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Paul Greig Dane (1881–1950)

by Christine Brett Vickers

Paul Dane, Darge Photographic Company, c.1915

Paul Dane, Darge Photographic Company, c.1915

Australian War Memorial, DA09249

Paul Grieg Dane, named ‘Albert Grieg Dane’ was born on 21 January 1881 in County Antrim, Northern Ireland, the second living child of Nathaniel Morrison and Annie Stinson Dane.[1] His brother, John was born ten years earlier.[2] The family emigrated to Australia when Albert was a small child. 

Nathaniel Dane, listed as a ‘Traveller’, on the electoral roll, settled at Beaconsfield on the outskirts of Melbourne before moving to Elsternwick around the time Albert commenced his studies in medicine at the University of Melbourne. In 1902 Albert was the second year representative in the student’s medical society[3] By 1906 he had graduated and had changed his first name from Albert to Paul. In 1907 he was a resident medical officer at St Vincent’s Hospital[4] under the directorship of Dr John Springthorpe. In 1908 he was selected for the position as assistant health officer for the City of Melbourne.[5]

In 1910 Dane purchased a practice in Ballarat and married Ruth Parker, the daughter of Mr T. L. Parker of Carlton United Breweries.[6] Dane was an active member of the British Medical Association until 1915 when he applied for a commission as a medical officer in the Australian Army Medical Corps.[7] He was posted to the 6th Australian Field Ambulance at Gallipoli, arriving on 30 August 1915.[8] Unfortunately he succumbed to dysentery and endocarditis and was transferred to England for treatment in October 1915. He returned to his unit which had been transferred to Alexandria on 27 February 1916. He was invalided out again for six months but was discharged as medically unfit on 30 August 1916.[9]

Dane returned to Melbourne and was reappointed as the City of Melbourne’s chief medical officer. After a terrible incident, the death of a dental patient to whom he was administering anaesthetic, in January 1919 Dane began working at the Fifth Australian General Hospital in St Kilda Road in Melbourne.[10] He was temporarily recommissioned as a Lieutenant Colonel.[11] He worked with war veterans under the direction of Dr Clarence Godfrey. It was here that Dane discovered the usefulness of psychoanalysis for the treatment of war trauma. Dane’s response to his experiences during the war is found in his investigation into the application of Freud’s theories to war neuroses. Ostensibly based on his work with returned soldiers from 1921, his haunting piece ‘Notes on psychoanalysis of war neuroses’ was published in the International Journal of Psychoanalysis in 1927.[12] For young Edwardian men schooled into widening the gap between emotional experience and social expectation the groans of wounded and dying soldiers calling for mother from no-man’s land was extremely disturbing.[13] Soldiers caught in this new technological war, who survived constant, incessant shelling described it as hell on earth as battle tore apart bodies and minds. Dane wrote how, upon being wounded or shelled, ‘the moment of shock, before amnesia set in featured thoughts of the mother’. The rocking of the train ‘carrying one out of the field’, he continued, could be thought about in terms of the comfort of the ‘feeding relationship between mother and infant’. (Dane 1927, p. 72). 

In March 1927 Dane and his wife left for Europe. Dane, who was also on the Board of the Melbourne Zoological Gardens, told reporters in Perth that he was on his way to Vienna to undertake postgraduate study.[14] He returned to Melbourne in November 1927 after touring Europe and London, and resumed his practice in Melbourne.[15]

Dane continued to be a strong promoter of psychoanalytic ideas in the medical profession. In a letter to the editor of the Medical Journal of Australia, published in August 1929, Dane claimed to be ‘one of the first in this country to have been seized by the overwhelming importance of the Freudian concepts in the understanding of neurotic and psycho-neurotic conditions.’[16] During his London trip in 1927 he had attended ‘a course of lectures at the Institute of Psycho-Analysis’ and met a number of ‘medical men and women attending under Dr E. Jones’ the founder and president of the British Psychoanalytical Society. The sooner its study was undertaken in Australia, he continued ‘the better for our sciences and our patients’[17]

During 1938 Dane and a medical colleague, Roy Coupland Winn, who had established Australia’s first medical psychoanalytic practice in Sydney in 1931, together with a group of medical colleagues including Guy Reynolds, Norman Albiston and Reg Ellery, as well as lay professionals including the Anglican Church’s Bishop Burgmann and the National Library’s Kenneth Binns, unsuccessfully lobbied the Australian Government for the acceptance of six European refugee medically trained analysts who had applied for entry visas.[18] Duncan Hall, the Colonial Secretary of the League of Nations, was also involved in this effort. Of the six who applied, the Hungarian psychoanalysts Andrew Peto and Elizabeth Kardos were accepted but decided against immigrating. Clara Lazar Geroe’s application as a medical practitioner was not accepted. However, she arrived in Australia on the back of her husband’s application on 12 March 1940[19] Dane was at the Melbourne docks to meet the family and took them to their first accommodation in Melbourne.[20] He arranged for Geroe to share his rooms at 111 Collins Street Melbourne, the first location of the Melbourne Institute of Psychoanalysis. 

