbia with Thorndike and Woodworth. The Institute developed tests for use in vocational guidance and personnel selection, as well as helping train students. Martin remained honorary director for two decades, and the nonprofit Institute would survive until the 1970s.

Not all aspects of the development of psychology in Australia can be situated in an “onward and upward” narrative. This is no better illustrated than the faltering attempts to create an institutional base for psychology in Melbourne. Despite its success, psychological laboratory work at the Melbourne Teachers’ College stalled in the years just after World War I, with the maverick innovator Stanley Porteus departing for the Vineland Training School in New Jersey. John Smyth set about reviving the College laboratory in the early 1920s, and chose Ken Cunningham to head a more ambitious laboratory program at the College. However, Cunningham soon left to do a Ph.D. at Columbia. He returned in 1927, but his higher ambition was thwarted by the fact that the University of Melbourne could still not provide a departmental home. Instead, he taught at the College, and in the University’s philosophy and commerce departments. Before taking on the ACER post in 1930, Cunningham helped to construct new intelligence and performance tests, and, in 1928, to institute the special teacher’s certificate for those dealing with the “mentally deficient.”

It was not as if the idea of a psychology department at Melbourne lacked powerful backers. During the 1924 conference, the Australasian Association of Psychology and Philosophy recommended that the status of psychology at Australian universities needed to be raised, with departments of social science established in all such institutions. Professors Alexander Gunn and W. Boyce Gibson strongly supported such moves. In 1925, they formed a professorial committee with a view to establishing a chair in psychology in the faculty of science. However, amid competing claims from other faculties, tightening budgets, and other circumstances that remain mysterious, the plan was quietly dropped. It has been suggested that the committee had distinguished industrial psychologist Elton Mayo in mind for the position of foundation chair. Mayo had just obtained a position at Harvard and would soon be most famously associated with the Hawthorne studies of worker efficiency. However, Mayo was reluctant to come back to Australia. The unavailability of the Committee’s chosen candidate, and the absence of alternatives, was apparently enough to scuttle their enthusiasm. Another decade would pass before such plans could be put on the agenda again (Buchanan, 1996).

Freud and the Clinic Between the Wars

School psychological services were one strand of clinical work to emerge in the educational context of the early 1920s. These publicly funded clinics were set up to address delinquency, mental deficiency, and learning and behavioral problems. However, the intellectual and professional model provided by psychoanalysis played an important, ambiguous, but formative role in the development of clinical psychology down under.

A handful of discussion pieces on Freud’s work had appeared in various Australian medical journals in the early years of the 20th century, but local interest appeared limited. With the ties of empire strong, Australia followed Britain into the Great War in Europe. However, the romantic image of battlefield adventure quickly gave way to the realities of trench warfare. The specter of shell-shock proved a rude awakening for somatically oriented psychiatrists, and therapeutic desperation opened the door to psychoanalytic approaches. Back in Australia, the clinical impact of these developments was muted by the fact that almost all shell-shock cases were cared for, at least initially, in England. Although there was significant discussion of psychoanalytic techniques in the aftermath of war, when the soldiers returned (p. 22) home, it was more a case of distant intellectual thunder (Damousi, 2005).

Although some psychologists incorporated an interest in psychoanalysis, it did not occupy a central part of their academic teaching. Perhaps the most notable and influential exception to this was Tasman Lovell, who gave analysis equal billing with experimental and social psychology in his courses at Sydney. Drawn to psychoanalytic accounts of neurosis and psychopathology, he wrote extensively on dreams. Yet, he was no practitioner, and derived all his integrative knowledge simply from what he could read. Elton Mayo, on the other hand, tried to take a more hands-on approach, immersing himself in the analytic techniques of Freud, Jung, and Janet, and then attempting to apply them when working with returned soldiers immediately after the war.

Although Mayo and Lovell had both dabbled in private practice in the 1920s, they had little company among their peers. To many Australian psychologists, psychoanalysis was everything psychology was not, far too subjective and unscientific. It was greeted with skepticism and indifference down under, much more so than it was in the United States. Intellectually, it ran up against the closed-shop of Anglo philosophical rationality. It also sat rather uneasily with an antipodean culture that stressed stoic independence and stigmatized most forms of mental distress. The way analysis sought to open up the psychological interior came across as invasive in a culture that guarded personal privacy. But more importantly and prosaically, it lacked critical mass. There were no training facilities and limited client service opportunities. During most of the interwar years, there were only two qualified analysts practicing in Australia—Roy Winn and Paul Dane—and both were medical men. In 1931, Winn left Sydney Hospital and set up in private practice as the country’s first full-time analyst (Damousi, 2005).

Nevertheless, psychoanalysis did enter Australian popular culture to some extent, permeating the literature, arts, and politics of the major city centers. An interest with psychoanalysis tended to go with a leftist, “progressive” outlook; its enthusiasts were overwhelmingly elite Protestants. It was another of point of difference in the pervasive Anglican–Catholic divide that stratified Australian life up to the beginnings of multiculturalism in the 1970s. Colorful Melbourne psychiatrist Reginald Ellery, for example, managed to combine an interest in Freud with his advocacy of radical somatic treatments. Ellery’s socialist leanings and bohemian prose was very much in keeping with the modernist push of the Reed-Harris literary set. He opened his own practice in Melbourne in 1933, the first private psychopathic hospital in Victoria.

