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Background: Professor Tony Vinson, Chair Of The Public Education Inquiry

Professor Tony Vinson
Professor Tony Vinson

Tony Vinson's varied career in education, government services, social research and community development, has included many projects related to scholarship and young people.

In the mid-seventies he was appointed Foundation Professor in Behavioural Science within the new Medical School at the University of Newcastle (NSW). This appointment followed his researching of connections between social factors, particularly social disadvantaged, and pregnancy outcomes, including the health and progress of young children. Within the framework of the social ecology of crime in Australian cities and regions, Professor Vinson also had studied the impact of cumulative medico-social problems and life opportunities generally. The determinative influence of education or life prospects has remained to be a theme in this social geography strand of Tony Vinson's research, culminating in the recent publication of an influential study on the distribution of social disadvantage in Victoria and New South Wales (Unequal in Life, 1999:

Whilst at Newcastle, Professor Vinson's teaching and research focussed on the health and wellbeing of young children. An important educational experience was his involvement in the development of the problem-based learning approach adopted for the new medical course. This approach incorporated many of the key elements of the educational approach considered as somewhat radical departures in the field of school education. Professor Vinson also instigated the broadly based adminission procedures adopted by the Medical Faculty.

Earlier in his career, Tony Vinson had conducted research into the functioning of an education/employment centre for young people with an intellectual disability, within a rural region. He also researched the aspirations that parents have for their children's education. Following three years as Head of the NSW Department of Corrective Services (1979-81) during a period of intense penal reform, Tony Vinson took up an appointment as Professor of Social Work at the University of New South Wales. Over subsequent years he has served as Head of School and Dean. He has twice been a Visiting Professor at the University of Stockholm and has observed the operation of Swedish social services, including early schooling. There have also been Visiting Professor appointments in Holland and government consultancies in the South Pacific. In 1980 Professor Vinson chaired a Commonwealth Government Inquiry into health and social services in the ACT.

In recent years Tony Vinson has had an extensive involvement in assessing schemes to protect children exposed to the dangers of abuse. Some of these projects have included the evaluation of professional practices, including the co-operation of schools with government and non-government services. Others have dealt with the social contexts and environments in which abusive practices occur. This work has been published internationally in journals such as The British Journal of Social Work and Modern Medicine as well as within Australia by the Institute of Criminology and other authorities.

Approximately six years ago, on Professor Vinson's initiative, the UNSW School of Social Work, in partnership with the NSW Department of Housing, residents, and local community bodies, formed a community development centre on the Waterloo Housing Estate. This scheme continues to operate but for the past few years Tony Vinson has concentrated his efforts on the implementation of a mentor scheme for Cleveland Street pupils approaching the end of their school days. The scheme has been integrated with the school structure and enjoys the support of teachers, parents and students. Tony Vinson has had the title Professor Emeritus conferred on him by the University of New South Wales.

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