Emeritus Professor Betty H. Watts OBE

As the recipient of an OBE, with at least two current education awards and a meeting room named in her honour, Betty Watts is already distinguished among Board chairs, but she is likely to be unique in having her image featured on a carved emu egg in a collection held by the National Museum of Australia.

The most highly qualified founding member, and the longest-serving member, of the Board of Teacher Education, serving as Chair for over seven years in total, Professor Betty Watts gave distinguished service to education in Queensland and Australia more widely in several capacities. Her eminent career included many years as a researcher and teacher at the University of Queensland, with a particular focus on Aboriginal education and special education.

Having been on the Board since its inception in 1971, Professor Watts became Deputy Chair in 1977 and was appointed Chair in June 1979. Besides chairing several Board committees on teacher education courses in the ‘70s, Professor Watts also represented Queensland on the National Inquiry into Teacher Education Committee (1978-1980) which resulted in the influential Auchmuty Report.

Professor Watts retired from her role as Professor of Special Education and Director of the Schonell Research Centre at the University of Queensland at the end of 1981, to allow her to devote more time to her research and her other interests. In April 1982 she resigned from the role of Chair of the Board, but was re-appointed in October 1984. She maintained this role until the change from the Board of Teacher Education to the Board of Teacher Registration at the start of 1989. In particular, Professor Watts led the major review of teacher education and teacher registration undertaken by the BTE between 1985 and 1987 culminating in the report Project 21: Teachers for the Twenty-First Century.

Professor Watts had served the work of teacher regulation in Queensland for almost all of the 17 years since the beginning of the BTE. Her leadership through the early period of teacher regulation in Queensland undoubtedly contributed to the strength and outstanding status of the profession today.

Professor Betty Watts died in Sydney in November 1997. Neville Fry, the former Director of the BTE (1979-1988) and the BTR (1989-1996) noted that “Betty was absolutely dedicated to the profession of teaching and to the BTE as a body which she saw as having a significant impact on the standing of the profession in Queensland” (Board of Teacher Registration, 1998, p. 2).

In 2011, the QCT introduced a new award to its suite of excellence in teaching awards, the Professor Betty H Watts OBE Memorial Award, for an outstanding contribution to education. It is fitting that this award to honour an inaugural member of the BTE and a long serving Chair was established in the year of the 40th anniversary since the beginning of the BTE.


Board of Teacher Registration. (May, 1998). Vale Professor Betty Watts. The Registered Teacher, p. 2

Hefner, B. (March, 1991). The Council of the National Library of Australia. National Library of Australia News, 1 (6), 4-6.

National Library of Australia. (1991-1992). Annual Report. Author.

National Museum of Australia. Collections Search Object 66677. | National Museum of Australia (nma.gov.au)

Parliament House News Release. (February, 1989). Appointments to the National Library.

Uniken (University of New South Wales Newsletter). 1985. Number 207.


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