Dr Elsie Harwood AM



Mr Chancellor,

Dr. Elsie Harwood was born in Brockley, London on May 22, 1911, and came to Australia from England in her childhood. Educated in Brisbane, she received her Hons. B.A. degree in Classics from the University of Queensland in 1935 and subsequently was awarded an M.A: and Ph.D. from this University in 1937 and 1957, respectively. She began academic work in Queensland as Tutor in Classics and Psychology in 1935 and took up appointment as Assistant Lecturer in Psychology in 1941.

During the 40 years of her association with the University of Queensland she had given distinguished service to the University and the community at large. For nearly 30 years while employed by this University she was responsible for the, clinical training of psychologists in Queensland, and her professional contributions have continued unabated despite her retirement as Reader in Psychology in 1976. She introduced reactivation techniques into the nursing homes of Queensland. and was among the pioneers in the institution of pre-retirement courses for employees in numerous organizations within this State. She is a Fellow of the Australian Psychological Society and was honoured in her retirement by appointment as Honorary Medical Psychologist Emeritus in the Department of Neurosurgery at the Mater Misericordiae Hospital, South Brisbane, and as Honorary Research Consultant at the University of Queensland.

Dr. Harwood is renowned for initiating and sponsoring (together with Dr. George Naylor until his death in 1980) the internationally significant program of research, "Operation Retirement". This research project commenced in 1966 and work is still proceeding. It involves the willing contribution of a number of aged people in the State of Queensland who has formed a close community of persons providing unique data on the learning capacities of the elderly. Although the original number of the sample (405) has now been reduced by death to near 100, the number available is still a substantial group for the purposes of a psychological study, and the data gathered over the years present a unique body of knowledge on which to base a better understanding of the ability of our ageing citizens to cope. The study focused on the significant benefits to the elderly who engage in learning in a formal and consistent manner, and established learning programs in German reading, and recorder playing. Examination of intellectual change over 15 years showed an average annual loss of less than 2 percent under the age of eighty, and less than 3 percent above that age. The impact of these findings has been immense, and results have been widely accepted as demonstrating that the capabilities of the aged can be utilized to increase their coping skills.

In her professional life-span, Dr. Harwood has worked primarily in the field of cognitive development, with emphasis on the psychological aspects of cognitive functioning in the aged and in the brain-damaged, and she has published extensively in this area. As Honorary Research Consultant she is an expert consultant to staff, students and professional visitors working in the area of ageing and cognitive coping skills.

Dr. Harwood's service to the community, and the elderly in particular, has been outstanding and she has communicated her knowledge and understanding selflessly to community groups in Queensland and elsewhere in Australia.; with intense commitment and dedication. Her work has included lecturing to diverse professional, government and church groups. especially in communications focused on pre-retirement preparation and areas of need among the elderly population and the aged who are handicapped. From 1979-81 she served as a member of the Advisory Committee on the Care of the Aged in the Queensland Department of Health.

While engaged in these public service duties, she has continued to communicate the data on the elderly to the wider research community in conference papers throughout Australia. As recently as 1983 she presented two papers to the Singapore Conference of the International Association of Gerontology (Asia-Oceania Region); and in July of this year will present a paper to the full International Conference of that Association in New York.

Mr Chancellor, for her services to the community, and the elderly in particular, I present Elsie Harwood, Master of Arts and Doctor of Philosophy of this University, Fellow of the Australian Psychological Society, for admission to the award of Doctor of Science, honoris causa.


Doctor of Science honoris causa