In the lead-up to World War II, Roy Winn, Ernest Jones, and John Rickman worked together to enable psychoanalysts to migrate to Australia. In the end, only one made it—the Hungarian Clara Lazar-Geroe. She would become a central, matriarchal figure for psychoanalysis in Australia, settling in Melbourne and founding the nation’s first training institute there in 1941.

World War II and Its Aftermath

The resumption of hostilities in Europe in 1939 did not have an immediate impact on Australian psychology, as like it did in the United Kingdom and on the continent. Only when things came closer to home, when the war in the Pacific escalated in 1942, did an urgent need for manpower management come to the fore. The discipline’s de facto leadership—Cunningham, Lovell, Martin, Miller, and Fowler—pushed psychologist’s expertise in personnel selection, job placement, and rehabilitation training to the various branches of the armed forces. All three branches—the army especially—began to rely on psychologist’s services in some way during the war, and all three set up psychological organizations to retain them afterward. The war also brought the discipline into contact with allied professional groups, especially psychiatrists, although not always harmoniously (Cooke, 2000; O’Neil, 1987).

Wartime had a way of rewriting the rules, helping to generate closer ties with government and the armed services. World War II accelerated professional reform, in part because it brought Australian psychologists together. In a land defined by the cliché “the tyranny of distance,” the sheer scale of geographical separation had made it difficult to organize at a basic national level, let alone achieve a higher sense of disciplinary identity.

Eager to use wartime opportunities to establish a united professional front, Australian psychologists began to canvas ideas for a new disciplinary body. A manpower survey in 1943 had revealed a small but growing field badly in need of organizational representation. Over 600 people possessed at least 2 years of psychological study at a tertiary level. They were young, mostly male, but vulnerable to the encroachment of untrained charlatans as well as rival professional groups. Yet Australian psychologists baulked at the idea of forming a stand-alone national body. Such a move had a few influential supporters—Fowler and Martin prominent (p. 23) among them. However, most saw it as premature or simply not worth the trouble. In what now looks like a cringing compromise, they opted to create an affiliate body of the British Psychological Society (BPS), hoping to enjoy the prestige and privileges the Society might bestow. New Zealand-born Donald McElwain was key proponent of this safe and familiar option, already being a member of the British Society. Thus, the Australian Branch of the BPS was born in 1945, initially comprising 54 members. Given its age, size, and centrality, the Sydney department was the natural institutional base for the Branch, and the recently retired Lovell became its first president. The Branch would expand significantly over the next two decades, eventually outgrowing its provincial status (Cooke, 2000).

Branch membership standards were deliberately set higher than those of the rather unrestrictive parent British body in an effort to curtail the untrained. Basic membership required at least a degree in psychology and experience in research, teaching or practice—equivalent to the middle-tier “Associate” level of BPS membership. The Branch soon launched the Australian Journal of Psychology. It would be a costly venture, given that all Branch members would automatically receive each issue. However, the Australian Journal of Psychology provided a communication channel that further strengthened disciplinary identity, as well as an outlet for empirical work the Australian Journal of Psychology and Philosophy refused. Even so, founding editor Don McElwain would have great difficulty rounding up sufficient copy to fill its pages in the early years, and the first edition did not appear until 1949.

Postwar Academic Growth

The nation’s higher education system began to expand significantly in the postwar years, with academic psychology soon represented in all the major city centers. In a long overdue move, a psychology department was finally established at Melbourne in 1946. Oscar Oeser was appointed head; he became at 41 years of age Australia’s third professor of psychology—after Lovell and William M. O’Neil. Sydney had managed to advertise their chair just prior to that of their new southern counterparts and O’Neil got the nod ahead of Oeser.

The South African-born Oeser had a diverse background, having been educated at Rhodes University, at Marburg in Germany and at Cambridge. Oeser was unable to take up the post immediately due to his work in Germany, so the department was put in place by acting head Don McElwain. With a Ph.D. from London and fondness of rugby, McElwain transplanted much of the teaching structure of his former department in Western Australia. On his way to Melbourne, Oeser stopped off at the University of Western Australia in Perth, recruiting young staffers Sam Hammond, Cecily de Monchaux, and Fred Emery. Despite the rush, the department started teaching, albeit a little behind schedule, early in 1946 (Buchanan, 1996).

Although social psychology had been researched and taught at Sydney and Western Australia, the foundation of the Melbourne department provided a huge boost for the growth of the field in Australia. Reflecting Oeser’s interests and expertise, significant longitudinal survey work was started in this early period. Melbourne became a center for research and teaching in social structure, attitudes, and prejudices—symptomatic of the optimism and sense of social renewal in the immediate postwar era. Much of this work was ground-breaking in terms of its scope and the multipronged methodology that Oeser labeled “functional penetration.” Influenced by Lazarsfeld, Mead, and Lewin, this work incorporated broad ideas from sociology and anthropology, and connected them with a social psychology of roles, norms, and attitudes. Collected volumes resulting from this work were edited by Oeser, Hammond, and Emery. These volumes covered attitudes to immigration, the role of the family in child development, and the place of work in the community. In the West, Ronald Taft and Alan Richardson were pursuing a similar line of research on migrant assimilation, and Taft would subsequently move to Victoria, taking up a post at Melbourne before moving on to a chair at Monash University (Feather, 2005).

The Melbourne department produced many notable graduates, such as Leon Mann and Richard Trahair, and would remain an important institutional center for social psychology. Fred Emery later attained international renown for his research on work group relations and industrial democracy, mainly done at the Tavistock Institute in London (Bochner, 2000). Social psychology would gain a second-wave boost with the creation of the new universities in the postwar period, particularly Flinders University in South Australia and Macquarie University in New South Wales and the Australian National University in Canberra.

