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Curtin honours occupational therapy pioneer

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Curtin University has paid tribute to one of the pioneers of occupational therapy in Western Australia by naming a lecture theatre in her honour.

Freda Jacob AM, aged 92, was recognised for her lifetime commitment and service to the occupational therapy profession and the Western Australian community.

Freda’s work and achievements were celebrated at a naming ceremony officiated by the Minister for Mental Health; Disabilities, the Honourable Helen Morton MLC, and Curtin’s Acting Vice-Chancellor, Professor Andris Stelbovics.

Professor Lorna Rosenwax, Head of Curtin’s School of Occupational Therapy and Social Work, was delighted that Freda had accepted the University’s tribute to her groundbreaking work.

“It was Freda who set the standards for occupational therapy in Western Australia. Her legacy to the profession in this state is monumental,” Professor Rosenwax said.

“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.”

Freda Jacob was a member of the first Occupational Therapy School Board in 1960, which assisted in the formation of the first School of Occupational Therapy in Western Australia. She was involved with the establishment of the Registration Act for Occupational Therapists which ensured that every occupational therapist in WA was registered and appropriately qualified.

Freda’s career is filled with milestones significant to the development of occupational therapy in WA, including opening the first Department of Occupational Therapy at Princess Margaret Hospital in 1975. Freda became Head of the Occupational Therapy Department of Royal Perth Hospital in 1957.

On an international level, Freda was the first person from outside the United States to sit for the American Registration Examination and was the first Western Australian member of the World Federation of Occupational Therapists.

In 1978 Freda founded the Independent Living Centre of Western Australia and in 1981 was the first occupational therapist in WA to be awarded the Member of the Order of Australia (AM).

The Freda Jacob Lecture Theatre is located within Curtin’s new $9 million occupational therapy and social work facility, which was officially opened by the Governor of Western Australia, Dr Ken Michael, AC, in February this year.

The unique state-of-the-art teaching facility enables students to engage in realistic client and family care scenarios while accessing  innovative technologies to enhance the learning experience.

The facility was designed following extensive review of other facilities, consultation and planning with staff, students and clinicians, and has resulted in an excellent example of facilities that encourage the highest quality of teaching and learning. .

Alongside the 100-seat Freda Jacob Lecture Theatre, the facility includes:

•  State-of-the-art laboratories to support teaching in contemporary and emerging areas of practice including a laboratory for developing the potential of children in early years through to adolescence, realistic home environments with a variety of options for people with disabilities, simulated work spaces for workers with a range of injuries and a range of resources to enhance communication.
•  An interactive suite incorporating two group rooms, viewing areas and eight counselling rooms, all supported by innovative digital recording technology for teaching and learning in mental health.
• A dedicated comprehensive discipline-specific resource library and learning centre for students, staff and our health and human services partners.
• A modern well-appointed student common area with full wireless access.

Occupational therapy and social work courses are growing in popularity and the new facility, including the Freda Jacob Lecture Theatre, will provide an excellent environment to educate future generations of occupational therapists and social workers.


Professor Lorna Rosenwax, Head of Curtin’s School of Occupational Therapy and Social Work
Tel: 9266 3604, Email:

Kristy Jones, Public Relations, Curtin University
Tel: 9266 9085, Mobile: 0402 517 300, Email

Teresa Belcher, Public Relations, Curtin University
Tel: 9266 9085, Email: 


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