Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Joan Tully (1907–1973)

by Bruce Crouch

This article was published:

Joan Tully (1907-1973), agricultural scientist, was born on 9 September 1907 at Mortlake, Surrey, England, elder child of Walter Edgar Hearman, motor engineer, and his wife Minnie, née Merrifield. The family migrated to Western Australia in the Afric in 1913 and settled on a farm at Donnybrook. Educated by her mother for several years, Joan attended Presbyterian Ladies' College, Perth, and the University of Western Australia (B.Sc., 1932). She went on to study horticulture at the East Malling Research Station, University of London (Ph.D., 1936). Back in Western Australia in 1936, she joined the Forests Department as a research officer. In 1938 she was appointed plant physiologist at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research's irrigation research station, Griffith, New South Wales.

On 2 March 1944, at the local Presbyterian Church, Joan married Archie Scott Tully, a valuer and a widower with four children. She resigned from her post in February 1945 only to be widowed two months later. Responsible for the care and upbringing of her stepchildren, one of whom was handicapped, she returned to work for the C.S.I.R. in 1946. She was seconded to the Department of Agriculture's Murrumbidgee Irrigation Area agricultural service to provide on-farm advice, mainly to Italian immigrants. Her accounts of this work appeared in the Journal of the Australian Institute of Agricultural Science (1951) and the Australian Journal of Social Issues (1962). She also developed an interest in country women, their families, and their needs. Prompted by her experiences in the M.I.A., she turned her attention to the behavioural sciences, won a Fulbright scholarship and studied extension education at Cornell University, Ithaca, New York, in 1952-53.

In 1956 Tully transferred to the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization's agricultural research liaison section, Melbourne. She was seconded to the department of psychology at the University of Melbourne in 1957 to work with Oscar Oeser and F. E. Emery on factors that affected farmers' decision-making. Moving to the university's faculty of agriculture in 1959, she completed a major research project on dairy-farmers in the Rochester district. In 1961 she took up a lectureship in the department of adult education, University of New England, Armidale, New South Wales.

Next year Tully was appointed senior lecturer in the department of agriculture, University of Queensland. She introduced the first postgraduate diploma course in agricultural extension in Australia, supervised research students and taught undergraduates. Her publications emphasized that the behavioural sciences were the cornerstones of extension teaching and crucial when working with client communities. Tully was promoted to reader in 1971 and elected a fellow of the Australian Institute of Agricultural Science in 1972. She formally retired that year, but continued to teach on a temporary basis.

An independent and determined woman, Tully succeeded in what was predominantly a masculine world. Having confronted sexist attitudes of male colleagues throughout her career, she was adamant that women should not expect privileges because of their gender, but should obtain professional recognition on their merits. She died of myocardial infarction on 11 June 1973 at Chermside Hospital, Brisbane, and was cremated with Methodist forms; her stepson and two of her three stepdaughters survived her. John Hearman, her brother, was Speaker of the Western Australian Legislative Assembly in 1959-68.

Select Bibliography

  • Australian Journal of Adult Education, 13, no 3, Nov 1973, p 146
  • Courier-Mail (Brisbane), 13 June 1973
  • Tully papers (held by the family)
  • CSIRO files, A9778, items D30/5/23/5 and D30/5/23/11A, A8520, item PH/TUL/001, part 1 (National Archives of Australia)
  • personal knowledge.

Citation details

Bruce Crouch, 'Tully, Joan (1907–1973)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 2002, accessed online 21 June 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]

Alternative Names
  • Hearman, Joan

9 September, 1907
Mortlake, Surrey, England


11 June, 1973 (aged 65)
Chermside, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia

Cultural Heritage

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