Many of the newer universities would fill relative gaps in teaching and research, whereas older departments would consolidate and broaden their offerings and output. For example, the Sydney department added many new areas after the war, but would remain a strong center for experimental and (p. 24) behavioral research. William O’Neil had a rigorously catholic approach to the discipline, but came to specialize in history and philosophy. The department institutionalized the value of the historical perspective and retained informal links with philosophy, still housed next door in the years immediately following the war. The realist approach of Scottish émigré philosopher John Anderson, a long-time faculty member in the middle part of the century, would prove particularly influential. Anderson became an iconic aspect of the Sydney scene, he and his followers seeing off social conservatives then holding out against deconstructive intellectual trends (Turtle, 1997).

The graduates the Sydney department turned out would also prove more influential than the department itself in the postwar period. For example, Sydney alumni Ross Day became the founding professor of the new Monash University department in 1965. Day initiated an extensive program of laboratory research in sensory perception, behavioral genetics, and human engineering. Another Sydney graduate, George Singer, would cast the even newer La Trobe University department in his own image; since its inception in 1972, it was a leading site for neurophysiological research, one the few such centers in the country (Buchanan, 1999).

Australian universities maintained a structural model that was essentially British, even as the instructional content has become increasingly Americanized in recent times. At an undergraduate level, the 3-year degree major plus a fourth “honours” year remained standard, with most courses covering the gamut of the discipline and offering a range of elective choices. Despite the perceived need for uniformity, different departments did exhibit different emphasizes. For example, Sydney pushed history and philosophy at a third-year level, the University of New South Wales was strong on industrial psychology, whereas Monash University emphasized experimental and physiological subjects. The British model has only recently been challenged, and only at the University of Melbourne, where a more American structure of generalist undergraduate courses and specialized graduate training has been instituted in the last 2 years.

Postgraduate programs were the area in which the most significant restructuring and growth occurred. Only an M.A. could be taken in psychology prior to the war, and it was not necessarily seen as a strictly research-based degree. By the mid-1950s, the M.Sc. became available, along with the Ph.D.—both bona fide research degrees requiring original scientific research. Student numbers were boosted by the introduction of a federally funded student scholarship scheme in 1960, part of the increasing level of commonwealth involvement in higher education in the postwar era.

The Expansion of Applied Work in the 1950s and 1960s

World War II had underlined the burgeoning demand for psychologists in government, business, and social service sectors. But it had also highlighted the lack of training facilities in psychology. Academic expansion helped service this demand for applied expertise. Although the image shift was never as dramatic as it was in the United States, Australian psychologists would increasingly market themselves in practical terms.

On the back of war work assessing military recruits, applied psychology expanded into the government service sector. Work in specialist clinics dealing with child guidance and the intellectually handicapped expanded in the postwar period, especially in New South Wales, where the state government boosted school guidance and counseling services dramatically. By 1973, there were over 400 district guidance officers and counselors employed by the state—many, but certainly not all, trained in psychology. Although the federal government pressured other state governments to follow suit, their response was generally more ad hoc and measured (O’Neil, 1987).

These opportunities were augmented by new openings in the state mental hospitals dealing with adult psychiatric patients. As part of an attempt to modernize and reform these custodial asylums, many mental hospitals expanded their roster to include the services of psychologists. Growth was particularly strong in Victoria. In 1951, seven psychologists were employed by the Victorian Mental Hygiene Authority. By 1968, this number had swelled to 25. Although the corresponding number of psychiatrists increased from 10 to 97 over the same period, this still represented a significant increase. In addition, there was a small but growing cadre of psychologists branching out into private practice.

Courses were developed to service this expanding role, with the University of Western Australia and Sydney University leading the way. Both had diploma courses in clinical psychology in place by the late 1950s. Other tertiary institutions, such as the University of Melbourne, got their clinical programs up and running in the early 1960s. These diploma courses were stepped up to master’s level (p. 25) a decade later, with La Trobe, Macquarie, Newcastle, and Flinders following suit.

Professional Regulation and the Formation of the Australian Psychological Society

A burgeoning market for psychological services helped convince academic leaders and young graduates of the future of applied work, but it also opened the door to the non-qualified and the charlatans. The Australian Branch of the BPS had cautiously approached the issue of professional regulation in the years following the war. Two versions of a Code of Ethics were produced: an initial 1949 version, and a revised and far more detailed 1960 version. It is worth noting that these initiates predated any such moves by the parent British body. However, the impact of these ethical standards was limited by the fact that, up to that time, only a handful of Australian psychologists had entered the uncharted waters of private practice. Moreover, any such code could only be said to apply to Branch members, leaving the fringe elements free to ply their trade.

Even so, the most vexing aspect of professional regulation for the Branch was one of process, an issue that would eventually prompt Australian psychologists to go it alone to form an independent body. In the early 1960s, the Branch had received a complaint about the manner in which a Branch member was promoting his services. The protracted expulsion process—in which evidence was sent back to the parent British body for review and judgment—helped convince members of the desirability of local autonomy. At the same time, community disquiet and some lurid press coverage of the activities of various pseudo-psychological groups in Victoria led to a state government investigation, the Anderson Inquiry. Although the main aim was to suppress Scientology and other fringe psyche therapies, the inquiry set a precedent for the professional control of psychological services in other states. The final report of the inquiry branded Scientology “evil” and resulted in the State Psychological Practices Act of 1965. The Act provided for the registration of professional psychologists in Victoria, legitimating the qualified and sanctioning the nonqualified. However, the Act ceded control over the regulatory process, since the board set up to oversee it was an external body made up of psychologists, psychiatrists, and doctors, with a lay chairman. Australian psychologists could only hope that such a body would operate in the discipline’s best interests (Cooke, 2000).

