Mrs Diana Medlin AM
Mrs Diana Medlin was an inspiring and pioneering educational leader. She was integral in St Mark’s transition to coeducation when she became the first woman to serve on the College Council in 1981 as part of St Mark’s preparing for coeducation in 1982.
Diana Wauchope, as she then was, began her career in education by studying a Bachelor of Science at the University of Adelaide, specialising in organic chemistry. She represented the University in hockey and netball, was active in drama, and served as President of the Women’s Union. She also served on the Union Council and the Students’ Representative Council, where she met her future husband, Harry Medlin.
After completing her Honours, Diana continued her research at the University of Cambridge, before returning to Adelaide to begin the career as a teacher to which she aspired. She taught at many schools across Adelaide before returning to Cambridge, becoming the first female teacher at Cambridge Boys Grammar School, where she was known as “Sir, Miss”. Mrs Medlin pursued further opportunities abroad when her family moved for a time to Singapore, where she taught at Victoria High School.
Diana Medlin returned to Adelaide when she was offered the position of Headmistress at Girton Girls School, where she was described as a “trendsetter in educational practice”. During the first four years in this position, she worked with Mr John Moody, the Senior Master of Kings College, a nearby all-boys school, to merge the two schools and form the coeducational Pembroke School and become co-principals.
Pembroke thrived under Mrs Medlin’s leadership. The important changes she led at Pembroke included – amongst many others – the construction of the Pembroke Hearing Unit, a specialist facility for hearing impaired students, and introducing the International Baccalaureate (IB) into the curriculum, including for students with ambitions to study overseas.
Mrs Medlin made great effort to be heavily involved in the school’s extra-curricular success, encouraging music to be an important part of life at Pembroke and eventually seeing the Pembroke Girls’ Choir perform at arts festivals in both Singapore and Japan. She also became involved with the SAAFL as a Patron in support of the Pembroke Old Scholars’ football team.
In 1981, Diana Medlin became the first woman to serve on the St Mark’s College Council. Her skills and knowledge as an educator, including her experience in creating a coeducational school through the merger of two single-sex schools, made her an integral part of the early days of coeducation at St Mark’s.
Professor Jennifer McKay, who was appointed as the first woman Assistant Dean of St Mark’s around the time that Mrs Medlin joined the Council, and who was deeply involved in the process of co-residence, has said that it was “delightful to work with” Di Medlin and others, such as the Master who oversaw the start of coeducation, Professor Peter Edwards AM.
When Diana Medlin retired from the College Council in 1991, she was warmly thanked for “the valued contribution she has made”. The Chairman of the Council from 1982 to 2000, the Hon. Rod Matheson AM QC, has described her as “marvellous”, and “an outstanding person”.
As well as serving at St Mark’s and in various University of Adelaide governance roles, Diana Medlin’s many other contributions to education included serving on the Executive Council of the International Baccalaureate Organisation, as President of the Independent Schools Board of South Australia, as long-term chair of the Ministerial Advisory Committee on the Needs of Non-Government Schools, and as Treasurer of the Association of Heads of Independent Schools.
In 1982, Diana Medlin was appointed as a Member of the Order of Australia for her outstanding service to education.
In 1994, she succeeded Dame Roma Mitchell as Chair of the Child Protection Council. Amongst her many other interests and leadership roles, she served on the Councils of the Royal Automobile Association and the National Heart Foundation, and as a director of the Adelaide Bank.
She continued to be an active contributor to the educational and wider communities in Adelaide until her death in 1997.
Diana Medlin was a talented educator and a strong advocate for the internationalisation of education, as well as the importance of gender equality in scholarly institutions. Her work in the creation of Pembroke School has been celebrated as a “resounding success”. The junior school there was named the Diana Medlin Junior School in her honour, while the University of Adelaide remembers her with a memorial scholarship.
Mrs Medlin’s appointment to the College Council and role in St Mark’s transition to coeducation is an important part of our history. We are very grateful that she helped to pave the way for future generations of St Mark’s women.
Researched and written by Margot Pick.
Photograph by courtesy of Pembroke School, Adelaide.
"Diana Medlin - a lasting legacy to education", by Peter Balin in The Adelaidean, 16 June 1997, Vol. 6, No. 10, page 6.
"Principles and Pragmatism, A History of Girton, King's College and Pembroke School", book review by Christopher V. Ellis in History of Education Review, 1992, Vol. 21, No. 2.
Diana Medlin Re-Entry Scholarship, information from the University of Adelaide.
Pembroke Kings Old Scholars Football Club - History Page
"Pembroke and Its Community: Past, Present and Future", by Barbara Parker, in Burnside Historical Society Inc. Newsletter, September 2003, Vol. 23, No. 3, page 8.