Home' Australian Ageing Agenda : AAA Jul-Aug 2014 Contents AAG 50th
Following his attendance at
the International Congress of
Gerontology in Italy in 1957,
Dr David Wallace, a physician
from Goulburn in New South
Wales, returned to Australia with the
ambition of establishing an Australian
He wrote to hospitals, universities,
medical and biological societies and
individual physicians seeking support
to realise his vision. However, two
years later in a letter to physiologist
Dr Arthur Everitt, he revealed his plan
had made little progress and he had
identified only six people throughout
Australia with a significant interest in
Undeterred, he continued to
promote gerontology in Australia and
the need for a formal association.
In 1960 Dr Everitt arranged a meeting
with Dr Geoff Hughes, the Medical
Superintendent of Lidcombe Hospital in
NSW, to further progress the idea.
In a small, dimly lit room in
Lidcombe Hospital in mid-1961,
physicians, nurses, social workers,
a psychologist, an economist and a
minister of religion assembled for the
inaugural meeting of the Gerontological
Society of NSW.
The constitution of the new society
was officially adopted in 1962 and Dr
Hughes was named its first president
and Dr Everitt secretary treasurer.
As the NSW society emerged, Dr
Wallace continued to actively promote
the need for a national association and
with the help of Dr Sidney Sax and
Sir Giles Chippindall, then president
of the National Old Peoples Welfare
Council (now COTA), the Australian
Association of Gerontology was born in
1964. Both Dr Sax and Sir Chippindall
had just returned from the International
Congress of Gerontology in Copenhagen
and were convinced Australia needed
its own association.
To make headway, Sir Chippindall
wrote to the ACT Advisory Council
(an advisory body to the Federal
Minister for Territories established
prior to ACT's self-government) seeking
support for the new association.
The letter was given to Professor
Heinz Arndt, a member of the Advisory
Council and a research chair with the
Department of Economics at the ANU
where he worked with Ruth Inall.
Inall, who was also deputy chair
of the Canberra Community Hospital,
responded to Sir Chippindall's request
for support and was asked to help
organise the association's first meeting.
The inaugural meeting of the AAG
was held at the Australian National
University in Canberra on 10 June 1964
with 47 founding members present
including 15 from Victoria, eight from
NSW, seven from WA, seven from ACT,
six from SA, three from Queensland
and one from Tasmania.
Dr Sax, who was also president of
the Gerontological Society of NSW at
the time, was named the inaugural
president of the AAG and Dr Wallace its
first secretary. Dr Everitt was elected to
the AAG council.
The inaugural address to the
AAG was given by Australian Nobel
Prize winner Sir John Eccles on the
physiology of ageing, a copy of which
is still retained by the AAG. Sir Eccles,
a neurophysiologist had won the Nobel
Prize in Physiology or Medicine in
1963 for his work on the synapse, then
Australia's third Nobel Prize.
In a defining point in the association's
development, the AAG held its first
conference in Canberra on 7-8 May 1965.
In the following year, Dr Gary
Andrews was appointed honorary
secretary to both the NSW
Gerontological Society and the AAG. Dr
Andrews would go on to play a pivotal
role in the AAG's active involvement
in the region and internationally
through the International Association of
Gerontology and Geriatrics.
Following her international study
tour examining services for the aged,
Inall was asked to present her findings
to the AAG in 1967. Later that year,
Inall was elected secretary treasurer of
the association, a role she served in for
Alongside the creation of the AAG,
state gerontological societies emerged in
Queensland and Victoria. However at the
AAG's third annual conference in 1967, it
was proposed that the three independent
state gerontological societies (NSW,
Queensland and Victoria) would become
affiliated with the national body. This
was formally adopted at the next AAG
conference in 1968.
It was almost 20 years before every
state and territory came to have a
division of the AAG, with Australia's two
territories creating a division in 1991.
In 1980, the AAG had its first woman
president, Dr Glenda Powell, followed
by Bess McRae, a nurse, who was also
the association's first non-medical
This article draws on material from 'The
Formation of Gerontological Societies in
Australia' by Everitt and Shaw.
Dr Wallace's big idea
How a physician from NSW brought professionals
in gerontology together.
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