Articulating those interests would require an effective professional organization at the very least, preferably one that was not beholden to a distant power. Even the simple matter of electing Branch members had made for irritating and embarrassing delays, given that it was necessary to send applications back to England to be voted on and/or dealt with. It had become clear that Australian psychologists could and should manage their own house when it came to professional ethics, and were best placed to deal with looming issues like training standards, course accreditation, and so on. Reforming the arcane Branch thus became a top priority; the only question was what form should it should take.

Tellingly, it was the constitution of the American Psychological Association that provided inspiration—particularly the famous postwar revision of its charter as the “promotion of psychology as a science, as a profession, and as a means of promoting human welfare.” A proposal for independence put to branch members in 1965 was carried overwhelmingly. So, the Branch became the Australian Psychological Society (APS) the following year and relocated to Melbourne, with “around 900” members. Taking over from Branch chairman Richard Champion, Ross Day became the Society’s inaugural president.

The formation of APS in 1966 signaled a new dawn for the Australian discipline, marked by a series of initiatives at a professional level, as well as some more subtle intellectual changes. Australian psychology remained inescapably provincial; what changed was the nature of that provincialism. Instead of looking to mother England and the Continent, Australian psychologists were more inclined to take their intellectual cues from the United States. Australian psychology would ever more reflect the theory concerns and research priorities of their American counterparts. They would be more likely to visit, attain jobs, or be educated stateside, and to publish in United States journals. The sun did set on the British Empire, but only rather slowly.

Developing an Academic Research Culture in the 1960s and Beyond

Academic psychology grew in tandem with the expansion of the Australian university system in the postwar era. Thirteen new universities were created in the three decades following World War II, adding to the half dozen established prior to it, and almost all came with psychology departments. Much this was a result of the expansion of the tertiary sector, including the creation and rearranging the multiple tiers of the structure of this sector. After the publication of the Murray report—Australia’s own post-Sputnik overhaul of higher education—several new (p. 26) campuses were created by the early 1960s. In addition, colleges of advanced education were created in the late 1960s as vocationally oriented alternatives to the universities. They and the older institutes of technology began to offer degree courses in psychology in the early 1970s, and these institutions would in turn employ a sizeable chunk of academically engaged psychologists.

With the exception of ACER, psychological research in Australian has mostly been performed in a university context. Prior to World War II, this had to be accomplished on shoestring budgets drawn from departments’ tight operating funds. Purpose-built laboratories were almost unknown. This situation hardly improved after the war. Returning soldiers flooded campuses, making for high work loads for harried, often inexperienced staff. Ross Day (1997) remembered: “there was no culture of research. We were told about the discipline, rather than taught to question it or to criticize it (p. 5).”

Things began to change for the better in the early-1960s, however. The federal government stepped in to fund basic and applied scientific research with a competitive, peer-reviewed grant scheme run by Australian Research Grants Committee, which later became the Australian Research Council. Since that time, psychological research has expanded markedly, and other funding avenues have opened up. Medically oriented researchers can turn to the National Health and Medical Research Council. Applied psychologists can tap into various specialist government bodies and industry groups, a trend especially encouraged more recently by universities looking to shore up their financial positions in the face of dwindling per-student government operating funds.

By the 1980s, if not before, virtually every major research strand of the discipline came to be well-represented. At close of the 20th century, it would be difficult to point to a distinctly Australian psychology, at least not in terms of teaching and research. Peculiar emphases have been flattened out. For example, there has been a long strand of research and practice in the individual differences tradition, a direct lineage of ideas, technology, and personnel from the London School and the American testing movement. Although still present, it is nowhere near as relatively prominent as it was between the wars. Conversely, behaviorism made little impact in Australia academia, although its radical reformulation in the hands of Skinner and Spence enjoyed a lengthy run in Sydney and in some of the institutions founded by Sydney graduates (Turtle, 1997).

Recent Professional Developments

Much of the postwar growth in Australian psychology, particularly in the more applied areas like clinical, educational, counselling, and social psychology, could be attributed to the increasing participation of women. The majority of psychology graduates had been female as far back as the late 1950s. Although this proportion increased to over 75% by 1996, attrition rates have also decreased. A greater proportion of female graduates took postgraduate degrees and/or pursued careers in psychology from the mid-1970s onward. Marriage, family, and travel were not longer the source of career dissipation they once were. Even so, women still continued to be under-represented in the upper echelons of the discipline’s hierarchy, and it wasn’t until the 1990s that women outnumbered men within the APS (Cooke, 2000).

Clinical psychology stood out as the most significant area of nonacademic employment, a Trojan horse for Australian psychology’s spread beyond the universities. In light of the special needs of this group, clinical practitioners had formed a separate division within the APS in 1965, a year before a similar division was created within the BPS. Applied practitioners of other stripes—educational, industrial/organizational, and counselling psychologists—followed suit by forming their own APS divisions (later reborn or renamed as Boards) in the late 1960s and 1970s. However, none was as well-represented as that of clinical psychology.

