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Dane, Paul Greig (1881–1950)

by Anne Sanders

When he was very young Paul (christened Albert) Greig Dane emigrated with his family from Belfast, Northern Ireland, to Melbourne. He was educated at Caulfield Grammar School, then at the University of Melbourne, where he graduated in 1905 and took his MD in 1909. After two years as assistant medical officer for health for the City of Melbourne, he resigned to begin private medical practice in Ballarat. Dane loved horses and was an expert horseman; it was in Ballarat that he signed up as a volunteer, on the day that World War I was declared, to become an officer in the Sixth Field Ambulance, a mounted unit. He served at Gallipoli, was invalided out, promoted to lieutenant-colonel and returned to serve in the 1st Australian General Hospital in Egypt.

On his return to Melbourne, following his war service, Dane lectured in histology at the University of Melbourne and became interested in neurology and the treatment of shell-shocked soldiers. It was at this point that he became acquainted with Dr John Springthorpe and his ideas and treatment using psychotherapy and hypnosis. Dane became an early convert to Freud’s theories, making particular use of the abreaction (or catharsis) technique. In 1925, in an article entitled 'The psycho-neuroses of soldiers and their treatment', published in the Medical Journal of Australia, he observed that: 'Treatment by analysis is altogether more satisfactory to patient and doctor than any other method. In some cases the relief given is so dramatic and profound that this is in itself a highly valuable effect.'

Dane also established a significant consultant practice in psychiatry and, in 1928, left for Europe to undergo extended analysis with Joan Riviere, a respected member of the British Psychoanalytical Society and translator of Sigmund Freud’s writings. It was in Europe that he established contact with Anna Freud. On his return to Melbourne he continued using Freudian theories in his work at the Alfred Hospital Psychiatric Clinic. His belief in the strict application of Freud’s theories in psychoanalytic practice rendered his a lone and sometimes frustrated voice, particularly among professional colleagues: 'The absurd criticism and childish opposition of certain armchair philosophers to the Freudian doctrine can only be ascribed to a complete ignorance of mental functioning and a lack of intimate contact with human neurotic suffering.'

In 1938 he wrote to Ernest Jones, founder of the British Psychoanalytical Society and editor of the International Journal of Psychoanalysis, that his colleague Dr Roy Coupland Winn in Sydney had alerted him to the fact that European analysts who were being forced to leave their own countries might be interested in emigrating to Australia. Dane was aware at that time that Miss Lorna Traill had offered to donate funds for the establishment of a hospital or clinic in Melbourne dedicated to psychotherapeutic training. The list of six names provided by Jones, which was sent in 1939 to the Department of the Interior in Canberra, included Clara Lazar Geroe, Andrew Peto, Elizabeth Kardos and Eva Rosenfeld. The application received support from many leading professionals, including Dr Reginald Ellery in Melbourne and Ernest Burgmann, Bishop of Goulburn. Only Dr Clara Lazar Geroe, a training analyst, specialising in the psychoanalysis of children, and a member of the Budapest School of Psychoanalysis was selected.

The Melbourne Institute for Psychoanalysis was opened on 10 October 1940, with Dr Geroe as the first training analyst in Australia. Dane was appointed chairman of the board of directors (which included doctors Ellery, Norman Albiston, Roy Winn and Albert Phillips, with Ernest Jones as honorary director). Dane continued his association with the Melbourne Institute, significantly contributing to its library. Following World War II he undertook further training in American psychiatric hospitals and clinics where he studied group therapy in treating returned soldiers. He was also made an honorary member of the American Psychiatric Association. On his return to Melbourne, Dane established group therapy as a treatment for both ex-soldiers and civilians, being the first Australian psychoanalyst to do so.

He died of stomach cancer at Royal Melbourne Hospital and was survived by his wife, Ruth and their four children: Paul, Gabrielle, Charmian and Winsome.

Original publication

  • C. Chapman (ed), Inner Worlds: Portraits & Psychology, National Portrait Gallery, Canberra, 2011, pp 127-129

Additional Resources

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Citation details

Anne Sanders, 'Dane, Paul Greig (1881–1950)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 22 July 2019.

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