Alistair Devlin interview, 28 February 2013

Dublin Core


Alistair Devlin interview, 28 February 2013




This is an interview with Alistair Devlin (1947-2013). He talks about studying dentistry at UWA [1970] and his career and association with the University at the School of Dentistry and QEII. He outlines the growth of the School of Dentistry over the past five decades and looks at the current state of dentistry in Western Australia. He looks at the many changes that he has witnessed in the field of dentistry and the role that the University of WA has played in some of these developments. He looks at the direction of the school of dentistry and the growing facilities and technical changes he sees available to the students taking up dentistry today.


Devlin, Alistair


University of Western Australia Historical Society


Copyright holder University of Western Australia


MP3 files


Oral History

Oral History Item Type Metadata


John Bannister


Alistair Devlin


Perth, W.A.


Interview 1: 50 minutes, 19 seconds
Interview 2: 56 minutes
Interview 3: 53 minutes, 37 seconds
Total: 2 hours, 41 minutes, 33 seconds

Bit Rate/Frequency

128 kbs

Time Summary

Interview 1

00:00:00 Alistair Malcolm Devlin born in Yarloop. Father works for Nestlé. Brother Chris is drawn to dentistry. Brother was a trend setter. Father studied at Muresk. The university’s reputation. Comparisons to WAIT. Aspiring to go to UWA. Decision to go to UWA to study dentistry.
00:07:00 Thoughts and memories of the university. Preclinical years of study. Zoology behind St George’s College. Professor Waring was an impressive character. Chemistry near James Oval. Physics near the library. Memories of the dental school on Wellington Street and Royal Perth.
00:10:00 In awe of where you were at university. Great characters. Initial impressions of the campus of UWA. Memories of the Vice Chancellor Prescott. Part of the Empire. Aspiring to be like Oxford University. Peter Livesey. Lecturers wear gowns and impression of the old traditions.
00:14:40 Brief history of dentistry and medicine in Western Australia and at UWA. Part of the Dental College at the technical school. Dental Science. UWA intertwined with an established course. Royal Perth connection to UWA. Staff of the hospital contribute to lectures. Dentistry course similar to the medicine course. Moving to the Dental Hospital. Attraction of studying medicine and dentistry.
00:21:35 Memories of Fiona and Neville Stanley. Neville has flair. ‘Lower forms of life like medical students.’ Respect for Neville Stanley. Connections with staff and students. Inspired by osmosis. Handful of professors. Knowledge of Horace Radden. The reputation of Radden and Sutherland. People use the university as a stepping stone. People stay in the special place of UWA.
00:26:55 Dentistry was a Cinderella faculty in UWA. People come to WA from the eastern states. Ross Taylor, David Cock, Jock Herd. Memories of Ken Sutherland. The most impressive lecturer who has triple projection. Clive Jarvis was the audio visual man at the school of dentistry. Ken was not an approachable man. Geoff Bagley was the editor of the Matrix. ‘So busy so rarely seen.’
00:32:23 Kathleen Lucraft was Sutherland’s secretary. Ross Taylor was very assertive person. Becomes the president of the ADA WA branch. Rod Stockwell and the training of dental therapists in the late 1960s. Discipline and self discipline as a professional. Jock Herd. Memories of Jock in surgery.
00:40:00 The atmosphere of University. The judging of the Miss Universe contest in refectory. Robert Pearce and Kim Beazley. John Inverarity. Cricket and the James Oval. Memories of the Labour Day holiday. Rod Marsh. Activism against Vietnam. Currie Hall. The type of person at St George’s College. Rivalry at the university and class status.
00:46:45 Thoughts of a career in a particular field of dentistry. Des Kailis and Andrew Graebner. Paediatric dentistry. Memories of Des Kailis. ASDC. Australian Society of Dentistry for Children. Max Horsnell, Roger Hall. Des becomes the founding president of the ASDC. Founding secretary of the ASDC. Gough Whitlam and the school dental service. Des Kailis an amazing fellow. Push for fluoridation of water. Des Kailis and the raising of money.