By the early 1970s, more than 300 clinical psychologists were working outside the universities in Australia. Over half worked in the state mental hospitals and public health services, while the rest were scattered around in various welfare agencies and other organizations. In addition, a small (over 10%) but growing cadre had struck out into private practice. Clinical practice still tended to emphasize diagnostic testing as a primary role. When and if any treatment was undertaken, it tended to be more Rogerian than Freudian. Pat Pentony had been instrumental in importing the client-centered approach to Australia. He and Elwyn Morey had initiated the first clinical course work in Australia at the University of Western Australia in 1949. Pentony would continue to promote the client-centered approach after moving to Canberra University College (now part of the Australian National University) in the 1950s, training notable researcher and practitioner Godfrey Barrett-Lennard.

Although Australian clinicians increased their options, competition and control remained an (p. 27) ongoing issue. Other states and territories followed Victoria’s example by creating independent registration boards. Nevertheless, the road to nationwide legal recognition was long and circuitous. Australia’s most heavily populated state, New South Wales, did not pass its Psychological Practices Act until 1990. The Australian Capital Territory was the last to fall into line 5 years later. All such acts were based on the Victorian template, but typically only restricted the use of title. The original Victorian act had provided a definition of practice. This definition was sufficiently broad to cover all aspects of the psychologists’ activities. Numerous exemptions were necessary to allow for the activity of doctors, teachers, and the clergy. However, this created a loophole that would undermine the original intent of the act. When Scientology was recognized as a legitimate religion for the purposes of the Federal Marriage Act in 1973, it meant they (and possibly many other fringe elements) could avoid legal sanction. This made definitions of practice in the legislation subsequently drawn up in other states seem fruitless. A rather uneasy “liberal tolerance” came into effect. No one professional group—certainly not psychologists—could claim a monopoly in a mental health marketplace (Cooke, 2000).

As Australian clinical psychologists branched out from the public hospitals, health services, and clinics in the 1970s, they began to outgrow their narrow diagnostic role. Clinical practice took on a more autonomous, treatment-oriented footing, aided by the development of new, distinctly psychological treatment regimes. Therapeutic modalities became more diverse, with individual desensitization procedures and group and family therapy augmented by the arrival of cognitive-behavioral techniques in the 1980s (Lewis, 1988). Different approaches evolved in different regions. For instance, London Institute of Psychiatry alumnus Aubrey Yates helped introduce behavior therapy to Australia, joining the University of Western Australia faculty in 1960. Conversely, Gestalt and cognitive-behavioral approaches were initially centered in Melbourne, with Ian Campbell pioneering rational emotive therapy at the University of Melbourne. Client-centered and analytically informed approaches were the big losers in this readjustment, although the Rogerian influence is still very much in evidence in counseling and educational guidance (Birnbrauer, 1996; Grant, Mullings, & Denham, 2008).

When the government employment sector was squeezed in the 1980s, increasing numbers of Australian psychologists turned to private practice. In 1989, the APS saw fit to establish a committee on independent practice to monitor and represent them. By the mid-1990s, over 1,600 psychologists had set up independent practices—representing 22% of all Australian psychologists—outnumbering those employed in the universities (Cooke, 2000, p. 233).

The 1990s saw the policy of deinstitutionalization come into full effect. Most of the venerable but decaying state asylums were closed, with their patients redistributed to other forms of institutional care or cast out into the community. Even in Victoria, Eric Cunningham Dax’s vision of hospitals without walls was supplanted by the amorphous notion of care in the community. It would prove a mixed blessing for Australian clinicians. On the one hand, it brought mental patients (and psychiatrists) out of the asylum—where the medical man once ruled. It made these erstwhile patients available to a range of mental health care workers, including psychologists, who increasingly treated the severely disturbed along with the worried well as part of community-based outreach teams. But this intensified competition between medical and paramedical groups in the relatively unregulated interface between the public and private arenas, and this brought a raft of new problems and negotiations.

In a bid to achieve a degree of parity with their medical colleagues, Australian psychologists struggled to have their services included as part of the various public health programs that have been introduced since the 1960s. The APS had first lobbied for publicly funded health rebates for psychological services in the late 1960s, as part of the then Medical Benefits Scheme. The federal government rejected these claims, but the Society had a little more success getting some private health insurers to cover member services.

When the Hawke government introduced the Medicare public health scheme in 1984, psychologists lobbied to be included as part of the services offered. However, disciplinary representatives were not able to guarantee adequate representation in rural areas, nor assure legislators that a mass exodus from the public to the private sector would not occur. Thus, their claims for inclusion were rejected, and little headway has been made on this issue for two decades since, despite multiple and seemingly persuasive submissions from APS. Finally, in 2006, the Howard federal government allowed for clinical psychologists to be included within a rebate scheme requiring referral from doctors, helping to boost a patchwork system of care that struggled to cope, especially in rural areas.

(p. 28) Science and Practice Today

Reform and expansion of higher education in the late 1980s, which included the upgrading of some former institutes to university status, as well as the creation of new universities, effectively doubled the number of Australian universities. By 1996, there were 38 university psychology departments in the country, only two of them private. Australian psychologists now contribute a small but significant proportion of psychological research across the world. This proportion has been growing steadily in the postwar decades, from 1.5% in the mid-1970s to 2.5% in the mid-1990s, with a 2.8% share of research published in major journals (Cumming, Siddle, & Hyslop, 1997). No one area stands out as particularly strong or weak in this context; local output in psychometrics, human experimentation and engineering, developmental, clinical, educational, and industrial psychology remain strong, sports psychology especially. Perhaps the only relative soft spot would be in (neuro)physiological psychology, with most Australian departments not yet tooled-up for this kind of demanding, “wet” research.

