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McCall, James Arthur (1903–1978)

by Michal Bosworth

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

James Arthur McCall (1903-1978), schoolteacher and public servant, was born on 13 November 1903 at Kalgoorlie, Western Australia, third child of Australian-born parents James Arthur McCall, pattern-maker, and his wife Selina, née Tonkin. Jim was educated at Perth Modern School, Claremont Teachers' College and the University of Western Australia (B.A., 1925; B.A. Hons., 1929; Dip.Ed., 1941).

In 1926 McCall was posted to Northam Senior High School; he was to remain there for fifteen years, teaching and providing vocational guidance. At St George's Anglican Cathedral, Perth, on 12 May 1934 he married Amie Gwenneth Purser (d.1978), a 27-year-old schoolteacher. Seconded in June 1941 to the Education Department in Perth as a careers officer, he co-operated with the youth-employment committee of the Federal Department of Labour and National Service. His professional life was to be influenced by the reports of three commissions of inquiry—into youth employment (1937), juvenile delinquency (1943) and child welfare (c.1954). After working in the area of vocational and educational guidance from January 1943, he became district superintendent of education (guidance and handicapped children) on 25 June 1951. Transferred to the Child Welfare Department in July 1954 as a head of division, he was appointed departmental director on 9 December 1955.

At this time there were no state-owned or state-operated institutions for juvenile delinquents in Western Australia. McCall moved quickly to renovate buildings owned by the Anglican-run Swan Homes in order to establish Hillston Boys' Farm School at Stoneville. The institution encouraged boys to reform themselves, to attend trade classes and eventually to move to a less restrictive centre.

The Adult Education Board of Western Australia organized in 1958 a series of lectures on juvenile delinquency to which McCall contributed. A general meeting of the audience recommended further inquiry into the problem, and requested better funding for those institutions already caring for delinquent children. In December McCall was appointed convenor of a committee, the members of which included the commissioner of police, the inspector-general of mental-health services and the director of education. Their findings, published in 1962, stressed the need for suitable training of child-welfare personnel, and proper care and assessment of children in modern institutions or remand homes. Interest in child welfare reflected a belief in the power of scientific research to identify causes of delinquency and to remedy them.

In 1959 McCall had visited Europe and the United States of America to study the management of reform schools; he had in mind the establishment of a maximum security institution on the outskirts of suburban Perth. Riverbank Boys Reformatory was officially opened at Caversham on 12 May 1960. A new Children's Court was built in Perth in 1964 and the Longmore Remand and Assessment Centre was set up in 1965. In the following year McCall began the process of finding a site on which to construct small units to house families undergoing domestic crises.

McCall was appointed Western Australian representative on the National Literature Board of Review on 30 December 1967. Next year he retired from the Child Welfare Department. Survived by his son, he died on 16 September 1978 at Dalkeith and was cremated.

Select Bibliography

  • D. Mossenson, A History of Teacher Training in Western Australia (Melb, 1955)
  • Child Welfare Department (Western Australia), Report on Juvenile Delinquency in Western Australia (Perth, 1962)
  • A. R. Peterkin, The Noisy Mansions (Perth, 1986)
  • Education Department (Western Australia), Annual Report, 1950-53
  • West Australian, 1 Aug 1962
  • Child Welfare Department (Western Australia), ACC1417 A3409, ACC2558 1955-66, (State Records Office of Western Australia)
  • Education Department (Western Australia), ACC1497 618/1947 and 41/1951 and 154/1955, ACC1606 1581-58 (State Records Office of Western Australia).

Citation details

Michal Bosworth, 'McCall, James Arthur (1903–1978)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/mccall-james-arthur-10900/text19355, published first in hardcopy 2000, accessed online 20 June 2018.

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

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