Australian Women's Register

An initiative of The National Foundation for Australian Women (NFAW) in conjunction with The University of Melbourne

Skip to content

Exhibitions

  • From Lady Denman to Katy Gallagher: A Century of Women's Contributions to Canberra

Use Trove to find more resources by/about this Woman

  • Trove

Blackburn, Jean Edna (1919 - 2001)

AO, 2002 Victorian Honour Roll of Women

Born
14 July 1919
Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
Died
2001
Occupation
Feminist and Educator
Alternative Names
  • Muir, Jean Edna (birth name)

Summary

Jean Blackburn was a feminist, socialist and staunch advocate of the critical importance of good quality teaching and resources in shaping childrens' lives. After completing an economics major at the University of Melbourne in1940 she became a research assistant for the Department of Economics. A mother who experienced the isolation of suburban living, she worked with Winifred Mitchell in organising the New Housewives' Association to help overcome this isolation.

She later completed a Diploma in Education and began her teaching career. In 1969 she was seconded as a consultant to the Committee of Enquiry into South Australian Education issuing the Karmel Report in 1973. This was the first of several such appointments. In 1983 she conducted a public enqury into Victorian senior secondary education, issuing the Blackburn Report in 1985.

Details

Jean Blackburn took pleasure in the fact that she was born Jean Muir on 14 July, Bastille Day. The great democratic values of freedom, equality and solidarity inspired her ideas and values, and shine through her writings. She was born in 1919 in Melbourne and was educated in the public school system. The fact that, by the age of 21, she had graduated as a BA with Honours in Economics was largely a tribute to her own determination and thirst for knowledge. At the University of Melbourne, Jean joined the Labor Club and then the Communist Party.

She worked as a young woman with the War Office of Industry, before marrying Dick Blackburn and moving to Adelaide. Her work there as a secondary school teacher, while raising her family of three children, led her on to a public career in education policy. She left the Communist Party after the invasion of Hungary in 1956.

After working as a consultant to a 1969-70 Committee of Enquiry into Education in South Australia headed by Prof. Peter Karmel, she was appointed Deputy Chair of the Interim Committee for the Australian Schools Commission in the early 70s, and a full-time member of the Commission for 7 years from 1974 to 1980. Her strong commitment to public values, her capacity for intellectual rigour and engagement with a range of views and her ability to express significant ideas in a lucid and inspiring way meant that she had a profound influence on Australian education. She was also one of the most profound feminist thinkers of her time.

From 1983 -85 Jean Blackburn chaired the Ministerial Review of Post-compulsory Schooling in Victoria. She was the inaugural Chancellor of the University of Canberra from 1990-91, chaired the Victorian State Board of Education from 1991-92 and was founding chair of the State Suffrage Centenary Committee in South Australia from 1992-93. She was awarded honorary doctorates from three Australian Universities. She died in Adelaide in December 2001.

As well as this record of distinguished service and influence, it is Jean Blackburn's personal qualities and strength of character that explain her place as one of our most loved and revered leaders in education.

Events

2002
Inducted onto Victorian Honour Roll of Women
21 May 2014
Oration - Inaugural Australian College of Educators Jean Blackburn Oration given at Wilson Hall, The University of Melbourne.

Sources used to compile this entry: From Lady Denman to Katy Gallagher: A Century of Women's Contributions to Canberra, Australian Women's Archives Project, February 2013, http://www.womenaustralia.info/exhib/ldkg; This biography was researched and written by Shirley Randall.

Related entries

Founder

Related Women

Archival resources

National Library of Australia

  • Interview with Jean Blackburn, economist, educationalist and Chancellor, University of Canberra (sound recording), interviewer: Peter Biskup, 1990, ORAL TRC 2654; National Library of Australia. Details
  • Interview with Jean Blackburn, economist, educationalist and Chancellor, University of Canberra (sound recording), interviewer: Peter Read, 21 July 1988, ORAL TRC 2303/17; National Library of Australia. Details
  • Interview with Jean Blackburn, educator (sound recording), interviewer: Tony Ryan, 1994, ORAL TRC 3291/1; National Library of Australia. Details
  • Interview with Jean Blackburn, former member of Schools Commission (sound recording), interviewer: Wendy Lowenstein, 1 July 1994, ORAL TRC 3111/27; National Library of Australia. Details

State Library of South Australia, Mortlock Library of South Australiana

  • Interview with Jean Blackburn [sound recording] Interviewer: Allison Murchie, 1994, OH 253/8; Blackburn, Jean Edna (1919 - 2001); State Library of South Australia, Mortlock Library of South Australiana. Details
  • Interview with Jean Blackburn [sound recording] Interviewer: Allison Murchie, 1994, OH 256/9; Blackburn, Jean Edna (1919 - 2001); State Library of South Australia, Mortlock Library of South Australiana. Details
  • Interview with Jean Blackburn [sound recording] Interviewer: Kirstin Marks, 1993, OH 210/16; State Library of South Australia, Mortlock Library of South Australiana. Details
  • Launch of the Barbara Hanrahan Memorial Exhibition [sound recording], 1994, OH 142/16; State Library of South Australia, Mortlock Library of South Australiana. Details

Anne Heywood

Site-wide information and acknowledgements

National Foundation for Australian Women The University of Melbourne, eScholarship Research Centre

© Copyright in The Australian Women's Register is owned by the Australian Women's Archives Project
and vested in each of the authors in respect of their contributions from 2000

http://www.womenaustralia.info/biogs/AWE0332b.htm

The Australian Women's Register is licensed under a
Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Australia License

The Australian Women's Register is published quarterly by the Australian Women's Archives Project
ISSN 2207-3124