Catherine Helen Spence Memorial Scholarship

The Catherine Helen Spence Scholarship is offered every four years and provides financial support for a woman to investigate social problems or study in the field of social science in Australia and overseas.  The value of the scholarship in 2022  is $25,000.

2022 applications closed at 12:00 pm Monday 5 September.

Before you start your application check that you:

Progress on the application form cannot be saved. It must be completed in one session.


You are eligible to apply if, on the application closing date, you:

  • are a woman between the age of 20 and 35
  • live in South Australia
  • have lived in South Australia for at least five years immediately prior to the awarding of the scholarship
  • are available to take up the scholarship in or before February 2023
  • will be able to complete the project and present your completed report by August 2024
  • the research topic will investigate or study contemporary issues in the field of social sciences relevant to South Australian social conditions
  • the project will involve research in Australia and in at least one country overseas
  • will be able to present periodic progress reports to the scholarship committee while undertaking the project.

Applicants do not need to be currently employed, studying, or attached to an organisation or institution to apply for the scholarship.

The scholarship may be combined with a PhD, Masters, Honors, or another degree study.

Conference attendance may be combined with an investigation or study undertaken as part of a research project. Under the terms of the scholarship, funding cannot, however, be provided solely for conference attendance.

What you'll need

You'll need the following documentation ready to upload:

You'll need to prepare the following information to add to the form:

  • details of residency in South Australia for the past five years
  • proposal title (up to 25 words)
  • summary of the proposal (up to 500 words)
  • project aims (up to 200 words)
  • methodology and approach (up to 500 words)
  • project description including a statement on ethics issues inherent to the proposal and where you will seek ethics approval (up to 2,000 words)
  • expected outcomes (up to 250 words)
  • bibliography
  • a statement about how your proposal is relevant to the scholarship (up to 100 words)
  • the details of three referees - names, phone and email contacts, current and relevant previous positions held, and the aspects of your work and project they can comment on.

Research topic

The purpose of this scholarship is to investigate contemporary issues in the field of social science.

Social science is a broad criterion and the applicant is encouraged to review the breadth of research topics covered by previous scholars before determining if you can present your work as social science.

The applicant will require an awareness of social science topics of current relevance to South Australia. You will need to present your topic as being of current relevance and be able to provide your own argument regarding applicability and benefit to contemporary South Australian society.

In the spirit of Catherine Helen Spence's legacy, the applicant is encouraged to research the work of Catherine Helen Spence and provide a considered response to this criterion.

Budget and funding guidelines

You must be able to manage the funds to ensure you are able to complete the process, including the final report.

Your application must include a comprehensive budget, outlining reasonable costs and a proposed expenditure timeline.

Items that are likely to be supported by the budget include travel, accommodation, and other expenses incurred as part of the research process.

Living expenses incurred in fieldwork while travelling intrastate, interstate, or overseas may include flights, travel insurance, taxis, car hire, accommodation, and meals.

Refer to the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) for information on travel allowances.

Partner and/or family travel and accommodation are not supported by the budget.

If a translator or transcriber is required for the research project, these are considered legitimate research expenses and must be budgeted for in your scholarship application.

If the research project involves collecting data and requires participant involvement, payment to participants would be considered a legitimate expense.

The budget does not cover the salary or stipend for the scholar. If you are an employee, it is important to secure employer support for your research project, as it will require time away from work.

The cost of printing approximately 10 copies of the final report should be included in the budget.

Any changes to the budget once the scholarship is awarded must be approved in writing by the scholarship committee.

Funds will be transferred periodically to the applicant's dedicated bank account by the Public Trustee on the recommendation of the chair of the scholarship committee. Each payment must be acquitted by the presentation of receipts for expenses incurred.

