Department of Human Services

$25,000 scholarship to investigate social issues now open for applications


Applications are now open for up to $25,000 in funding to research social conditions in South Australia.

Women aged between 20 and 35 who have lived in South Australia for at least the past five years are encouraged to apply for the Catherine Helen Spence Scholarship.

Named in honour of a pioneering political and social reformer, the scholarship provides financial support to investigate social problems and/or study in the field of social science in Australia and overseas.

Apply online. Applications are open until Monday 3 September 2018.

The Catherine Helen Spence scholarship is an opportunity to contribute to positive social change. Women interested in investigating social issues are encouraged to apply. The scholarship is awarded every four years and funds research relevant to social conditions in South Australia that will be of benefit to the state.

Applicants do not need to be currently employed, studying or attached to an organisation or institution to apply. The scholarship may be combined with other study.

Applicants will need to provide information about their research project proposal, their approach and expected outcomes as well as how it is relevant to South Australia. The research project must involve research both in Australia and overseas

The scholarship is administered by the Catherine Helen Spence Scholarship Committee with the support of the Office for Women, part of the Department of Human Services.

The committee will select the successful scholarship recipient by late 2018, with their research project required to begin by February 2019 and completed by August 2020.

Information Session

An information session will be held on Monday 18 June from 5.00 pm, at the Office for Women, 101 Grenfell Street, Adelaide.

Anyone interested in applying for the scholarship should attend to find out more about the scholarship, and how to apply.

Register by emailing the Office for Women at

Achievements of past recipients

Scholarship recipients have made a significant contribution to improving awareness and education on social issues affecting our community.

Past recipients have explored issues often ignored or misunderstood by society, including women in prisons, anorexia nervosa and drink spiking.

A recent recipient researched accommodation and facilities in women’s prisons across Australia and New Zealand, UK, Scandinavia, USA and Canada, to improve facilities for women and children at the Adelaide Women’s Prison.

Information about Catherine Helen Spence

Catherine Helen Spence was born on 31 October 1825 near Melrose, Scotland.

In 1839, her family migrated to South Australia where she became a strong literary figure, teacher, lecturer and fearless social and political reformer.

In 1891, she became a vice-president of the Women's Suffrage League of South Australia.

She was South Australia’s first female political candidate and champion for electoral reform.

She played an important role in the campaign that made South Australia the first state to give women the right to vote and the first in the world to give women the right to stand for Parliament.

She was also the first truly professional woman journalist, as well as a dedicated foster mother to three families of orphaned children.

Catherine Helen Spence has become a symbol of what Australian women can achieve.

When she died on 3 April 1910 she was mourned as 'The Grand Old Woman of Australia'.

The South Australian Government established the Catherine Helen Spence scholarship in her honour in 1911, one year after she died.

The first Catherine Helen Spence scholarship was awarded to Dorothea Proud in 1912 for her investigation of the industrial conditions of women factory workers in Britain and Australasia.

In 2001, Catherine Helen Spence was honoured nationally by featuring on the commemorative “Federation” edition of the Australian five dollar note.

Her influence on suffrage, politics and women’s rights is still felt today, and the scholarship supports women to investigate social reforms, which honour her memory.

Page last updated : 12 Dec 2018

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