Lumen - The University of Adelaide Magazine The University of Adelaide Australia
Lumen Winter 2014 Issue
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1980s: A new era of commercialisation


Julia Gillard accepting her 2013 Distinguished Alumni Award

Julia Gillard accepting her 2013 Distinguished Alumni Award

Language Laboratory, 1985

Language Laboratory, 1985

Robyn Archer AO, Susan Sheridan and Professor Susan Magarey AM, 1985

(l to r) Robyn Archer AO, Susan Sheridan and Professor Susan Magarey AM, 1985


The early 1980s were a time of financial stringency. The failure of university funding to keep pace with growth meant that many difficult and sometimes unpopular decisions had to be made. It led to the introduction of the national Higher Education Contribution Scheme fee which was hotly debated across the University. For the first time the University ventured into commercialisation and knowledge transfer through Luminis, a company created to realise commercial opportunities from University activities and intellectual property. At the same time the growing impact of research and development, and competition for research funds, saw the development of a more entrepreneurial approach to many aspects of the University’s operations. The Dawkins reforms of the late 1980s presented an immense challenge, with the introduction of the Unified National System of higher education, the drive towards mass education, and the creation of new comprehensive universities. By the end of the decade, the University was poised to act.

Making of a future Prime Minister Former Prime Minister Julia Gillard credits her time at the University of Adelaide as fuelling her passion for politics. She studied Law and Arts from 1979 to 1981 and became President of Adelaide University Union and a student representative on the Adelaide University Council. Later she moved to Melbourne to continue her involvement in student politics at a national level and to complete her degree at the University of Melbourne. First elected to the House of Representatives at the 1998 federal election, Ms Gillard became Deputy Prime Minister in 2007, also serving as Minister for Education, Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations and Minister for Social Inclusion. She was Australia’s first female Prime Minister from 2010 to 2013. Ms Gillard has joined the University in an honorary position as Professor in Politics.

A commitment to Indigenous education Building on the success of CASM, the University developed Aboriginal access schemes and Indigenous programs throughout the 1980s. In 1986, Sonny Flynn became the first University of Adelaide Indigenous undergraduate student to complete his Bachelor of Arts and in the same year, the unique music studies developed for Indigenous students by CASM were formalised as a Certificate course and the first certificate award ceremony took place at the University. This was followed in 1987 by the appointment of the University’s first Aboriginal Liaison Officer to recruit more Indigenous students to tertiary study. Since then, the University has demonstrated a long-term commitment to promote, encourage and support Aboriginal education and employment and has actively promoted an understanding of Indigenous issues, culture and history in its programs and courses. The creation of many different scholarships available to Indigenous students has provided much needed financial support, coupled with guidance and mentoring through the establishment of a dedicated Centre for Aboriginal Education - Wirltu Yarlu - in 1996.

From law to the stage Shaun Micallef is one of Australia’s most successful entertainers - and he honed his comic skills while studying law at the University of Adelaide. His talents include writing, producing and performing on stage, in movies and on television, and he has starred in popular programs such as SeaChange and Full Frontal. Mr Micallef graduated with a Bachelor of Laws in 1984. Reflecting on his time at Adelaide, Mr Micallef said: "It was there I joined the Footlights Club and participated in comedy revues in Union Hall and the Little Theatre. I learned how to write sketches and how to perform for an audience - skills I rely on to make my living some 20 years later. That’s the wonderful thing about this place - you get so much more out of it than just the degree."

Celebrating a century of female academia In 1982, the University celebrated a milestone in the education of women in Australia with the opening of the Research Centre for Women's Studies. This achievement anticipated by only three years the centenary of Edith Emily Dornwell's graduation from Adelaide – the first woman in Australia to be conferred a Bachelor of Science degree. It was only fitting that another distinguished female academic, Professor Susan Magarey, was appointed as the Centre's inaugural Director. She held the position until 2002 and is now an Adjunct-Professor in History. Professor Magarey has degrees in English Literature and History from the University of Adelaide and the Australian National University and is the author of two monographs: the prize-winning biography of Catherine Helen Spence, Unbridling the Tongues of Women (1985) and Passions of the First-Wave Feminists (2001). She is the founder of the Magarey Medal for Biography and a member of the Board of the History Trust of South Australia.

Sprigg bequest aids Aboriginal education Geologist and explorer Reg Sprigg was a pioneer of outback Australia and a founder of South Australia’s oil and gas industry. It was during his many field trips that he gained a deep respect for Australia’s Indigenous population. The Reg Sprigg Aboriginal Education Assistance Fund was established in 1988 from monies raised through the sale of a gift of shares Dr Sprigg left to the University. The bursary provides financial assistance to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Foundation and University Preparatory Program, and supports undergraduate students studying part-time or full-time at the University. Dr Sprigg completed his Bachelor of Science in Zoology and an honours degree in Geology at the University in 1941.

Milestones and achievements
1981 Adelaide University Touch Club is formed 1983 Dame Roma Mitchell appointed the first female Chancellor of the University of Adelaide 1983–1984 Closure of card catalogue system in library 1985 Establishment of the University of Adelaide Alumni Association 1986 Sonny Flynn, the first University of Adelaide Indigenous undergraduate student, completed his Bachelor of Arts (Honours) 1987 Appointment of the University's first Aboriginal Liaison Officer to recruit more Indigenous students to tertiary study

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