Scholarship requirements

The successful applicant must:

  • establish a dedicated bank account for the scholarship and make these records available to the scholarship committee if required
  • be able to seek the ethics approvals required to undertake the research prior to commencement of the research project (the scholarship committee may be able to provide some assistance with this)
  • commence the research project in or before the date stipulated
  • provide progress updates as negotiated with the scholarship committee
  • provide a final written report of about 20,000 words to the scholarship committee in both printed and electronic form within 18 months after commencement of the project
  • ensure the Catherine Helen Spence Scholarship is acknowledged in all publications and presentations as a source of funding
  • be available for events as required
  • discuss media responses with the scholarship committee.

Final report

A copy of the final report will be lodged with the Catherine Helen Spence Scholarship records in State Records of South Australia and at the State Library of South Australia.  An electronic version will also be lodged on the Catherine Helen Spence Scholarship page of the SA.GOV.AU website.

The scholarship committee has the right to distribute the final report and the scholar is encouraged to disseminate their research findings.

Failure to fulfil the requirements

In the event of the scholar being unable to fulfil the requirements, the scholarship committee has the right to reconsider and offer the scholarship to an alternative candidate, short-listed in the application process.

Reasons for the inability to fulfil the requirements may be due to a lack of ethics approval issues or incapacity due to illness. Any unspent funds must be returned to the scholarship committee.

About Catherine Helen Spence

Catherine Helen Spence was born at Melrose in Scotland in 1825. She established a reputation as a social and political reformer and a writer. Not long after she died in 1910 the South Australian government established a fund for a scholarship in her honour.

This portrait of Catherine Helen Spence is from the State Library of South Australia Portrait Collection, Ref B11192

For further information about Catherine Helen Spence:

About the scholarship committee

The scholarship is administered under a formal scheme by the Catherine Helen Spence Scholarship Committee.

Committee members are volunteers appointed by the Minister for Human Services, upon recommendation by the scholarship committee.

Previous winners

2019 Prudence Flowers

BA Hons, PhD (University of Melbourne)

Prudence is a Senior Lecturer in History in the College of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences at Flinders University. She specialises in the United States and histories of social movement activism, modern conservatism, medicine, and public health. She has published academic articles and a book on abortion politics and activism in the US, and regularly provides media commentary on these issues.

Through Prudence’s academic research, she became interested in later abortions, a particularly politicised and stigmatised type of abortion care. She successfully applied for this scholarship to research regulation of, provision of, and access to termination of pregnancy after 20 weeks.

Through interviews with health care workers and advocates in SA, England, Canada, and the US, Prudence has developed recommendations on how to meet the needs of later termination patients and the providers who offer this care.

Prudence is now working on incorporating the work she did with the scholarship into academic and policy research and has embedded elements of it into her teaching.

Report: Late termination of pregnancy

2013 Joanne Kaeding

BA Hons, Grad Dip Lib in Mgt, Dip Ed

Jo began her career as a teacher-librarian within the Catholic and Independent Schools sector. After ten years she moved to a children’s librarian position in the public libraries sector, where she continues to work. In this role, Jo developed and implemented a library program for children with special needs and their families.

As she has a particular interest in the subject, Jo successfully applied for this scholarship to research how to increase access for children with special needs and their families to public libraries. She plans to make recommendations on how public libraries can improve access and increase awareness of the issues this group faces when accessing public libraries.

Jo recently commenced a PhD focusing on this topic.

Report: Opening Access to Public Libraries for Children with Special Needs & their Families

2009 Sarah Paddick

B. Arch. St, B. Arch. (Hons), AIA

Sarah Paddick began her working career in the Public Building Department, SACON where she gained a varied range of experience, one of the areas being architecture in secure facilities (prisons).

In 1994 she formed Totalspace Design with two colleagues, continuing her involvement in prison architecture as well as educational, residential, and commercial design.

Her knowledge of the experiences of women prisoners with children motivated Sarah to apply for the Catherine Helen Spence Memorial Scholarship. She aimed to establish a number of key design principles relating to the architecture and design of women's prison facilities, with particular emphasis on accommodation and support facilities provided for mothers and babies, and the facilities for children visiting mothers in prison.

