Science in our hands: physiotherapy at the University of Melbourne 1895-2010
AuthorMCMEEKEN, JOAN MERRILYN
AffiliationSchool of Historical and Philosophical Studies
Document TypePhD thesis
Access StatusOpen Access
© 2015 Dr. Joan Merrilyn McMeeken
At a time when medicine could offer little therapeutic benefit, physiotherapists cured medical conditions by increasing circulation, strengthening muscle, breaking down adhesions, improving metabolism, affecting the nervous system, and restoring symmetrical and normal development and movement. Physiotherapy cured whilst medicine waited for nature to heal. This untold story of physiotherapy education in Victoria, Australia, is seen through the bifocal analytical lens of professionalisation and embodiment in the development of physiotherapists. As narrative and autobiographical history it identifies key physiotherapists and the relationships with medicine and medical sciences. It provides the background to the emergence of practitioners in the nineteenth century and their local recognition by the end of the century. The major professionalisation milestones include the formation of an association and education in conjunction with the University of Melbourne in 1906, and the expanding clinical roles of women and men physiotherapists in the two World Wars. The itinerant physiotherapy services, commenced in the 1930s to treat people with poliomyelitis, extended its services to a wider community, becoming the forerunner of primary contact autonomous practice in 1976. These significant events influenced education. Whilst continuing to undertake biomedical sciences subjects at the University of Melbourne, the School of Physiotherapy became established initially at Fairfield Hospital and then Lincoln Institute. The proposal to transfer Lincoln to La Trobe University in the 1980s induced the members of the physiotherapy profession to campaign successfully for the University of Melbourne to commence its School of Physiotherapy in 1991. The development of comprehensive education and research programmes and an expanding physiotherapy epistemology conclude this exploration of the professionalisation journey.
Keywordsphysiotherapy; education; history; professionalisation
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