We are mourning the passing of Professor Margot Prior AO who served as inaugural Chair of the OTARC Advisory Committee (2008 – 2015). She was a true pioneer in the field of autism research, as well as a life-affirming humanist, musician, and environmentalist.
Margot published the very first Australian journal article on autism in 1973 and was recognised as a leading figure in the field of psychology, becoming the first female Professor of Clinical Psychology in Australia in 1989, and establishing the first Clinical Psychology Doctoral program in the country. Beyond her scholarly and academic work, Margot has been a prominent voice for child welfare, peace and social justice initiatives. She was one of the founding members of the Psychologists for the Prevention of War and co-established the La Trobe Institute for Peace Research. She also co-founded the Victorian Parenting Research Centre in 1997 (now the Parenting Research Centre) and contributed to the development of diagnostic standards for autism in Australia.
The Victorian Autism Specific Early Learning and Care centre at La Trobe University was named after Margot in recognition of her long contribution to autism intervention science and service. She was also a Patron of Amaze, the peak autism body in Victoria. Moreover, Margot was deeply involved in the creation of the Australasian Society for Autism Research (ASfAR), where she was awarded a lifetime membership, and it is in recognition of her that ASfAR has the Margot Prior Oral Presentation Prize.
Beyond her enormous contribution to the autism field, Margot also personally inspired many, including OTARC’s Professor Amanda Richdale, who notes ‘Her lecture on autism inspired me to study autism for my PhD under her supervision.’
She leaves a valuable legacy, which those of us in the field are honoured to continue.