Australian psychology is now distinctly Janus-faced—both learned science and artful profession—just as it is in the Europe, the United Kingdom, and especially the United States. Although multiplying the discipline’s options and reach, it was also a source of tension, particularly as the balance began to shift toward the applied fields. Recognizing the need to reflect the professional concerns of much of its membership, the rebadged APS took the decision to instigate a new journal, the Australian Psychologist, in 1965. The Australian Journal of Psychology had become a decidedly academic journal, a general outlet for theory-driven research that struggled to compete with overseas specialist journals. The Australian Psychologist was deliberately modeled on the American Psychologist. Its founding editor, Clive Williams of the University of Queensland, hoped much of the new journal’s copy would come from those outside the universities—an editorial line that was difficult to realize in practice. However, after a shaky start, the Australian Psychologist blossomed to become a key forum for professional comment and practical research.

The accreditation process overseen by the Society had the effect of standardizing curriculums. Undergraduate course variations became less pronounced by the 1980s. What distinguished different departments were their postgraduate offerings—particularly the professionally oriented programs—and the lure they represented to students seeking careers in these fields. The basic start-up costs for undergraduate programs were low. Postgraduate applied courses were a different kettle of fish, especially the labor-intensive clinical and clinical neuropsychological programs. These required hard-to-get specialist staff and links to teaching hospitals, requirements that older, more established departments found easier to meet.

Clinical psychology helped paved the way for other applied fields—especially for clinical neuropsychology, which emerged in the late 1970s. The industrial psychology program Martin had pioneered in Sydney did not survive through the 1970s. However, several institutions, such as the University of Melbourne, initiated master’s programs in industrial and organizational psychology in the early 1970s. Industrial and organizational psychology would remain a staple of undergraduate instruction, and there are now around 16 postgraduate training programs in the field. The first Australian Industrial and Organizational Psychology conference took place in 1995 and has been held biennially ever since (O’Driscoll, 2008). Other applied areas, such as counseling and educational psychology, grew steadily, although their specific histories have yet to be charted. State and federal governments remain the key employers of these nonacademic psychologists, with over a quarter of psychologists on government payrolls in the mid-1990s. Although an equally large percentage was engaged in independent practice, the commercial private sector has remained relatively underdeveloped.

The APS attempted to accommodate the interests of practitioners as well as academics by expanding the number of applied specialty Boards (now dubbed Colleges) in the 1980s and 1990s. Although the clinical Board retains the most members (over 700 in the mid-1990s), it was rivaled in strength by the counsellors and the educational and developmental psychologists. In 1981, two divisions were created within the Society, one for professional and one for scientific affairs, as the Society fully professionalized all aspects of its internal staffing and operations. By the early 1990s, those on the professional side of the divide were in the majority. Even though the accommodation of the divergent interests of academics and practitioners has not been without conflict, the Society has managed to avoid the kind of formal split the American Psychological Association suffered in the late 1980, with the formation of the science-oriented American Psychological Society (Cooke, 2000).

(p. 29) Local and Particular: Antipsychiatry in Australia

Given the distinctly provincial nature of Australian psychology, historians and psychologists themselves have struggled to come to grips with the question of what, if anything, distinguishes it from the kind of psychology carried out in the major overseas centers. A superficial but reasonably accurate answer would be “nothing much,” assuming that it is all a matter of straightforward cultural importation. Nevertheless, the process should still be seen as a dynamic one: Some of these ideas have blossomed and have been deployed in some culturally unique and specific ways. This could probably best be illustrated with two quirky and compelling examples.

As feminism, gay liberation, and the first stirring of patient advocacy washed up on Australian shores in the early 1970s, they helped create a home-grown version of the antipsychiatry movement. At the time, Australian psychiatry stood at an historical juncture; locked into essentially somatic mindset, its practice was tethered to increasingly decrepit, long-stay state asylums. Leading figures in this movement focused on the corrosive, repressive nature of the doctor’s role, but they also promoted the idea politically engaged, community-based social psychiatry (Damousi, 2005; Laffey, 2003).

Among psychologists, academic clinician Robin Winkler stood out as singular, crusading figure. Winkler immediately instigated an antipodean version of David Rosenhan’s famously iconoclastic 1973 “pseudopatients” experiment. Like Rosenhan, Winkler had his experimental confederates fake specified symptoms in order to gain admittance to mental hospitals, but he also had them visit general practitioners. A more explicitly political twist was added to his study, with the Whitlam Government’s new Medibank public health program about to be introduced. Thus, experimental confederates were asked to assess medical attitudes to this great leap into “nationalized” medicine (Owen & Winkler, 1974; Winkler, 1974). Like Rosenhan, Winkler argued for a new respect for patient rights in the face of the arbitrary discipline and numbing routine of institutional life. And he and his co-investigators did uncover pockets of resistance to Medibank among GPs (Owen & Winkler, 1974).

In 1976, Winkler moved on to head the University of Western Australia’s clinical master’s program and departmental clinic before his untimely early death a decade later (Richardson, 1995). Jay Birnbrauer (1996) pointed out how Winkler’s career epitomized the shift in orientation of Australian clinical psychologists in the 1970s: from institutionally based test artisans to socially active community consultants. Winkler had completed a Ph.D. on token economies in Sydney’s Gladesville psychiatric hospital in the late 1960s. Although speaking out on the choice of goals in behaviour modification—opposing the treatment of homosexuality, for example—he also attempted to alter public attitudes that stigmatizing and exacerbated psychological problems.