She researched current solutions in Australia and overseas, paying particular attention to the architecture and built form, and the influence it has on the success of a particular facility, success being judged by rehabilitation results and low recidivism. Sarah visited 18 prisons - five in Australia, three in New Zealand, three in the UK, four in Scandinavia, two in Canada, and one in the USA.

The Premier Jay Weatherill congratulated Sarah on her report and assured her that it would be used in informing the group charged with reinstating a Residential Parenting Program at the Adelaide Women's Prison.

Report: Women and children in prisons: Accommodation Study 2010 - 2011

2005 Melanie Jones

Senior Constable and Trainee, SA Police Detective Training Course (during the period of the scholarship, Melanie left the SA Police).

Melanie Jones undertook a study to examine the circumstances in which drink spiking takes place, the effects on the victim, and the need for South Australia to enact legislation to make drink spiking a criminal offence.

Melanie was able to examine the legislative provisions and background briefings for this offence in other states and to use these as a basis for arguing the SA case. During the period of the scholarship, SA legislation was enacted. However, her 2007 report 'Criminalising the Act of Drink Spiking in South Australia' contained very pertinent and useful information for community education purposes.

This has been brought to the attention of government health and welfare authorities. Melanie has also applied her accumulated knowledge about the risks of drink spiking in her community work with young women in South Australia. She served as President and Board member of the YWCA of Adelaide.

2001 Janette Young

B Soc. Work (SAIT) MPA, Ph.D.

Janette Young was a Social Worker and Senior Project Officer in the South Australian Department of Human Services when, for the scholarship, she undertook a study to investigate barriers to university entrance, with particular reference to the experiences of university graduates originating from the City of Elizabeth in South Australia - one of the most disadvantaged communities in the nation.

Her social work career involved working on issues such as domestic violence, homelessness, prisoner health, primary health care, education pathways, community capacity, and aged care. She is now Program Director for the Bachelor of Health Sciences at the University of South Australia. Her teaching and research interests encompass health promotion, health as a political and politicised field, and mental health and wellbeing.

1997 Megan Warin

BA (Hons) Ph.D.

Megan has a degree in Anthropology and Visual Arts. With the scholarship, she visited Canada and Scotland to investigate the treatment of anorexia nervosa.

Her Ph.D. on anorexia nervosa was published as Abject Relations : Everyday Worlds of Anorexia, (Rutgers University Press, 2009).

A social anthropologist, she has taught at universities in Australia and Britain and is currently working in Gender Studies and Social Analysis at the University of Adelaide, where she is also a member of the Fay Gale Centre for Gender Research and the Lifecourse and Intergenerational Health (LIGHt) Research Group.

Her teaching and research interests coalesce around the gendering of health and illness (including anorexia and obesity), theories of embodiment, and public understanding of scientific paradigms of obesity. She has won a number of ARC and NHMRC grants to continue this work. She was appointed to the Catherine Helen Spence Memorial Scholarship Committee in 2011.

1993 Ronda Schultz

BEc., B Soc. Admin.

Social welfare and administration - evaluation and training in aged care. Ronda studied the ethical implications of care for vulnerable aged in UK, USA, Germany, and Canada. She returned to work in training and management in aged care and has completed a Masters degree in Policy and Administration.

1989 Fran Baum

AO, BA (Hons), Ph.D.

Frances investigated healthy cities in Europe and Canada for her project with the scholarship. She is Professor of Public Health and Director of the Southgate Institute of Health, Society and Equity, and the South Australian Community Health Research Unit, at Flinders University.

Professor Baum is a Fellow of the Academy of the Social Sciences in Australia, and one of Australia's leading researchers on the social and economic determinants of health. In 2008 she was awarded a prestigious Australian Research Council Federation Fellowship focusing on the development of effective government and community responses to social determinants of health inequity and social exclusion.

