Dr Shirley Sampson

Dr Shirley Sampson's groundbreaking research led to a revolution in the way girls are educated in Australia.

Honour Roll

"She spent much of her career trying to find practical, realistic outcomes for girls' education so they could do more, see more, and achieve more." - Ms Adriane Whiticker, granddaughter of Dr Shirley Sampson.

She was a passionate advocate, activist and role model for the improved education of girls, and a life-long school and university teacher. Shirley attended the Perth Modern School on a scholarship and in 1948 graduated from the University of Western Australia with a Bachelor of Arts. She was one of the few women who graduated from Australian universities at that time.

Shirley married a fellow teacher and in 1958, with four children under the age of eight, relocated overseas and then to Nigeria to teach alongside her husband. The family spent two years there before moving to Tasmania and finally settling in Melbourne.

While teaching at a girls' college, Shirley encountered many students who expressed no desire to continue to university. They saw their role in life only as getting married and having children, which Shirley deemed a "terrible waste". She became quite impassioned and dedicated the rest of her career to seeking ways of ensuring that girls' education instilled in them a desire to embrace the amazing possibilities on offer.

Shirley developed and introduced two major fields of study at the post-graduate level, in gender and schooling, and health and human relationships education. She was the first person to establish a Bachelor of Education on sex roles in education (1975) and a Masters program on gender in education.

A burning anger about the disparity of women and men in senior education positions also propelled her. She succeeded in increasing the appointment of women to senior roles through her active involvement in the Victorian Government's three year Action Plan for Women and Promotion.

Shirley was also chairperson of the Premier's Committee of Equal Opportunity in Victorian Schools from 1975-77 and the Ministerial Advisory committee on Women and Girls. In 1978-82 she was a member of the Victorian Advisory Council on the status of Women. She founded the Australian Women's Education Coalition in 1976 and held office until 1986, and was a founding and committed member of the Women's Electoral Lobby.