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Dr Jean Blackburn

Dr Jean Blackburn was an academic, educator and policymaker whose work on landmark reviews of schooling made a unique contribution to education.

Honour Roll

Born Jean Muir in 1919, the brilliant young student became a trainee teacher after leaving High School. In 1938 she left teaching and entered the University of Melbourne against her father's wishes but with the support of her mother. As a young economics graduate she worked in the inner circle of the Labor government's Public Service. She married in 1946, moved to Adelaide with her husband and as a result of her family responsibilities and her youthful affiliations with the communist party, she was unable to work in public policy.

She eventually got a job teaching at an exclusive girls' school where she worked for nearly a decade. In 1966 her public policy career began again. After taking a lecturing position at Western Teachers' College, she was invited by Peter Karmel, an old university friend to work with him on a review of South Australian schooling. This later lead to her contribution to the Australian Schools Commission Review of Schools in Australia, in particular the report Girls, Schools and Society (1975). Sometimes referred to as the Karmel Report this was extremely influential and established the current school system.

In 1980 she returned to Victoria and as head of the Labor government's review of post compulsory schooling, produced The Blackburn Report in 1985. This report effectively established the Victorian Certificate of Education. In 1982 when the report was commissioned, about one third of students completed Year 12. By 1993 the retention rate had risen to 80%.

In later life Dr Blackburn was Chair of the State Board of Education (Victoria), Chancellor of the University of Canberra, Chair of South Australia's Suffrage Centenary Committee and received four honourary doctorates.

Jean Blackburn died in 2001 and is remembered for her view of education as an introduction to "....important achievements of the human mind, imagination and spirit to which all have the right of access" and as a mentor, role model and inspiration to several decades of women and men in education.