The attacks Winkler led were symptomatic of a general questioning of medical authority in this period, with Australian critics contrasting the somatic model of illness and treatment with more psychological and sociological perspectives. Nevertheless, clashes with psychiatry were not as overt and pronounced in Australia as they have been overseas, in the United States, for example. There was not the same level of heated debate over patient jurisdiction, not the same kind of pitched battles over the ownership of psychotherapy (Buchanan, 2003). Both psychiatry and clinical psychology emerged from government-funded institutions of one sort or another in Australia. Until relatively recently, it was never entirely clear whether there existed a market for either group’s services outside these institutional confines. As has already been mentioned, Australia’s was not a therapeutic culture; engaging a third-party expert to assist in the pursuit of happiness or personal growth sat rather uneasily with an ethos of privacy and stoicism. This is one reason antipodean clinical psychology has developed according to a problem-solving orientation, geared to specific issues like drug and alcohol abuse, veteran’s affairs and post-traumatic shock, child welfare, and relationship difficulties.

The psychoanalytic movement had a less divisive presence down under than it did abroad. Unlike the American psychoanalytic training institutes, for example, the institutes established in Melbourne, Sydney, and Adelaide readily admitted suitably qualified lay trainees. Several notable Australian practitioners—such as Ian Waterhouse—were turned out by these institutes after first training as psychologists. However, in other respects the Australian institutes were just as conservative as their overseas counterparts, and just as insular. They remained separate, even secretive entities that stood apart from the universities and medical schools. As a result, psychoanalysis never achieved a high level of integration within psychiatric training programs in Australia, nor within undergraduate instruction in psychology, where it was generally taught as just one of number of theories of personality, (p. 30) if at all. It was only in postgraduate training in psychology that a Freudian focus might be intense. Some clinical training courses, for example Melbourne University’s clinical master’s program, contained a stream that stressed psychodynamic ideas and techniques. Even so, if one wanted to become a recognized “analyst” in Australia, one still had to then go through the lengthy training regimes specified by one of the institutes. And, like some of their overseas counterparts, they were racked by internal divisions, especially from the late 1970s when a Lacanian school emerged to challenge a Kleinian orthodoxy (Damousi, 2005).

Although psychoanalysis was co-opted as resource at times by both sides of the antipsychiatry debate, Australian analysts played only minor roles in framing mental health care provision. And when deinstitutionalization eventually came about in the 1990s, it was only as an indirect and delayed result of the antipsychiatric critique. With policy precedents available from America and England, economic expedience had more to do with the wave of mental hospital closures (Chesters, 2005). A complete history of these events has yet to be written, especially with respect to the state-by-state differences in philosophies and outcomes.

Local and Particular: Aboriginal Psychology

Social psychology remained a strong feature of the Australian discipline. Nevertheless, Norman Feather (2005) concluded that it was notable only in terms of the diversity of its borrowings from American, British, and European traditions. But in this postcolonial world, if any subfield were to reflect local concerns it this one. Feather pointed to research on particularly Australian topics like attitudes toward high achievers (“tall-poppy syndrome”) and the devaluation of home-grown culture relative to that emanating from overseas (“the cultural cringe”). He also recounted the long and somewhat painful history of research in the “ethical and political minefield” of “Aboriginal affairs.”

Pre-modern 19th-century appreciations of Australia’s first inhabitants emphasized their primitiveness. Known to Europeans as “Aborigines,” but to themselves by their various tribal names, their indigenous status became both a sticky label and the defining conceptual prism through which they were viewed. Overseas observers from Spencer to Freud found them a convenient example of evolutionary throwback. They were seen as a backward race, the lowest rung of the evolutionary totem pole. Local medical men and social policy makers saw indigenous Australians as alien and threatening. Although sympathetic in their appraisal of the results of contact with the “white man,” they were fearful of the degenerative effects this might entail for their own kind. Even so, they also wondered what might be learned from them as an example of adaptation to a hostile, non-European environment.

Medical researchers suggested that the “savage” mind was simple and childlike, less prone to the kinds of breakdowns that went with the stress and pressures of civilization, and less sensitive to physical pain and discomfort. However, expert opinion varied as to if and how they could be assimilated or preserved at the margins, given the expectation they were a “dying race.”

Psychologists’ formal involvement with “Aboriginal affairs” in the early part of the century came as part of attempts to manage this encounter. The first recognizable precedent was the Cambridge Torres Strait expedition of 1895, when C. G. Seligman had examined Aborigines from the Fitzroy and McKenzie River districts and concluded their sensory and perceptual skills were no different from that of Europeans. However, this finding was overtaken by testing with the standardized psychometric tools of Western psychology in the new century, which repeatedly illustrated the gap in intellectual capabilities. Interpretation of this gap would shift subtly over time, however (Anderson, 2002). Perhaps the most well-known early psychological research came from Stanley Porteus, the self-described (1969) “psychologist of sorts.” During the war years, Porteus teamed up with Richard Berry, chair in anatomy at the University of Melbourne, attempting to map mental deficiency onto physical anthropometry, especially cranial measurement. For Berry, Aborigines were merely another small-headed group, whose feeblemindedness was comparable to white delinquents and criminals. Porteus’ tests results did little to contradict his collaborators’ conclusions of inherent inferiority.

