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Harrison, Hazel Joyce (1905–1970)

by K. E. Gill

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 14, (MUP), 1996

Hazel Joyce Harrison (1905-1970), kindergarten principal, was born on 22 June 1905 at Beaudesert, Queensland, sixth child of Robert Harrison, a Brisbane-born dairyman, and his wife Sarah, née Kerlin, from Ireland. Hazel was educated at a district state school and as a boarder (1916-22) at Brisbane High School for Girls (later Somerville House) where she captained the tennis team, winners of the interschool pennant in 1922. She then enrolled at the Kindergarten Teachers' Training College, Brisbane. After graduating in 1925, she was attached to several metropolitan kindergartens before being appointed director in 1926 of the Rosalie Crèche and Kindergarten.

In 1932 Miss Harrison gained a nursery school teacher's diploma from the Kindergarten Teachers' Training College, Melbourne. Next year she became director of the Keele Street Kindergarten, Collingwood. While there, she embarked on a pioneering investigation of the role of the mother in relation to the needs of infants and young children. In 1939 she moved to South Australia as resident lecturer at the Kindergarten Teachers' Training College, North Adelaide. Her duties involved the supervision of all Kindergarten Union training centres for students in the State. In February 1940 she was promoted director, with responsibility for the management of training activities. Despite a period of ill health and a heavy workload, Harrison presided over the 'most rapid change of philosophical direction in the College's career'. Sets of Montessori equipment were consigned to the storerooms and she introduced predominantly American ideas, reshaping the curriculum to conform with similar courses overseas. Having returned to Brisbane for the whole of 1947 to nurse her terminally ill sister, she resigned her directorship in December 1949 and read English and psychology at the University of Adelaide.

Harrison travelled to England in 1953 and completed a course in child development at the Institute of Education, University of London. Next year she joined the Institute of Child Development. Her study of the influence of nursery schoolteaching, especially on parent-child relationships, won high regard and led to her engagement by the Tavistock Clinic, where, as teacher-in-charge (1954-66), she worked with the educationist John Bowlby and examined aspects of the English system of pre-school education. During this period she represented the Australian Preschool Association at the World Organization for Early Childhood Education.

On her return to Australia in 1967, Harrison was appointed principal of the Kindergarten Teachers' College, Brisbane. Under her leadership the college's curriculum was enhanced and an academic course was introduced of sufficient width and depth to enable students to relate their studies to the practical field. Better organization, innovative teaching methods and the publication for the first time of a college handbook all stemmed from her professional experience. An attractive, pale, well-dressed woman with prematurely greying hair, Harrison was approachable and popular with students. Her dignity, warmth, sensitivity and tenacity of purpose left an indelible imprint. Following a brief illness, she died of heart disease on 29 May 1970 in the Beaudesert Hospital and was cremated with Anglican rites.

Select Bibliography

  • P. G. Freeman (compiler), History of Somerville House (Brisb, 1949)
  • C. Dowd, The Adelaide Kindergarten Teachers College (Adel, 1983)
  • C. M. T. Byrne, Meeting the Needs of Our Children (Brisb, 1986)
  • Somerville House Magazine, June 1932, June 1933, Dec 1939, Dec 1944, 1967, 1970
  • Kindergarten Union of South Australia, Annual Report, 1940-50
  • Courier-Mail (Brisbane), 30 May 1970.

Citation details

K. E. Gill, 'Harrison, Hazel Joyce (1905–1970)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/harrison-hazel-joyce-10442/text18517, published first in hardcopy 1996, accessed online 13 November 2018.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 14, (MUP), 1996

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