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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Morey, Elwyn Aisne (1914–1968)

by Valerie Yule

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 15, (MUP), 2000

Elwyn Aisne Morey (1914-1968), psychologist, was born on 17 September 1914 at Stawell, Victoria, eldest of three daughters of Victorian-born parents Robert Leslie Morey, mechanic, and his wife Ida Ellen, née Corbett. Edward Morey was her great-grandfather. Educated at Elwood Central School, St Michael's Church of England Girls' Grammar School, St Kilda, and the University of Melbourne (B.A. Hons, 1935; Dip.Ed., 1936; M.A., 1939; B.Ed., 1940), she taught in secondary schools in Victoria and England, and was a research-assistant for the Australian Council for Educational Research.

After completing an award-winning Ph.D. (1947) at the University of California at Berkeley, United States of America, Dr Morey became a lecturer in psychology at the University of Western Australia in 1948. With Patrick Pentony, she developed landmark diploma courses in child, educational and clinical psychology—and an exploratory course in therapeutic techniques—while she was involved in extensive, enterprising extramural work for and with children. Appointed lecturer in psychology at the University of Melbourne in 1957, she moved to Monash University as senior lecturer in education in 1961 and was promoted associate-professor in 1965. She was a fellow of the British Psychological Society, the Australian Psychological Society and the International Council of Psychologists, honorary psychologist to seven hospitals and organizations, and a member of the Australian College of Education and the Family Welfare Advisory Council (Victoria). A committee-member of the Victorian Group of Australian Pre-School Associations, she also served on the education advisory committee of the Aborigines Welfare Board. 'There was scarcely an organization concerned with child welfare that she had not addressed or served'. Her publications—which included Children Need Teachers (1947), with K. S. Cunningham—were chiefly expository.

Elwyn Morey was 'probably the best-known child psychologist in Australia'. Her enthusiasm, dedication and energy promoted more enlightened attitudes and practices in mental health, the change from large institutions to cottage homes, and advances in child psychology and parent education. She showed that handicapped children could have unrealized potential, and she developed assessment techniques to discern that potential. She was a prime mover in founding Rossbourne House, Hawthorn, a school for slow-learning children, and the Monash Child Study Centre, now named after her, for which she had visionary aims. She gave her psychological and educational services unstintingly to countless children and families. Morey was an excellent teacher, a popular broadcaster, and a counsellor who inspired by encouraging. She knew her students personally, and they spread her influence. Young people blossomed in her company and she welcomed them in her open home.

Her appearance and her personality were large, motherly, and efficient. She was 'organised, determined, laughing, warm, caring, unshockable, unflappable, fun—and loving', with humanity, wide interests and a gift for friendship. Not everyone liked her or her communist sympathies which were driven by compassion. Some perceived her as bossy, opinionated, egoistic, liking to be the centre of attention, enjoying the gratitude she received, and encouraging dependants. But it was characteristic of her that, when a crying baby embarrassed a young mother in a public audience, Professor Morey took the child and continued her lecture with the baby contented in her arms. She died on 19 January 1968 from injuries received in a motorcar accident on the Princes Highway at Dunmore, New South Wales, and was cremated with Anglican rites.

Select Bibliography

  • Australian Psychologist, 2, no 3, Mar 1968
  • University of Melbourne Gazette, Mar 1968
  • S. Wiencke, A Distinguished Australian (typescript, held at Elwyn Morey Child Study Centre, Monash University, Melbourne)
  • private information.

Citation details

Valerie Yule, 'Morey, Elwyn Aisne (1914–1968)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 2000, accessed online 29 October 2020.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 15, (MUP), 2000

View the front pages for Volume 15

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