Stephen's cover image


Year of Award: 1980 Award State: Tasmania
To gain practical training in preventative mental health methods recently developed in the USA at the Western Institute for Group and Family Therapy and at the Human Development Training Institute - USA

Steve Biddulph is an internationally respected child psychologist and family therapist with an ever-increasing following. His books include Manhood (1998) and Raising Boys (1998). The latter sold over a million copies, in regularly updated editions. The Secret of Happy Children (1997) sold more than 2 million copies in 27 languages. His books argue for a more affectionate and connected form of parenting and the importance of positive role models in children’s lives.

Steve was voted Australian Father of the Year in 2000 for his work encouraging the active role of fathers. He is the National Ambassador for Playgroup Australia and Patron of the Australian Children’s Media Council. Since 2011 he has been an Adjunct Professor in the School of Psychology and Counselling at the Cairnmiller Institute in Melbourne.

Steve was a young Tasmanian psychologist when he successfully applied for a Churchill Fellowship in 1980. Steve wrote to me that he felt ‘woefully unprepared for the real work of helping parents with problem kids. Or kids with problem parents’ and that it is hard for university training to fully prepare one for the intense work involved, which ‘requires you to be in touch with your own emotions and able to really deal with human pain and confusion humbly and skillfully’.

Steve travelled to the United States, on his Fellowship because he wanted to gain practical training in preventative mental health methods, and courses had been developed recently at the Western Institute for Group and Family Therapy and at the Human Development Training Institute.

Steve writes that it was inspiring to be at these places where he learnt so much and to see people breaking long term patterns of pathology and learning to live in a more productive and joyful way.

The basic tenet of the Re-Decision Therapy that Steve studied at these American mental health organisations is that people adapt to the demands of their family in a number of self-limiting ways, and many find it difficult in later life to shed these limits, which might once have been appropriate to survive in their family circumstances but which as an adult are no longer relevant.

Steve gave examples of the effect of childhood deprivations and experiences: ‘For instance, they may find difficulty in asking for their needs, being close, being assertive, handling feelings of grief or anger…’

Steve expressed the impact of gaining a Fellowship - 'Getting a Churchill Fellowship in 1980 allowed me to train with some of the best psychotherapists on the planet, spending up to a month at a time alongside them, and subsequently bring those skills back to Tasmania and Australia.  This also gave me the confidence to write books as a means of treating the whole community and trying to change the culture around how children, and especially boys, are raised.  I still use the skills I learned, and the people I learned from, though long gone now, live on through me, and hopefully I train others as well so that continues into the future.  I am very grateful that the committee that decided to grant me the fellowship took a chance on an awkward but very idealistic young man.  I’ve been able to reach millions of people as a result.'

Excerpt from “Inspiring Australians” written by Penny Hanley (2015)

Awards and Honours
  • 2015 awarded Member of the Order of Australia for significant service to community health, particularly in the fields of child and adolescent psychology, and as an author and educator.