She holds several other national competitive grants investigating aspects of health inequity and has an extensive teaching career in public health. Her numerous publications relate to social determinants of health, including Aboriginal people's health, health inequities, primary health care, health promotion, Healthy Cities, and social capital. Her textbook The New Public Health (3rd ed. 2008 OUP) is widely used as a core public health text.

1983 Anne Killen

BA, B.Soc. Admin, MSc

Anne was a social worker, in the Department of Community Welfare, Adelaide when she studied the placement of young offenders and substitute home care, at the University of Wisconsin with the scholarship.

Early in the 1990s, she moved from human services to the arena of international development, working mainly with the social aspects of infrastructure development, such as water and sanitation, wastewater treatment and recycling, transportation and roads, and environmental management, and has worked with international and national agencies, NGOs and local communities to ensure that women's voices are heard and women benefit from development activities.

She has worked a great deal in Vietnam researching the participation of the Vietnam Women's Union in the development of rural water supplies and sanitation in Vietnam for her doctoral thesis with Curtin University. She has been a lecturer in the School of Social Work and Social Policy at the University of South Australia,

1976 Alwyn Dolling


Alwyn was a social worker at the Adelaide Children's Hospital and Mental Health Service. She studied facilities and services for people with epilepsy in Europe, Scandinavia, and the United Kingdom. She returned to work in that field at the Departments of Neurology and Social Work, Adelaide Children's Hospital, and later in services for people with an intellectual disability in South Australia, and the Board of Management, Epilepsy Association, South Australia. She retired as a member of the Catherine Helen Spence Scholarship Committee in 2016.

1971 Fay Gale

AO BA (Hons), PhD, DUniv. Hon DLitt

Fay studied the family problems of minority groups, in the UK and Europe with her scholarship. She taught Geography at the University of Adelaide where she was the first woman to be appointed as a Professor.

She went on to become Pro-Vice-Chancellor, the first woman in senior management at the University. Her research work focused on Aboriginal women and Aboriginal communities, especially in urban settings. She maintained strong links with Indigenous communities throughout her personal and working lives, and her work was influential in arguments for self-determination and recognition of the Stolen Generations.

As Vice-Chancellor of the University of Western Australia, she initiated a raft of programs to eliminate discrimination against women and was a pioneer in developing programs for equal opportunity and equity in the university sector. In 1978, she was appointed a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Social Sciences and in 1998, was elected the president of the academy, the first woman in Australia's four learned academies to hold the position.

1962 Marie Mune

BA, Dip. Soc.Sc

Marie was a Social Worker involved with the Red Cross. She studied communication and cooperation in the social welfare aspects of community development. With the scholarship, she traveled to several countries, working mainly at the University of Liverpool.

She returned to social work, teaching, and course planning in South Australia. She was the first Head of the School of Social Studies when the program in social work was transferred from the University of Adelaide to the South Australian Institute of Technology (later Unisa) in 1966. She retired from Unisa in 1991.

1953 Diana Lorking

BA, Dip. Soc.Sc B.SC. M.A.

Diana gained a BA, Diploma in Social Science, at the University of Adelaide. She was interested in the problems of juvenile delinquency.

With her scholarship, she took a B.Sc. in Sociology and an M.A. in Economics (majoring in sociology and criminology) from the London School of Economics. She returned to social work in South Australia.

1946 Mary Smith

B.A. M.A.

Mary trained as a teacher graduating B.A. (1930), M.A. (1932) from the University of Adelaide. In 1938 she went to the University of Manchester, to begin a Ph.D. on 'The Mental Readjustment of the Problem Child' but her studies were disrupted by the war. Upon her return to Adelaide, she worked as a psychologist in the Education Department before becoming the first woman psychologist to establish a private practice.

She won the scholarship to study modern trends in child psychology at Manchester. She shared her ideas with the South Australian community by means of a column, 'You and Your Child' in the Sunday Mail between 1944 and 1969.

