Vale Professor Daphne Keats

Friday, 25 October 2019

The University community is saddened to acknowledge the passing of distinguished staff member and psychology trailblazer, Professor Daphne Keats.

17/12/1925 – 19/10/19

Professor Daphne Keats
Professor Daphne Keats

Professor Daphne Keats, a driving force behind the School of Psychology at the University of Newcastle and the profession of psychology in Australia, died on 19 October 2019 peacefully at home.

Daphne spearheaded the study of cross-cultural psychology in Australia, alongside her late husband maths psychologist and fellow eminent scholar, Professor John Keats.

A genuine trailblazer, Daphne’s contribution to our University, the profession and the field of cross-cultural psychology around the world cannot be overstated.

As a result of her work, the University of Newcastle and Sichuan University founded The China-Australia Centre for Cross-Cultural Studies in Chengdu which commemorated its 10-year anniversary last year. Her contribution has shaped an entire branch of research; and we are proud and grateful for her lifelong association with the University.

Born in Sydney in 1925, Daphne’s fierce determination and intellect was evident from a young age.

With her father badly wounded in WW1 and unable to work, and her mother dedicated to supporting the family, a young Daphne earned herself a place at the selective North Sydney Girls High School.  Government scholarships enabled her to go to university and she graduated from the University of Sydney in 1946, where she completed her Diploma in Education the following year.

Her early interest in education research saw Daphne start work with the NSW Department of Education in 1947. She then held several teaching and research appointments throughout the 1950s and 1960s while raising her two children. This included Research Fellow at the Australian National University, Research School of Pacific Studies; and Lecturer in Psychology and Education at the University of Sydney, Department of Adult Education in Newcastle.

Daphne joined the University of Newcastle as a lecturer in Psychology in 1970 to begin a transformative legacy that continues today.

Alongside her husband, Professor John Keats, Daphne led the field in developing programs of cross-cultural psychology studies involving ongoing, cooperative relationships with colleagues across Asia, particularly China, Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia.

Daphne’s strong relationships led to important and unprecedented collaboration across university teaching and course planning, professional development and research supervision in both Australia and Asia. Her legacy includes the interweaving of research, teaching and dissemination in the cross-cultural psychology field.

As well as being a driving force behind the study of cross-cultural psychology, and the development of our own School of Psychology, Professor Keats was a pioneer among the profession in Australia.

She served the discipline by taking on important service roles such as Associate Editor of the Australian Psychologist, Journal of Cross Cultural Psychology, and as a founding member of the International Association for Cross-Cultural Psychology. She was also President, Vice-President and President-Elect of the Australian Psychological Society, and Chair of the Newcastle branch.

Daphne’s passion for cross-cultural psychology was woven with her interest and experience in educational psychology, where she was a founding member of the Australian Association for Research in Education and NSW Institute for Educational Research. She was also a member of the College of Educational and Developmental Psychologists and the International Study of Behavioural Development.

After her retirement from the School in 1990, Daphne continued to teach, supervise honours, Masters and PhD students, and conduct cross-cultural research. In 2014, she received a Research Achievement Award from the China-Sichuan Government for her research and program development for children affected by the Sichuan earthquake in 2008.

Alongside her many published books (which have been re-published in Spanish, Chinese and Korean), her prolific output of collaborative research publications and related work is another testament to her enduring intellect, curiosity and generosity towards her field.

In 2000, this generosity led the Keats to establish the John and Daphne Keats Endowment Research Fund to philanthropically support research in the School of Psychology.

Each year this fund provides an invaluable resource to PhD students and staff to support pilot and small projects that enable subsequent large collaborative cross-cultural grants and initiatives. Similarly, funding for the Keats Chair in Cross Cultural Psychology has provided funding for female academics to develop their research career and academic trajectory. Her legacy is enduring.

Daphne was, beyond doubt, a pioneer. She leaves behind a legacy of wisdom and generosity in the School of Psychology and will be greatly missed by colleagues around the globe.


Professor Keats’ funeral will be held on Tuesday 29 October at 12:00pm at Pettigrew Family Funerals, 12 Harris Street, Wallsend.

Messages of condolence can be sent to and will be passed on to Professor Keats’ friends and family.

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