In 1939 Lorna Traill, a pastoralist’s daughter, offered five thousand pounds for the establishment of a psychological clinic in Melbourne. Dane seized the opportunity. He wrote to Ernest Jones on 27 August 1939 seeking advice about how to set up a clinic along the lines of the London Clinic of Pychoanalysis.[21] With the support of Jones and John Rickman, then the Secretary of the British Psychoanalytical Society, the Melbourne Institute of Psychoanalysis with a clinic, was opened on its benefactor’s birthday on 11 October 1940. Its aim was to provide psychoanalytic training and service a small outpatient clinic under the direction of a medical practitioner. Clara Geroe, as a refugee doctor, was not able to be registered as a medical practitioner in Australia. Legal opinion sought by Dane at the time was that psychoanalysis was not a medical practice. This enabled Geroe to work as a psychoanalyst without opposition from the British Medical Association. She was thus contracted to work as the clinic’s resident psychoanalyst in 1941. Geroe also accepted Dr Frank Graham, her first analytic trainee, into her private practice late in 1941.

Dane, who had sent his daughter for treatment with Anna Freud, was keen to undergo analysis with Geroe. She declined this proposal, arguing that as he had helped with her settlement in Melbourne it would be inappropriate for her to become his psychoanalyst.[22] In December 1941, as fears of a Japanese invasion increased, the Australian government developed an evacuation plan to move city children to homes in the country. Recognising that many city based parents did not wish to part with their children Dane and Geroe, following the example of Anna Freud’s rest homes that she had established for London children during the blitz, put a similar proposal for Melbourne city children to the Victorian government.[23] Nothing came of this but it shows Dane and Geroe initially worked together to establish the institute and its clinic as a resouce for Melbourne people. Under Geroe’s direction Dane gave lectures on child development at Fintona Girls School in Melbourne.[24] He participated in her reading and discussion groups on psychoanalytic theory. Dane also worked as an honorary psychiatric assistant at the Alfred Hospital during the 1940s.[25]

 In March 1945 it became clear that the patient clinic for which the Melbourne Institute of Psychoanalysis was established was failing. Remaining documents show that Dane was ill. He had fallen behind in his rental and rate payments in excess of one hundred pounds. Correspondence from Geroe also shows she was in conflict with Dane. In a letter to Anna Freud Geroe indicated that Dane objected to her psychoanalytic ideas, publically dismissing her as ‘only a foreigner’ on several occasions. She was worried that Dane intended to sabotage the project.[26] After several meetings between Dane, Geroe and the board during 1945 Dane stepped down from the Board in October 1945. Geroe, whose offer to work without salary for the Institute’s clinic was accepted, joined the Board along with Dr Frank Graham who had just completed his psychoanalytic training under Geroe’s direction.

Dane continued his association with the Melbourne Institute of Psychoanalysis on an informal basis. In June 1950, as the Melbourne Institute of Psychoanalyis was approaching its tenth anniversary, Geroe wrote to John Rickman, by then President of the British Psychoanalytical Society, seeking to form an 'official psychoanalytical group' in Australia.[27] Her recommendations included recognition of Dane’s contribution to the establishment of the Melbourne Institute and of psychoanalytic training in Australia.  Sadly, several weeks before Rickman responded, Dane passed away from stomach cancer on 6 October 1950 leaving his wife Ruth and children, Paul, Gabrielle, Charmian and Winsome.

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Citation details

Christine Brett Vickers, 'Dane, Paul Greig (1881–1950)', People Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 30 May 2024.

© Copyright People Australia, 2012

Paul Dane, Darge Photographic Company, c.1915

Paul Dane, Darge Photographic Company, c.1915

Australian War Memorial, DA09249

Life Summary [details]

Alternative Names
  • Dane, Albert Grieg

21 January, 1881
Belfast, Antrim, Ireland


6 October, 1950 (aged 69)
Parkville, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

Cause of Death

cancer (stomach)

Cultural Heritage

Includes subject's nationality; their parents' nationality; the countries in which they spent a significant part of their childhood, and their self-identity.

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Includes the religion in which subjects were raised, have chosen themselves, attendance at religious schools and/or religious funeral rites; Atheism and Agnosticism have been included.

Military Service
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