School of Arts

Shirley Strachan

The Ousted Osteopath: Thomas Ambrose Bowen (1916-1982) and his contemporaries; exploring networks, creativity, tacit knowledge and embodiment.

Shirley's thesis is a microhistory of prominent manual therapists of the twentieth century before regulation. A key figure is Thomas (Tom) Ambrose Bowen (1916-1982) - a renowned lay osteopath of Geelong. He was also arguably a therapeutic genius eclipsed by health politics of the late twentieth century . This project evaluates the clinic life and times of Bowen, his broader significance as a therapist and innovator through exploration of new historical narratives based on extensive oral history interviews, psychobiography, biography, memory of touch, and cultural mapping to reinterpret the man and his work.

Shirley is a former heritage professional engaged in the roles of conservator and researcher including fifteen years as manager of Victoria's maritime archaeological heritage program (Heritage Victoria) followed by roles of senior project officer for the south-west region planning office (Infrastructure), and in the Local Government portfolio as senior project officer and senior legislation officer/governance analyst.

Shirley has authored large number of publications related to maritime heritage – including a report funded under an Anutech fellowship, and various reports for Ministerially appointed Local Government Panels or representative committees. Turned full time natural therapist in 2011, her attention was drawn to Bowen and the issues arising from the several commercial interpretations that popularise his work on an international scale yet reveal significant differences compared to the professional practice by the majority of his first hand apprentices working in clinic settings and by recollections of former patients.

The centennial anthology Healing Hands, Unsung Voices is a collection of oral histories from former patients, clinic associates, friends and family.