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 investigation or study should be relevant to social conditions in South Australia and be capable of being applied for the benefit of the state.

The next round of the Catherine Helen Spence Scholarship will open in 2022.

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:

Previous winners

2018 Prudence Flowers

Dr Flowers conducted research into the legal and policy implications, for women and clinicians, of late termination of pregnancy.

She is due to submit her research in August 2020.

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 to 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 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, 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 ethical implications of care for vulnerable aged in UK, USA, Germany and Canada. Returned to work in training and management in aged care. Completed 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 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 text book 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, waste water 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 in 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 social welfare aspects of community development. With the scholarship, she traveled to several countries, working mainly through 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 a 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 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 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 upon 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 UK, USA, Canada.

Upon her return to South Australia she was appointed as 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 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.



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