Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Stanley Greig Smith (1884–1970)

by Shurlee Swain

This article was published:

Stanley Greig Smith (1884-1970), charity organizer, was born on 12 August 1884 at Glasgow, Scotland, eldest of three children of James Lockhart Smith, a drapery warehouseman who turned to journalism, and his wife Jessie Annabella, née Gemmell. Educated at Stranraer, Greig wrote for the local newspaper edited by his father. At the age of 16 he joined the civil service in London. On 4 November 1908 at the parish church, Enfield, he married Frances Clara Harris, with whom he migrated to Australia.

In May 1909 Smith became secretary of the Charity Organisation Society, Melbourne. Drawing on his civil-service experience, he enhanced the society's position as the key co-ordinating body for private charities and promoted co-operation with statutory welfare services. He read widely and wrote prolifically. In 1912 he organized the Child Welfare Exhibition in Melbourne and helped to establish the Children's Welfare Association of Victoria. During World War I he held a temporary commission as a lieutenant in the Militia, raised funds for patriotic charities, and investigated the needs of the homeless and the unemployed. He was a foundation council-member (1923) of the Lord Mayor's Metropolitan Hospitals Fund and secretary (1923-58) of the Victorian Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children.

Smith played a major role in professionalizing Melbourne's charities. Describing the motives of his co-workers as good but their methods as chaotic, he had established (1913) at C.O.S. headquarters a central register of cases. From 1926 he convened regular case conferences. He lectured to trainee nurses and deaconesses, and, at the University of Melbourne, led a study circle on social-welfare problems. After supervising (from 1929) part of the practical training provided by the Victorian Institute of Hospital Almoners, he helped to found (1931) the Committee for Training on Social Work (Victorian Council for Social Training). He served on the council's board of social studies which introduced a general course in social work in 1933, a course that was transferred to the university in 1941. Founding president (1935) of the Victorian Association of Social Workers, he was admitted as a member (1946) and life member (1965) of the new professional accreditation body, the Australian Association of Social Workers, despite his lack of formal qualifications.

In London in 1936 Smith had attended the Third International Conference on Social Work, addressed a special meeting of the local C.O.S. and visited the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children. An enthusiastic participant in Australia's postwar reconstruction, he oversaw the transformation (1946) of the Council for Social Training into the Victorian Council of Social Service, advised the Federal government on immigration and citizenship issues, and chaired (1953) a committee which made recommendations to the Victorian government on the Children's Welfare Act (1954). He also reshaped (1946) the C.O.S. as the Citizens Welfare Service of Victoria. While welcoming the expansion of state social security, he foresaw that the public sector would be unable to meet rising expectations.

Smith retired from the C.W.S. in 1957 and from the V.S.P.C.C. one year later. In 1962 he was appointed M.B.E. A widower, he died on 10 August 1970 at Camberwell and was cremated with Presbyterian forms; his daughter and one of his two sons survived him.

Select Bibliography

  • P. Anderson, The Greig Smith Social Work History Collection (Melb, 1987)
  • Citizens Welfare Service of Victoria, Annual Report, 1957-58
  • Herald (Melbourne), 23 Jan 1915, 28 Sept 1957
  • S. G. Smith memorial file, in L. J. Tierney papers (Dept Social Work, University of Melbourne).

Citation details

Shurlee Swain, 'Smith, Stanley Greig (1884–1970)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 2002, accessed online 25 May 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 16, (Melbourne University Press), 2002

View the front pages for Volume 16

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


12 August, 1884
Glasgow, Lanarkshire, Scotland


10 August, 1970 (aged 85)
Camberwell, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

Cultural Heritage

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