Ian Bowie - Staff 1960s

Staff 1960s

Fifty years ago I was finishing my  Geography major at the University of Canterbury and expecting to become a  lawyer. Four years later, however, I took up a Demonstratorship in the  Geography Department of the University of Melbourne, which I held for three  years and which started me on an academic track.

The Geography Department then was  very small, and disappointing to me in that it had no great strengths in  Economic Geography (while the quite separate Department of Economic Geography  in the Faculty of Commerce had no particular interests in the emerging paradigm  of Economic Geography which was then filtering down from the Northern  Hemisphere!).

However, a small Geography  Department (in a still-small University) enabled a lot of interaction with the  Faculties of Commerce and Agriculture, from which I learned a great deal. It  also gave me my first opportunities to lecture and manage field trips, things  that today wouldn’t now be expected of ‘Lecturers A’ despite the valuable  experiences they provided.

I think of my time at Melbourne as  ‘validating’ me as an academic. It served as a springboard for my next move, to  the University of Edinburgh, with a Melbourne girl who was kind enough to  become my bride, and later back to Australia! It established friendships and  interests that have also endured into my much-enjoyed retirement today, for  which I am grateful.

Demonstrator 1964-67

Field work has  always been the great bonding experience for staff and students in Geography  and an important means of understanding what our discipline is about. Half a  century ago, when we stayed in church camps and the like and mucked in with the  cooking and cleaning, it was important also as part of our social  development.  The learning experiences were by no means confined to the  student body.

When, after an  'unfortunate incident' in Traralgon on the way to Paynesville the staff decided  to ban alcohol, it was tough on us too...we had to forgo leisurely drinking  over dinner the dozen bottles of a good red that we'd brought with us....until  the last night when we relented and allowed a party. That brought its own  problems

By that time, the  students needed to replenish their supplies and, the punt not operating at  night, a dinghy was despatched a dinghy to Paynesville. It was a good  party but, on the following day before we left, the staff had to pacify a local  land holder who's dinghy had gone missing, to be found perhaps half a  kilometre along the shore from where the land holder had left it.  Is 'diplomacy' required these days in the job descriptions of academics?

Ian Bowie