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Taught, researched and practised in Melbourne since 'mental philosophy' was introduced at the University of Melbourne in the 1880s by Australia's first Professor of Philosophy, Henry Laurie, psychological subjects remained part of philosophy teaching until a separate psychology department was established in 1946, headed by South African Oscar Oeser. The nation's first psychological laboratory was established at the Melbourne Teachers' College in 1913. Stanley Porteus was appointed to the college in 1917 and, with Professor of Anatomy Richard Berry, conducted extensive cranial measurements of children, hoping to predict intellectual disability and delinquency. Porteus had developed a maze test at the Fitzroy Special School, possibly the most original psychological assessment device developed in Australia. Ken Cunningham took over the college's laboratory program after World War I. He built on his learning and aptitude research when chosen to head the Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER) in 1930. ACER conducted important educational research and developed tests for Australian applications.

The distinctive early research of the psychology department at the University of Melbourne focused on the social effects of immigration and prejudice. While Melbourne's research diversified in the 1960s, a new department at Monash University took up laboratory work in behavioural genetics and human engineering. Founded by Sydney experimentalist Ross Day in 1965, it broke with tradition with its affiliation to the science faculty. Psychology courses are now offered by a host of Melbourne tertiary institutions, with a collective research base that could be characterised as a broad, Anglo-American hybrid.

Public-service initiatives, such as the Commonwealth vocational guidance service and the psychological branch of the Victorian Education Department - offered new opportunities for Melbourne's applied psychologists in the late 1940s, following the success of wartime work. Clinical and neuropsychological services in State hospitals and psychiatric facilities subsequently expanded, along with educational guidance in schools and universities. Since the late 1960s, an increasing number of clinical psychologists have set up private practices, inspired more by Carl Rogers and Albert Ellis than by Freud. A significant number of psychologists have also moved into private industry. Applied specialty courses developed in the 1970s now supply locally trained graduates for these areas. In 1965 Victoria set a precedent for the legal protection of psychological practice when the State's Psychological Council emerged from the inquiry into Scientology. Since 1968 Melbourne has hosted the headquarters of the Australian Psychological Society.

Roderick Buchanan

Buchanan, A fiftieth anniversary history: the Department of Psychology, the University of Melbourne, 1946-1996, Psychology Department, University of Melbourne, Melbourne, 1996. Details
Taft, 'Psychology and its history in Australia', Australian Psychologist, vol. 17, 1982, pp. 31-9. Details