Dr Sally Denshire
School of Community Health, Charles Sturt University, Australia
‘Re-inscribing the white, classed, gendered beginnings of occupational therapy in Australia'
(Introduced by: Prof John Hall, Centre for Health, Medicine and Society, and Health and Life Sciences)
[Note: References moved to webpage text - See below]
[18min; 17 slides]
Paper presented to the International Research Symposium:
Historical and Contemporary Perspectives on Labour and Occupational Therapy"
26–27 June 2013, St Anne’s College, Oxford
Abstract: There appears to be a relative absence of systematically recorded recent history of occupational therapy at a national level ever since a rigorousAustralianbicentenary history was produced outside the academy (Anderson & Bell, 1988). It seems that the point when the history left off in 1986 roughly coincides with the moment when colleges began to move into the University in the late 1980s. In this way, there is a generation of occupational therapy that has not been folded into that scholarly work.
As someone who graduated at the beginning of the second generation of occupational therapy I speak back to the profession, ‘writing in’ grandmother figures from the first generation of occupational therapy in Australia. I take up the threads of a different kind of history, troubling the profession and its received history. Writing within/against the dominant discourses of occupational therapy causes me to wonder what is missing in a text; as a reader I occupy a position outside the assumptions of the text, reading against the text and as writer I am suspicious of the ways a text has come to be (Lather, 1991).
In this paper, I reflect on the gendered, white, classed beginnings of early occupational therapists in the bicentenary history; considering moments of their social privilege in narratives of patronage and gender politics, political conservatism, access to transport and unwitting colonisation. Parallels can be drawn between these gendered, white, classed beginnings and more recent demographic data in the report to the Productivity Commission (2005). Contemporary occupational therapists are still predominantly Anglo-Australian middle class women, mostly urban and young (OT Australia, 2005).
In critically engaging with the gendered, white, classed beginnings of both generations of occupational therapy I seek to contribute to a critical understanding of the professional heritage of occupational therapy in Australia. It seems to me that it is time to resume the recording of recent history at a national level. Producing a commemorative volume of the Sylvia Docker lecture series (1966-2016) as a national resource in partnership with the Australian Occupational Therapy Journal seems a useful place to start.
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