Woman Standley, Ida (1869 - 1948)


Adelaide, South Australia, Australia
Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
Aboriginal welfare worker, Child welfare worker, Community worker and Teacher
Alternative Names
  • Woodcock (Maiden)

Written by Deborah Towns, Swinburne University

Ida Standley was born in 1869 in Adelaide to Hanson and Bertha Woodcock (nee Franklin). She was privately educated at the Misses Lucy and Florence Tilley's school, Hardwick House Ladies College before taking a position as a governess at Mount Wudinna station on the Eyre Peninsula. Aged eighteen, she married the station owner's son George Standley, who was thirty-five but as he often left her alone with their four children she started teaching to support her family. In 1897 Standley was appointed by the South Australian Education Department to open a new rural school, Boothby, on the South Australian Peninsula. She transferred to Gawler River School in 1903 and in 1911 moved to Buchfelde.

In 1914, only three years after the Northern Territory had separated from South Australia, the Education Department advertised a position for a woman teacher to establish the first government school at Alice Springs and one of only six in the Territory. Although there were very few white women in the area, a woman teacher was suggested as the salary would be less. However, for Standley, the salary and free accommodation was more than she was earning as a teacher in South Australia so she applied and was accepted. Standley travelled by train to Oodnadatta and then another fourteen days by buggy to Alice Springs. She taught white children in the morning and children of mixed descent in the afternoon as the white parents objected to children learning together. Towards the end of 1914 her work increased when she was appointed to another new position as Matron of the Bungalow which accommodated children of mixed descent. Here she was assisted by Topsy Smith whose mother was Mary Kemp of Arabana Aboriginal descent. Smith had eleven children and her white husband had recently died. By 1923 there were 60 children living in the Bungalow and up to 40 of them attended school. Smith was responsible for the children at night after Standle returned to her separate house and during the time Standley was teaching. Both women worked very hard including weekends.

Standley was appointed MBE for her services to children's welfare. Standley Chasm, Ida Standley Pre-school, Standley Crescent and Ida Street, Alice Springs, are named after her. Topsy Smith died in 1960 and her name is commemorated in the Topsy Smith Hostel, Alice Springs. Ida Standley retired from teaching in 1929 and died in Sydney in 1948.

Published Resources


  • Nelson, Hank, With Its Hat About Its Ears, Recollections of the Bush School, ABC Books, Crows Nest, New South Wales, 1989. Details

Online Resources

See also