School of Psychological Science

History 1952-1966


Kenneth Frederick Walker

When a Chair in Psychology was eventually established, to be taken up in the 1952 session, the advertisement stated that “Preference may be given to candidates whose special experience has been in the field of Social Psychology”.

The selection committee acted upon this suggestion and the successful applicant was Kenneth Frederick Walker, MA, Dip. Anthrop. (Sydney), PhD (Harvard), who had been an Assistant Lecturer in Economics (1938—1939) and a Lecturer in Social Psychology (1940—1941) at Sydney University. From 1942, until taking up the Chair at  UWA, he had continued with research and part-time lecturing, largely in the fields of social and industrial psychology, while occupying administrative positions within the Department of Labour and National Service.

On arrival in March 1952 his staff consisted of: (Reader) A.J. Marshall, (Senior Lecturers) Elwyn A. Morey and Ronald Taft (Graduate Assistants) Faith M. Clayton and A. Richardson, (Secretary) Marion Cume, (Technician) W. (Bill) Wisdom. Fourteen years later, when Ken Walker moved on to take up a senior appointment with the International Institute of Labour Studies, in Geneva, the number of full-time academic staff of Lecturer rank or above had risen to 12 excluding his vacant Chair. Ten of them were to remain with the Department until their retirement.

The probability that an increasing number of psychologists would be needed in the coming years was becoming clear and in his inaugural lecture ‘Human Relationships in our Time’ given on 7th August 1952, Walker stressed that he would encourage courses requiring collaboration with other Departments. These included collaboration with both the biological sciences and the social sciences, but because most psychologists would be working in social settings the latter came to have greater emphasis.

In this same year Professors Clyde and Florence Kluckhohn came to Australia on behalf of the Carnegie Corporation of New York. Part of their brief was to conduct a survey[22] of the social sciences which would, subsequently, be useful when funding applications were under consideration. As a result of their visit, and of Ken Walker’s support the Department of Psychology became host to an embryonic Department of Anthropology.

Independent department of anthropology

It was funded, from 1956 to 1958 by the Carnegie Corporation and Ronald M. Berndt, MA, Dip. Anthrop. (Sydney) PhD (London) was appointed Senior Lecturer (Reader from 1959) to establish it. In 1963, with the further support of Ken Walker, who had made the recommendation as early as 1958, an independent department of anthropology was created and Ron Berndt was selected to occupy its foundation Chair.

Another initiative within the Department of Psychology was to replace the earlier IIIc qualification by a two year full time Diploma in Clinical Psychology (DCP). This new course was started in 1956 and taught mainly by part-time staff with practical work supervised by psychologists and psychiatrists working in community agencies. Two of the lecturers were Ross Smith and Nancy Stewart both of whom were past graduates of the UWA Department. Ross Smith later became Principal Clinical Psychologist with the WA Mental Health Services while Nancy Stewart became Assistant Principal Clinical Psychologist.

In 1966 the DCP was given Masters status and became the MPsych. Those desiring to enter this course were expected to take the BPsych degree, which had been introduced in 1964, rather than the BA or BSc (Hons) degree. This requirement was dropped later, for those with good honours degrees, though the advantage of the more applied work undertaken in the fourth year of the BPsych remained, especially for those seeking immediate employment in psychology.

A companion post-graduate course to the DCP had, also, been introduced in 1956. This was the Diploma in Child and Educational Psychology (DCEP) but it was later cancelled due to lack of enrolments. Nevertheless Child Psychology retained its popularity and the Child Study Centre under its Director Audrey Little, BA, DCEP, PhD (WA) continued to serve the teaching and research needs of the Department. Indeed, it provided some of the subjects for the Department’s first PhD degree awarded, in 1960, to Margaret Middleton.

Social Work, also, had its origins within the Department when a Diploma course was offered for the first time in 1965 It was taught by Walter (Wally) Tauss and Margaret E. Stockbridge both of whom moved out of Psychology when a fully independent Department of Social Work was established in 1971.

The period of Ken Walker’s headship was one of growth and change. Formality was declining in the early 1960’s when, for example, lecturers ceased to wear gowns when addressing large classes. Individual research interests became more clearly established and publications increased.

The membership Committee of the Australian Branch of the BPS, which was located in the Department for part of this period, began to process more applications and some of the impetus for an independent APS came from members of the UWA Department. Ken Walker had been Chairman of the Australian Branch in 1955 and Ron Taft in 1963. A fully independent Australian Psychological Society was achieved in 1966. The roots of a flourishing scientific and professional community of psychologists were now firmly established in Western Australia.

  1. Alexander (1963), ibid. p.722.

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