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Mander-Jones, Evan (1902–1975)

by M. Blencowe

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

Evan Mander-Jones (1902-1975), by unknown photographer, 1945

Evan Mander-Jones (1902-1975), by unknown photographer, 1945

Australian War Memorial, 122592

Evan Mander-Jones (1902-1975), director of education, was born on 6 July 1902 at Homebush, Sydney, fourth child of Australian-born parents George Mander-Jones, physician, and his wife Margaret Fleming, née Arnott. Evan was descended from William Arnott and David Jones. He attended Sydney Church of England Grammar School (Shore) and the University of Sydney (B.A., 1924; Dip.Ed., 1925), and was employed as an assistant-master (1926-30) and as a house master (1933-38) at his old school. In the years between these appointments he studied at University College, Oxford (B.A., 1933; M.A., 1937).

After serving (from 1922) in the Militia, Mander-Jones was called up for duty as an intelligence officer on 13 November 1939. In May 1940 he transferred to the Australian Imperial Force and in October sailed for the Middle East with headquarters, I Corps. Sent to Sumatra, Netherlands East Indies, in January 1942, he helped Dutch civilians and refugees from Malaya to elude the invading Japanese by taking them from Palembang to Oosthaven and from there to Merak in Java; he then returned to Sumatra and helped to destroy the port of Oosthaven. For this work he was appointed O.B.E. (1943).

Back in Australia, Mander-Jones was promoted lieutenant colonel in April 1942. He served successively on the staffs of the Second Army, First Army, I Corps, New Guinea Force and II Corps. At Scots Church, Melbourne, on 9 June 1943 he married with Presbyterian forms Lois Jessie McDonald, a 22-year-old sergeant in the Australian Women's Army Service. In January 1945 he was raised to temporary colonel and posted as deputy-director, military intelligence, Allied Forces Land Headquarters, a post which entailed extensive travelling in the South-West Pacific Area. He transferred to the Reserve of Officers on 30 July 1946.

In September that year Mander-Jones succeeded C. A. E. Fenner as South Australia's director of education. During the next twenty-one years he had to deal with a phenomenal growth in education in the State: primary school enrolments doubled to over 150,000 and secondary enrolments increased six-fold to 70,000. The annual percentage of the government's budget spent on education rose from 11.5 in 1947-48 to 24.9 in 1966-67. The director faced two immediate difficulties—a lack of school buildings and a shortage of teachers. As a 'temporary' solution, prefabricated classrooms were introduced and schools were consolidated. Staff numbers were increased by the employment of married women and teachers from Britain, by the re-employment of retired teachers, and by a campaign to recruit young people into the profession.

Mander-Jones was an Australian representative at the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization's biennial conference in Paris in 1952. In 1958 he inspected schools in Britain and the United States of America, and attended the twenty-first joint U.N.E.S.C.O. and International Bureau of Education conference in Geneva. A guest of the Federal Republic of Germany in 1965, he observed educational practices in that country, and in Britain and the U.S.A.

He claimed that he had to print the report of his 1958 tour himself because it was 'unpopular with governments' as it proposed 'expensive changes to the existing setup'. In particular, he recommended the establishment of different types of secondary schools, and advocated both vocational and further education. By the 1960s, under Mander-Jones's guidance, technical schools were developing imaginative general courses (rather than concentrating solely on trade skills) and were promoting adult-education classes and vocational-education courses.

Mander-Jones presided over the Education Department with dignity and scholarly concern. He believed that the 'ultimate object of education' was 'to fit every boy and girl to live the most satisfactory life for themselves and for their fellows'. Faced with agitation for curriculum reform and equal pay for female teachers, he claimed that he had 'always found that teachers will proceed further through conference and round-table discussions, than through processions and demonstrations'. He retired in 1967.

A member of the Legacy Club of Adelaide and the Greater Adelaide Planning Commission, Mander-Jones was a council-member of the Flinders University of South Australia and Roseworthy Agricultural College, and a committee-member of the State branches of the Boy Scouts' Association, the Duke of Edinburgh's Award Scheme and the Gowrie Scholarship Trust Fund. He was president of the State chapter of the Australian College of Education and of the South Australian Public Schools' Music Society. A junior grand warden (1970) of the Grand Lodge of Antient, Free and Accepted Masons of South Australia, he wrote A History of Craft Masonry in South Australia, 1884-1934 (1976). He belonged to the Adelaide and the Naval, Military and Air Force clubs, and enjoyed chess and mountain-walking. Survived by his wife and three sons, he died on 18 July 1975 while holidaying in Noumea and was buried in Centennial Park cemetery, Adelaide.

Select Bibliography

  • C. Thiele, Grains of Mustard Seed (Adel, 1975)
  • Adelaide Legacy Weekly Bulletin, 28 July 1975
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 15 Oct 1937, 12 June, 26 Aug 1942
  • Advertiser (Adelaide), 29 Aug 1946, 16 Oct 1965, 17, 21 June 1967, 21 July 1975
  • L. Arnold, ABC radio interview with Evan Mander-Jones (3 Aug 1969, State Library of South Australia)
  • South Australian Minister of Education, Report, 1965-67, GRG 18, series 23 (State Records of South Australia).

Citation details

M. Blencowe, 'Mander-Jones, Evan (1902–1975)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/mander-jones-evan-11047/text19657, published first in hardcopy 2000, accessed online 20 November 2018.

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

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