For more information, see Mary, Smith (1909 - 1989), Australian Dictionary of Biography

1938 Doris Beeston

Doris studied the Montessori method at Kindergarten Teachers' College in Adelaide graduating with honours in 1917. She was a director of kindergartens in poorer parts of Adelaide.

When she became Secretary of the Kindergarten Union of South Australia in 1924, she worked to raise money to assist ill-nourished children during the depression years.

With her scholarship, she studied child welfare and parent education and she visited kindergartens in Britain and Europe. With the advent of war, she assisted with the evacuation of children from London. In 1940 she accompanied 477 child evacuees on a voyage to Australia, but lost her life in an enemy attack at sea when returning to the UK to escort further child evacuees in November 1940.

For more information, see Beeston, Doris Anne (1897-1940), Australian Dictionary of Biography

1933 Agnes Dorsch

Agnes left her university studies when her father died, taking up nursing to assist her family. Her first appointment was as Matron at Morgan hospital and later she worked as a nursing sister for B.H.P. at Whyalla.

She was the Matron of the Northcote Home for Mothers and Babies at Grange when she took up the scholarship. In England, she took a course of Truby King training in London, in midwifery at Oxford, and did post-graduate work at St. Thomas' hospital, London.

In Berlin, she studied at two renowned baby hospitals, the Krippenverein and the Kaiserin Viktoria Augusta Haus. She also held a commission from the federal government to investigate maternal and child welfare. Sadly she did not bring all her new understandings to the South Australian community as she died in London in 1937.

1929 G. Vera Gaetjens


G. Vera Gaetjens worked as a schoolteacher while studying for her BA at the University of Adelaide. After graduation in 1925, she worked for the YWCA in Adelaide and Melbourne.

With her scholarship, she studied training, employment, and the use of leisure by young women. At the University of London, she took the Diploma course in Industrial Psychology. Then she worked for three years as YWCA secretary in Nottingham. Upon her return, she worked with the YWCA in Townsville and Canberra.

1925 Daisy Curtis

Daisy was a school teacher from 1910 to 1918 and then joined the Women Police. She was in charge of Women Police at Port Pirie when she won the scholarship. With her scholarship, she focused on the welfare of women and children, in particular in relation to drug and alcohol addictions.

She studied the work of women police in the UK, Europe, Canada, the USA, and New Zealand. She returned to police work in South Australia and when she retired in 1951, was principal of the SA Women Police.

1921 Constance Davey

B.A. M.A. PhD.

Constance gained her BA (1915) and MA (1918) while working as a schoolteacher. With her scholarship, she undertook a PhD on child psychology at the University of London graduating in 1924. She investigated neglected and delinquent children in the UK, USA, and Canada.

Upon her return to South Australia, she was appointed as a psychologist in the state Education Department. She lectured at the University of Adelaide where she helped found social work courses. In 1956 she published Children and Their Lawmakers.

For more information, see Davey, Constance Muriel (1882-1963), Australian Dictionary of Biography

1912 Dorothea Proud

B.A. LL.B. D.Sc.

Dorothea was interested in the lives of women working in factories. With her scholarship, she researched British women in munitions factories, gaining a doctorate from the London School of Economics in 1916.

When her thesis was published, the British Prime Minister Lloyd George wrote the preface. She worked in the welfare section of the British Ministry of Munitions from 1915 to 1919 and was awarded C.B.E. in 1917.

In Adelaide she gained a law degree, being admitted to the bar in 1928. Sharing a legal practice with her husband, she worked for women's welfare. She lectured in Social Science at the University of Adelaide and was a member of the Catherine Helen Spence Memorial Scholarship Committee until 1962.

For more information, see the Dorothea Pavy entry in the Australian Dictionary of Biography.



Was this page useful?

Thanks for contributing - your feedback helps us improve this website.

Page last updated 29 April 2022

Provided by:
Department of Human Services
Last Updated:
Printed on:
Copyright statement:
SA.GOV.AU is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 Licence. © Copyright 2023