Fay Gale (Griffith Taylor Medal)

Citation for the Griffith Taylor Medal
Fay Gale
Conferred Canberra, July 2002

Professor Gale is a widely respected scholar. In her years of service as a geographer she has contributed much to the discipline, the academy and to the community. The following testimonial merely highlights some of the key features of the distinguished career of this outstanding geographer.

Professor Gale finished her formal working career as the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Western Australia (1990-97), and as Head of the Australian Vice-Chancellors’ Committee (1996-97). She rose to these positions from a career that began in the 1960s at The University of Adelaide. At that time she was one of only a few female academics in the geography area. During her academic career she has been involved in many national academic bodies. She has been a member of the Association of Commonwealth Universities Council, an expert panelist for the International Federation of University Women, a member of the Prime Minister’s Science and Engineering Council, to name but a few highlights. Professor Gale has also been a long-standing participant in the Academy of Social Sciences in Australia, holding a number of positions over the years, including Fellow. She is currently President of that Academy. And, of course, Professor Gale has been a long-time member of the Institute of Australian Geographers, was its one-time President and is currently an Honorary Life Member.

Professor Gale’s research career has been outstanding and a model to younger geographers, especially female geographers. She has made outstanding contributions to a number of areas, but most notably the field of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies. Her research during the early 1960 and 1970s on urban Aborigines brought into view an almost forgotten sector of the Australian public. This work was fundamentally important in terms of Aboriginal rights, social justice and identity struggles. During the 1980s she continued this work with Dr Joy Wunderstiz and Dr Ngaire Naffine, extending her expertise into the area of juvenile justice more generally, and Aboriginal youth offending specifically. This research made an important contribution to the area of policy as well as to the academic developments in the area of juvenile justice. In that same period (the 1980s) she also worked with Jane Jacobs, supported by the Australian Heritage Commission and Australian National Parks, to assess the impact of tourists on Aboriginal rock art sites. Again, this work resulted in important policy changes, on-the-ground interventions as well as academic publications. Somewhat later Professor Gale collaborated with Dr Kay Anderson in editing a most significant volume of new cultural geographies which has been described by many as being before its time.

Throughout her distinguished research career, Professor Gale has always ensured her findings have been available through publishing in refereed journals, books and in government reports. She has published 17 books and monographs, 30 chapters in edited collections, and 35 articles in refereed journals. This is not to mention the various conference proceedings, and unpublished constancy reports.

A specific feature of Professor Gale’s career, and one not immediately apparent from reading her C.V., is the level to which she has acted as a mentor. There are many of us in the current geography academy and in the professional geography workforce at large, who can lay claim to the generous mentoring of Professor Gale. As a teacher she was an inspirational role model whose lectures brought to life people and places often marginalized by mainstream geographical approaches. In her research work she routinely engaged in collaborations with younger, often much less experienced, scholars. It is not surprising that the current Australian geography academy includes those trained by Professor Gale, as do many government departments throughout the country.

Geography is a discipline that prides itself with being relevant to the ‘real world’. Professor Gale’s career does this tradition proud. The relevance of her research work should be apparent from what has already been stated. This relevance is verified by her commitment to a range of community-based organizations and initiatives. This has included being a Commissioner on the Australian Heritage Commission (1989-95), being involved in various educational and academic organizations as well as her involvement with the Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies.

In summary, Professor Gale is a fine example of the geography academic. The calibre of her work, its scope and relevance, are an inspirational template for the contemporary geographers. Indeed, it is unsurprising that Professor Gale’s contributions have already been acknowledged by the Academy of the Social Sciences in Australia and through the award of Officer of the Order of Australia (for service to social science, particularly in the fields of geography and Aboriginal studies). It would seem entirely appropriate that this national recognition be met with recognition of the highest order - the Griffith Taylor Medal - from the discipline that Professor Gale has always proudly and enthusiastically claimed as her intellectual home.

Jane Jacobs and Ruth Fincher

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