Above: Freda Jacob AM with WA Minister for Mental Health and Disability, Helen Morton MLC, outside the lecture theatre named in Ms Jacob’s honour last week.
By Stephen Easton
Curtin University has immortalised the contribution of a trailblazing West Australian occupational therapist, naming a lecture theatre in her honour in a night of tributes from former protégés and colleagues.
The Freda Jacob Lecture Theatre was named last week in a ceremony that also served as a tribute to her long and illustrious career as one of the discipline’s leading lights, and is located within Curtin University’s new $9 million occupational therapy and social work facility, which itself opened in February this year.
Official duties fell to Curtin University Acting Vice-Chancellor, Professor Andris Stelbovics and West Australian Minister for Mental Health and Disabilities, Helen Morton MLC, herself a trained OT and former staff member of Ms Jacob’s.
The 92-year-old Freda Jacob AM was recognised for her lifetime commitment and service to the occupational therapy profession and the Western Australian community, and needed no assistance as she “worked the room” and entertained the audience with an acceptance speech as humorous as it was inspiring, according to one onlooker.
Professor Lorna Rosenwax, head of the university’s School of Occupational Therapy and Social Work, explained how important the contribution made by Ms Jacob had been to the profession.
“It was Freda who set the standards for occupational therapy in Western Australia,” Professor Rosenwax said. “Her legacy to the profession in this state is monumental.”
“This year, as we celebrate 50 years of occupational therapy education in WA, it seems fitting that one of WA’s first occupational therapy practitioners is honoured in a way that ensures her work will be remembered and serve as inspiration to occupational therapy students, academic staff and practitioners.”
Other accolades came from Carolyn Webster, a former president of the World Federation of Occupational Therapists and one the first seven graduates from the first School of Occupational Therapy in Western Australia at Royal Perth Hospital, which Ms Jacob helped found in 1960.
An overview of career highlights was given by Ruth Jodrell, another former employee of Ms Jacob’s who went on to become the inaugural director of the Independent Living Centre, which Ms Jacob established in 1978.
Other significant milestones in Ms Jacob’s career include opening the first Department of Occupational Therapy at Princess Margaret Hospital in 1975, becoming the first Western Australian member of the World Federation of Occupational Therapists and contributing to the establishment of the West Australian Registration Act for Occupational Therapists.
In 1981, Freda Jacob became the first occupational therapist in WA to be made a Member of the Order of Australia (AM).