Porteus departed for the United States at the end World War I. However, inspired by Wood Jones’ ideas of selective environmental adaptation, he returned in 1929, to set up a research base amongst the Arunta people. Using his own maze tests and other measures, Porteus likened Aborigines to that of 12-year-old white children, but hardly inferior to other racial groups. Distancing himself from Berry’s obsession with hereditary racial typing, Porteus saw his subjects as specifically suited to the local environment. Anthropologists were in turn critical of Porteus. For instance, A.P. Elkin suggested Porteus merely (p. 31) measured rather “listened,” that his conclusions of inferiority were based on tests that still tapped culturally specific skills like speed, and neglected other skills like oral memory.

Although psychological investigation of the indigenous population tailed-off in the Great Depression years, the comparative framework emphasizing deficit would remain. As Australia experienced successive waves of immigration in the 1950s and 1960s, the question of cultural integration took on a new urgency. Indigenous children began entering the school system in large numbers for the first time, along with the children of migrants from non–English speaking backgrounds. New assimilation policies were drawn up, including the forced removal of children from their families. Ironically, this was the very time when overseas researchers such as John Bowlby were stressing the importance of the maternal bond (McConnochie, 2008). At no stage did psychologists produce any research questioning these policies. However, to be fair, no other learned group did either. As late as 1980, psychologists such Seagrim and Lendon (1980) were weighing up the pros and cons of separation, suggesting “the age at which the change occurs and the consistency of affection … will affect the success of [the child’s] adaptation” (p. 202). Instead, Australian psychologists focused on the question of indigenous underachievement at school. The compensatory strategies they helped devise were designed to combat measured cognitive and motivational deficits—a result, it was assumed, of cultural deprivation or genetic inferiority.

The political and social climate had nonetheless begun to change in the 1970s. Multiculturalism became the official watchword as the federal government abandoned the blunt goal of assimilation. More importantly, indigenous leaders began articulating the notion of self-determination, parallel cultural rights, and reparation for past wrongs. Through the 1980s, there was a dramatic decline in psychometric research with Aboriginal populations and an increasing interest in other aspects of the indigenous psychology.

The 1988 World Psychology Congress held in Sydney was a watershed moment in Australian psychology’s self-representation to the international community. On the last day, a New Zealand delegate wondered aloud why there was so little material pertaining to the psychology of the indigenous population. The only example of this was some unfortunate historical material that had sparked outrage and shame among some local delegates. It was s trigger for official action from those within the APS. Various symposiums and conferences were devoted to exploring the psychology of indigenous peoples—which saw the first presentations by Aboriginal speakers, as well as specific initiatives for including indigenous issues in teaching, for training Aboriginal psychologists, and for research (Gridley, Davidson, Dudgeon, Pickett, & Sanson, 2000). In 2000, the Australian Psychologist published a special issue canvassing the achievements to date and prospects for the future (e.g., Davidson, Sanson, & Gridley, 2000). There has been an explosion in research in this area since 1990, with a paradigm shift in perspective. Gone is the deficit model, replaced by an expanding focus on indigenous attitudes and values, on mental health and social justice. Reconciliation might still be an ongoing process, but at least psychology was now playing a part.


Australia is one context in which the “out-of-philosophy” origin story essentially holds true. Antipodean psychology was in the first instance a university-based discipline, although applied work in educational and clinical contexts followed close behind. Until World War II, however, it amounted to a limited array of isolated individuals, departments, and work sites. Its development lagged behind that in Britain, Europe, and America. Nevertheless, Australian psychology caught up surprisingly quickly, growing strongly in the postwar period to represent a mature but scaled-down version of these overseas centers. APS membership reflected this expansion. The Society had over 4,000 members by the mid-1980s, topping the 10,000 mark by the turn of the century. Even so, there was twice that number of registered psychologists in the country. The number of Society-affiliated psychologists per head exceeds that of the BPS in Britain and the American Psychological Association in the United States—one illustration of the relative achievement of the discipline in international terms. Of course, the APS has nowhere near the stature and influence of those professional bodies, certainly not abroad and perhaps not even at home.

Australian psychology’s penetration of everyday life is a little harder to gauge, but it does exhibit the full range of practical applications, as well as academic and applied career paths. Nonetheless, it cannot escape its colonial past and provincial present. It still lacks a sense of national identity. The national APS conference is poorly attended in comparison with specialty groupings at home and abroad. The discipline’s (p. 32) priorities and anxieties still reflect this outward gaze. Despite the distance, Australian psychologists still look to travel overseas whenever possible, and they often connect with each other through the major conferences held in North America and the United Kingdom. Publications in the most prestigious American and European journals are seen to count for more, degrees obtained at the major universities there, likewise. Overall, Australian psychology’s global outlook and competitiveness makes its success unqualified, if not unique.

Future Directions and Challenges

These can partly be divided into scientific or applied spheres. On the science side:

  1. Enhancing priority research areas, especially the neurosciences and interdisciplinary biomedical research, human factors and technological change, clinical and health psychology, and industrial and organizational psychology

  2. Boosting the research funding base with public and private partnerships

  3. Further development of international links with major overseas centers

On the applied side:

  1. More effective marketing of applied personnel and skills

  2. Training of clinical and health care personnel; improving services in community care programs, especially those serving disadvantaged groups and rural areas

  3. Closer ties with public and private-sector industry; developing cross-sectional perspectives on work structures, changing work patterns, and workforce diversity

  4. Boosting psychologists’ role in improving educational outcomes and policy formulation

  5. Further research and action on indigenous psychology, social justice issues, and sustainable development

More generally:

  1. Enhancing disciplinary cohesion and communication, especially links between research and practice

  2. Raising psychologists’ profile in public policy debates

  3. Maintaining qualification standards relative to the rest of the world, with training programs designed to meet wide-ranging global opportunities.


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