Archives and Special Collections: Lillian de Lissa and The de Lissa Association OLD

Access Conditions

Location: Bob Hawke Prime Ministerial Library - City West campus.

Loan: Not for loan

Access and Further Information: Please contact the Ask the Library

Search: de Lissa Collection in the UniSA Library Archives

Collection Overview

The collection consists of 38 archival boxes containing the de Lissa Association of Early Childhood Graduates Collection and was donated to the University when the Association disbanded in 2012. The collection includes historical items related to the Association, to the history of the Kindergarten Movement in South Australia, the development of early childhood education in South Australia and to the Gipsy Hill Training College. The collection includes papers, correspondence, photographs, books, newspaper clippings, slides and items made by graduates and used in kindergartens.


Lillian de Lissa was born in Sydney in 1885. She studied at the Sydney Kindergarten Teachers College (SKTC) and went on to teach at Ashfield Free Kindergarten in Sydney in 1905, going on to become a teacher educator. In 1905 de Lissa along with the SKTC principal, Frances Newton, visited Adelaide to demonstrate kindergarten teaching methods. As a result of this visit, the Kindergarten Union of South Australia was formed at a public meeting, with the aim of establishing Free Kindergartens in the poorer parts of Adelaide.

Adelaide's first free kindergarten opened in 1906 in a rented cottage in Franklin Street, with de Lissa as the director. The first kindergarten was so successful that there was demand for a second to be opened at Bowden, which meant more trained kindergarten teachers were needed. In 1907 the Kindergarten Teachers College was founded and de Lissa was appointed as Principal. She stayed in this role until 1917 when she moved to England.

In 1913 de Lissa travelled to Rome where she completed the Montessori Diploma. She then travelled through Europe researching education for the South Australian government. On her return to Adelaide in 1915, she introduced some Montessori methods to kindergartens and in the college.

De Lissa moved to England in 1917 to become the principal of the Gipsy Hill Training College for nursery school teachers, a position she held for 29 years,

In 1923 de Lissa assisted in the founding of the Nursery School Association of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. She published books and articles on early childhood, as well as arranging and speaking at exhibitions.

After her retirement in 1946, de Lissa continued to consult on early childhood education.

Further Information

State Library of South Australia

Search the catalogue

State Records of South Australia

Search the archives

Kingston University (UK)

Kingston University Archives holds some of Lillian de Lissa's records related to her work as the Principal of the Gipsy Hill Training College

Australian Dictionary of Biography

Lillian Daphne de Lissa (1885-1967)


Lillian Daphne de Lissa