Monash University Publishing: Advancing knowledge

Jean Blackburn

Education, Feminism and Social Justice

By Craig Campbell and Debra Hayes


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“Jean Blackburn is one of Australia's truly remarkable women of modern times.” — Michael Pusey

“Australian education still needs Jean Blackburn.” — Susan Ryan

Jean Blackburn devoted much of her working life to the development of socially just education policy. From the early 1970s she worked with Peter Karmel on the most significant government report framing school policy in the twentieth century, the blueprint for the Australian Schools Commission. And she was the architect of both the Disadvantaged Schools Program, which revolutionised the delivery of education by public and Catholic schools, and the Girls, School and Society report of 1976. Following the release of his 2011 report on government funding of schools, David Gonski pointed to the enduring relevance of Blackburn's contribution. She was, in Raewyn Connell's summation, “the most influential feminist educator in Australian history”. In this innovative biographical study Craig Campbell and Debra Hayes make clear the profound influence of Jean Blackburn on Australian society and also show the social worlds she moved in and through, and the personal struggles she faced as a political radical, housewife, mother and feminist.

About the Authors

Craig Campbell is an historian of education based at the University of Sydney. His books include A History of Australian Schooling (2014) and School Choice (2009). He is a recent editor of the History of Education Review and the on-line Dictionary of Educational History in Australia and New Zealand.

Debra Hayes is Professor of Education and Equity in the Sydney School of Education and Social Work at the University of Sydney. Her research investigates the inequitable effects of schooling in contexts where there are high levels of poverty and difference. Her early work was strongly influenced by Jean Blackburn's writing.

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