Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Neile Osman (1920–1972)

by Beryl Cigler

This article was published:

Neile Osman (1920-1972), educationist, was born on 31 March 1920 in Adelaide, second son of Australian-born parents Laurence Henry Osman, military clerk, and his wife Ethel Rebecca, née Allen. Neile attended the Collegiate School of St Peter and furthered his study of languages at the University of Adelaide (B.A., 1942; M.A., 1945; Dip.Ed., 1948). In 1940 he returned to St Peter's to teach at the preparatory school. Called up for full-time duty with the Militia on 29 August 1941, he served mainly with the 3rd Field Company, Royal Australian Engineers. Lieutenant Osman transferred to the Australian Imperial Force in October 1942. In July 1943 he was promoted captain and placed on the Reserve of Officers. At his school chapel on 5 December 1942 he had married Margaret Mary Moody, a 22-year-old secretary; they were to have two daughters before being divorced.

On 7 January 1946 Osman joined the Commonwealth Public Service. Next month he was appointed to the Adelaide branch of the Office of Education (Department of Education and Science from 1966). In 1953 he moved to head office in North Sydney where he became officer-in-charge of the migrant education section, responsible for producing materials for teaching English to adults. Building on the work of Richard Crossley and George Pittman, Osman's staff developed the Australian Situational Method which catered for people with different language needs. A.S.M. courses provided books for both teachers and students, with detailed plans for lessons. The books also contained information about the sound-system and structure of the English language. Materials were prepared for shipboard classes and night-schools, and for courses on the radio and by correspondence. A number of pamphlets were distributed on aspects of teaching English as a second language.

Osman privately published Modern English: A Self-Tutor or Class Text for Foreign Students (Sydney, 1959). The book was still being reprinted as late as the 1970s, and editions were produced for readers in Japan, South East Asia, the Middle East, Europe, Africa and South America. Osman's next publication was Word Function and Dictionary Use (London, 1965), a workbook for advanced learners of English. Meanwhile, he and his team adapted the A.S.M. to a French-language course. Let's Speak French: Part I (1963), II (1964) and III (1966) were published in Sydney by Angus & Robertson for the Commonwealth Office of Education; Part IV (1970) was co-authored by Osman, James Houston and Michel Bocquet. Osman issued disc recordings and manuals to support the course.

On 30 January 1968 at the office of the government statist, Melbourne, he married Berna Zoe Beaumont, a 38-year-old schoolteacher. A member (1963) of the Australian College of Education, Osman joined the Canberra College of Advanced Education in 1969 as founding principal lecturer in English. He died of cancer on 13 October 1972 in Canberra Hospital and was buried in Canberra cemetery; his wife survived him, as did the children of his first marriage.

Select Bibliography

  • Commonwealth Office of Education, Annual Report, 1953-65
  • Canberra Times, 20 Oct 1972
  • ST3531, item S/107 part 2 (National Archives of Australia).

Citation details

Beryl Cigler, 'Osman, Neile (1920–1972)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 2000, accessed online 23 July 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 15, (Melbourne University Press), 2000

View the front pages for Volume 15

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


31 March, 1920
Adelaide, South Australia, Australia


13 October, 1972 (aged 52)
Acton, Canberra, Australian Capital Territory, Australia

Religious Influence

Includes the religion in which subjects were raised, have chosen themselves, attendance at religious schools and/or religious funeral rites; Atheism and Agnosticism have been included.