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Awarded for service to Education and Training
Entered on roll: 2007
Irene Kerslake was born the middle of three daughters to Wilmot farmers Elizabeth and Augustus Kerslake. Irene was known as a pioneer Launceston educationist.
Irene was a brilliant student and she attributed her intense interest and ability in learning to her mother who, although uneducated herself, encouraged and supported her three daughters to achieve university education.
Irene completed her secondary education at Devonport High School when she was 15. Her results were outstanding and she finished third on the list of general university scholarships. However, she was too young to attend university and had to wait until 1930 to commence her tertiary education. Irene graduated with a Bachelor of Arts and began full-time teaching. While teaching she studied for her masters degree and gained her MA in 1935 at the age of 23. She was the youngest person at that time to gain a masters degree from the University of Tasmania.
Irene’s teaching career included periods in primary and high schools as well as the Curriculum Centre. She was an outstanding teacher and so well regarded that in 1947 she was selected to join the staff of the Emergency Training Centre for teachers. As lecturer in English language, Irene had responsibility for a large portion of the curriculum. She was also appointed to the important role of Women’s Warden. There are stories that her lessons started in the corridor on the way to her classroom and she was well regarded by her students as a caring person.
Irene demanded a high standard in written work and set high standards in her marking. However, her work extended beyond the classroom and included extra curricular activities associated with excursions, hotel accommodation, sport and student welfare. Her concern about injustices to women teachers saw her regarded as a forerunner for women’s rights.
In 1967, Irene was appointed Acting Vice Principal at the Launceston Teachers College and she was heavily involved in the transfer of teacher education to the Tasmanian College of Advanced Education (TCAE) at Newnham. She completed her teaching career at the TCAE where Kerslake Hall of Residence was named in her honour.
In retirement, Irene indulged her passion for the Tasmanian wilderness by volunteering with the Devonport Wilderness Society. This passion also led to her developing an outstanding native garden at her home in Devonport. She created beautiful embroideries of the native plants in her garden, some of which have been donated to the Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery and the University of Tasmania, Launceston.