2012 Catherine Helen Spence Commemorative Oration

Protecting Vulnerable Children: Can South Australia Rise Again to the Challenge?

To be delivered by Emeritus Professor Dorothy Scott, Australian Centre for Child Protection at UniSA

Emeritus Professor Dorothy Scott will be introduced by the Hon Jay Weatherill, Premier of South Australia

Wednesday 4 April 2012

  Podcast available here
  (MP3) 25Mb (or right click and select 'save target as' to download)


Jointly presented by Catherine Helen Spence Memorial Scholarship Committee and The Bob Hawke Prime Ministerial Centre

Allan Scott Auditorium, UniSA City West campus, rear Hawke Building, 50-55 North Terrace, Adelaide

Over a century ago Catherine Helen Spence and her South Australian contemporaries led the world in improving the wellbeing of vulnerable children, developing kindergartens, child and family health nursing, and pioneering the first foster care programs to replace institutional care of children. This was achieved because of the highly distinctive combination of moral, social and intellectual capital in colonial South Australian society. Today we face different but equally profound challenges. These include escalating numbers of child protection notifications and children in State care, serious parental substance misuse, widespread child and adolescent mental health problems and the consequences of a current social context in which children and young people are seen as consumers rather than as contributors. We must again draw upon the moral, social and intellectual capital of South Australian society to rise to these challenges.


Emeritus Professor Dorothy Scott, the Foundation Chair of Child Protection and the inaugural Director of the Australian Centre for Child Protection at the University of South Australia, has pioneered innovative approaches to preventing, and responding to, child abuse and neglect. Her clinical experience is in the fields of foster care and adoption, sexual assault and maternal mental health. Professor Scott advises State and Commonwealth Governments on child protection and wellbeing, and has conducted a number of significant reviews and inquiries.

The Oration

The Oration commemorates Catherine Helen Spence, one of the foremost women in Australian history. The 102th anniversary of the death of this noted social leader of the nineteenth century falls in April 2012. Catherine Helen Spence was born in Scotland in 1825. She came to South Australia in 1839 where she later 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. Its object was not only to acknowledge a great South Australian but also 'to create a deeper interest in sociology among the people of the state'. The Scholarship was to be awarded every four years, and the Trust Fund to be administered by the Public Trustee. The Scholarship is administered by the Catherine Helen Spence Memorial Fund Scholarship Committee, members of which are appointed by the Minister of Education.

The University of South Australia has also honoured the legacy of Catherine Helen Spence in the naming of one of its buildings at the City West campus.


The Hawke Centre fulfils community engagement commitments of the University of South Australia by giving the public access to quality presentations on issues of importance to social and environmental well being and responsible governance, locally and globally, via lectures, other forums and post-event online resources.

The Catherine Helen Spence Memorial Scholarship Committee fulfils a duty to offer The Catherine Helen Spence Scholarship (CHSS) providing financial support for a South Australian woman to undertake the investigation of social problems and/or a study in the field of social sciences in Australia or overseas. The investigation or study must be relevant to South Australian social conditions and be capable of being applied for the benefit of the state.

While the views presented by speakers within the Hawke Centre public program are their own and are not necessarily those of either the University of South Australia or The Hawke Centre, they are presented in the interest of open debate and discussion in the community and reflect our themes of:strengthening our democracy - valuing our diversity - and building our future.

The copying and reproduction of any transcripts within the Hawke Centre public program is strictly forbidden without prior arrangements.