Woman Sutherland, Jean (1903 - 1983)

Britsh Empire Medalist

Kew, Victoria, Australia
Kindergarten teacher

Written by Deborah Towns, Swinburne University

Jean Sutherland was born in Kew, Victoria in 1903. She was the youngest of eight children born to William Fraser Sutherland and his wife Jane. With her twin sister, Agnes, she studied the two year kindergarten teacher training course at the Kindergarten Teachers College (KTC), Kew and, after graduating in 1925, worked in kindergartens in Carlton and Richmond. In 1932 she was appointed Director of the Boroondara Kindergarten in Richmond. This was a large responsibility. The kindergarten had one hundred children enrolled, and the director was responsible for many activities, including organising voluntary helpers and parents. She undertook an international study tour in 1938 and in the following year returned to study at the KTC to become one of the first three teachers to be awarded the new Nursery School Diploma. In 1943 she was appointed by the Presbyterian Church of Victoria (PCV) as the first full-time supervisor of its eleven kindergartens. During the post-war years, Sutherland travelled throughout Victoria opening up new kindergartens to accommodate the burgeoning population. The PCV adopted a visionary approach to meet community needs and Sutherland was responsible for its implementation. Multi-purpose buildings were erected which could be transformed into kindergartens or worship centres and other purposes. When she retired in 1971, forty-nine kindergartens were affiliated with the PCV.

Sutherland was awarded the British Empire Medal in 1972 for her services to young children and their families. She was a foundation member and life member of the Australian Preschool Association and a member of the Council of the KTC. She died in 1983. In her memory the Uniting Church Early Childhood Services Unit (formerly the Presbyterian Kindergarten Council) provides a scholarship for post-graduate education of early childhood practitioners.

Published Resources

Book Sections

  • Waters, Joan, 'Jean Suthrland 1903 - 1983', in Joan Waters (ed.), With Passion, Perseverance and Practicality: 100 Women Who Influenced Australian Children's Services, 1841-2001, OMEP Australia, Melbourne, Victoria, 2002. Details

See also