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Concetta Benn (1926 – 2011)

Connie Benn circa 1980s

Connie Benn commenced her study for social work qualifications at The University of Melbourne in 1956, and went on to have a 38-year career as caseworker, researcher, social policy development worker, teacher, administrator, and social change agent.

Her first position after graduation was as a psychiatric social worker in the Mental Hygiene Department, first at Larundel Psychiatric Hospital, and later at Royal Park and Mont Park Psychiatric Hospitals. In 1961 she moved to the Citizen’s Welfare Service as Director of Social Work and Research, followed by a period in the Department of Social Work at the University of Melbourne. A change of direction came with her next appointment in 1966 as Research Officer for the Victorian Parliament, where she worked with the Liberal Government on amendments to the State’s Social Welfare Act.

Connie’s next employer was The Brotherhood of St Laurence, where from 1972 to 1975 she headed the new Family Centre. The Centre was established to try to identify ways of breaking the cycle of inter-generational poverty, and she developed a new theory of social work called the Developmental Approach, which she believed would create more sustainable change than individual casework. Continuing her interest in innovative approaches, her next appointment at The Brotherhood was as Director of Social Policy, Research and Innovations, where she headed a team developing social policy and programs, and attempting to influence the State’s decision makers.

In 1982 she became Head of the Social Work School at Phillip Institute of Technology, now RMIT, before moving in 1983 to become Director of the Social Development Division within the Department of Premier and Cabinet. 1985 saw a move to Community Services Victoria, first as Assistant Director-General of the Department, and then as Director of the Older People’s Planning Office. 1989 brought a return to academia with her appointment as Professor and Head of Social Work at the University of Melbourne, a position she held until 1991. She rounded off her working life by serving as Chairperson of the Adult Community and Further Education Board of Victoria from 1992 to 1995.

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