Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Turner, Dora Jeannette (1888–1953)

by Gleewyn Sprod

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 12, (MUP), 1990

Dora Jeannette Turner (1888-1953), educationist, was born on 8 January 1888 at Portland, Tasmania, daughter of George Arthur Turner, bank clerk, and his wife Mary Louisa, née Ikin. She was educated at Devonport Primary and Launceston High schools. Beginning her professional career in 1906 as an assisted teacher at Westwood, Chudleigh and Beaconsfield, she completed a one-year certificated course in 1909 at the Hobart Teachers' Training College and taught in four primary schools. In 1924, as first teacher-in-charge, she opened the Girls' Welfare School at New Town. Consisting of one classroom and a kitchen, it had an enrolment of eight pupils aged between 12 and 14. Its establishment marked the Tasmanian Department of Education's recognition of the need for a 'special' education for some children.

Her first priority was to create an environment in which her students would gain confidence in their abilities and advance in self-esteem. The curriculum aimed at personal development. Emphasis was placed on skills for independent living, with a minimum of academic work to support the practical curriculum. Her approach succeeded. Dora was a born teacher whose discipline was never apparent. Although she had no specific training in educating children with intellectual disabilities, she combined an innate understanding of their needs with her solicitude and dedication to ensure that her pupils enjoyed their years at school and gained the means to enable them to become self-respecting citizens.

The school moved in 1930 to Mather House, a two-storey building in Murray Street, Hobart. The schoolrooms were on the ground floor, with living quarters for Dora and her sister Mary, also a teacher, on the upper. These premises proved more suitable because they were larger, nearer the city, and adjacent to the Elizabeth Street Practising School with which there was limited interaction. An additional twenty-two girls were soon enrolled.

A serious, somewhat austere woman, upright and well groomed, Dora worked untiringly for the underprivileged. She was highly respected and belonged to the New Town Methodist Church. Her hobbies included embroidery, cake decorating, gardening, sketching and bridge. Throughout her twenty-seven years as principal Miss Turner made self-reliance the watchword of her school. Firm yet kind, she encouraged students to take pride in their appearance and fostered positive attitudes toward learning. She managed the school with efficiency and economy. Her programmes were clearly enunciated, her expectations high but realistic. After resigning on 1 May 1951, she worked as a relief teacher until she suffered a stroke and died in Calvary Hospital, Hobart, on 12 October 1953. She was cremated at Cornelian Bay. In 1955 the Tasmanian Department of Education honoured her by changing the name of the Girls' Welfare School to the Dora Turner School.

Select Bibliography

  • Mercury (Hobart), 15 Oct 1953
  • P. E. M. Griffiths, A History of Dora Turner School, formerly Girls' Welfare School 1924-1974 (M.Special Ed, University of Tasmania, 1981)
  • Education Department (Tasmania), records.

Citation details

Gleewyn Sprod, 'Turner, Dora Jeannette (1888–1953)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/turner-dora-jeannette-8884/text15603, published in hardcopy 1990, accessed online 31 July 2014.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 12, (MUP), 1990

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