Interview 2

00:00:00 ASDC and ANSPD. Memories of the early days of dentistry . Explosion of children’s dentistry with the Whitlam years. Dental therapists. Noel Peverill. Increase of manpower. Influx of dentists to WA. Anxiety of dentists to therapists. WAIT and Dental Therapy training. Andrew Graebner and Sid Thornbury. School dental service. John Pritchard. Training school at Mount Henry. WAIT and dental services program training schemes.
00:06:05 Disease rife in the community in the early 1970s. Fluoridation of the water supply. The policy of tooth removal. Dental health was in a bad way. Complete dentures. Ron Rankin Wilson experiences of tooth extraction. Fluoridation and dental decay. School dental service and dental health practice. Denture and natural bight. Ray Owen and the dental course. Changes in the society attitude to tooth removal.
00:14:00 Reputation of the school of dentistry at UWA. Well regarded follows the Melbourne model. James Campbell - Wilson. Ken Sutherland in the chair for 30 years. Lack of numbers of dentists. Money poured into education. Kim Beazley and Judy Beazley. Initial impression of UWA and the grounds and the Somerville auditorium. The Perth Festival and UWA.
00:20:00 Administration and the dental school and the state government. State government and the laboratory in the shoe factory. University funded. Noel Peverill was a force to be reckoned with. Interaction between campus dental school and Royal Perth Hospital. Money and the medical faculty. String connection between DS and RPH. Little collaboration with WAIT. Des Kailis and John Hands. Dental services.
00:26:05 Condition of child dental health and current poor health in the community. Allocation of funding $4 billion for child dental health. Poor diet and Ph in the mouth and tooth decay. Lifestyle and economic trends. Potential of growth in the 1970s. Academics coming to Perth. Parochial and people leave the state.
00:30:35 The 8 point health plan. Resistance to change. The plan in the late 1960s discussed. All the 8 points are addressed. Colin Bonney political strings pulled. Isolated campus and inventiveness. School dental service and the dental caravans. Country areas and dental problems. Cadet schemes and work with the health department. Mobile clinics.
00:38:15 Interest in paediatric dentistry. Not a speciality of the paediatric dentistry specialist graduate from UWA. Numbers of post grad programme. Winthrop Professor Nigel King and developments in the paediatric programme. John Winters chairman of the dental department of Princess Margaret hospital. Bonded state government dentist. Ray and John Owen. Dental Kimberly team. Disease and lower socio economic problems. Further memories of Des Kailis. Dental health of indigenous and teaching. Des Kailis was a can-do man. Connections within the community. Fund raising events.
00:45:20 Changes in technology and the modernisation of dentistry. K ‘Kendrew’ Block at Perth Dental Hospital. Equipment and anaesthesia. Improvements in materials used. UWA following the leader. High speed drill and New Zealand and America.
00:50:50 Area of implants and Patrick Henry and developments in WA. John Lewis. Chris Wall and Bob Hortensky. Teaching of porcelain fused technology. Developments of the dental implant. Pat was the crème de la crème of the graduates from UWA. Interest in children’s dental health and working part time in Princess Margaret Hospital. Research and cleft palate children. Only as good as your team.

Interview 3

00:00:00 Clinical tutor for at the dental school and PMH. Quality of students. 1971 and 73 tutor. David Cock. Memories of tutoring. Lecturing in 1985. Working on the part time staff at PMH 1981. Students dealing with children.
00:06:15 Coordinator – setting up operative technical and clinical techniques. Organising tutors. Established lecture programme at QE2. Change in facilities and interactions with Curtin and TAFE.
00:10:00 Faculty advisory board 2003. Dental association WA branch president Andrew Smith. Information meetings. Medical aspects of the faculty. Head of the pharmacy school. Alumni society. Medifacts. Greatest joy of the sense of academic community, Bernard Catchpole and Louis Landau. Strength of community. Memories of Catchpole. Living body of academic excellence. One person in a team of excellence.
00:15:17 Connections and role models for the students. Numbers and contact with staff and students. Privilege. Changes in technology. Virtual university. Future of a lecture. Learning management system. Community of UWA. Great problems. Modules of online teaching. Control of the lecturer. Delivering a course. Size of lectures. Benefits of seminars.
00:20:20 Students more at home with technology. Fellow of College of Dentists. International reputation of the school. Abraham Hearn money. Financing visiting fellows. Perth isn’t isolated. Peter Gregory. Australasian Academy of Paediatric Dentists. Part of the community and international association. Pat Henry. WA provides three presidents of the IAPD.
00:27:40 The world is a lot smaller thanks to Peter Gregory and Pat Henry. Perth is not a Cinderella. International ranking. Professor of Paediatric Dentistry. Nigel King. Dental school has lagged behind. Dean and the faculty advisory board promoting dentistry. Support. Alan Robson.
00:31:30 Limited support. Andrew Smith and Nigel King and hopes for improvement. Thoughts of Adelaide school and cost effectiveness. Alan Robson and the dental school. Paul Johnson. Culture of leadership at the dental school. Nigel King’s philosophies. General attitude of the students and a culture of discipline.
00:38:45 Obligations to the public. Old attitudes instilled. Honorary life member of UWA dent students society. Have close contact with the Dental School Society. Traditions and functions.
00:44:35 Directions of Paediatric dental health in WA. Community regard for dentists. TAFE will lose a dental school. International pressures on dentistry. Privilege of association with UWA. Choices of students today is much less than in the past. Honoured to be involved in the school and UWA.



Devlin, Alistair, “Alistair Devlin interview, 28 February 2013,” UWA Historical Society: UWA Histories, accessed July 13, 2024,