Bruce Thom (Fellowship)

Citation for Fellowship of the Institute of Australian Geographers
Bruce Thom
Conferred Auckland, January 1992

From time to time the Institute confers honours on those of its members whose contribution to Australian geography has been outstanding.  In nominating Professor Bruce Thom for a Fellowship of the Institute of Australian Geographers we recognise not only his intellectual leadership in his areas of research but also his profound influence and unstinting work in fostering the discipline in many practical ways.  Australian geography, and particularly the Institute, has much to thank him for.

Anyone who heard his Presidential Address to the IAG in 1987 would believe that Bruce Thom was destined to become a geographer and, indeed, he was a distinguished undergraduate, sharing a University medal at Sydney in 1960.  Since then his career has taken him to various jobs in many places: he has held university posts at Baton Range (Louisiana), Hawaii, McGill, ANU, UNSW (ADFA) and Sydney where he took up his present professorship in 1985.  Although some, of these positions have been ‘inland’ there is no doubt that Bruce Thom’s research interests have always drawn him to those mysterious places where land meets ocean.  In these environments he has found a rich vein of geomorphological, biogeographical and human land use problems to sustain a strong flow of research publications and advisory reports.  His expertise in these areas has provided an influential platform and an increasing amount of his time has been devoted to public service for scientific and government bodies including UNESCO, the Academy of Science, the Australian Geoscience Council, State and Commonwealth governments.  In all of these he has effectively represented the interests of Australian geography.

Two of his honorary positions deserve special mention.  During 1986-89 Bruce Thom was president of IAG, a function which overlapped with his chairmanship of the Organising Committee of the 26th International Geographical Congress held in Sydney in 1988.  In this time, he steered important constitutional changes through IAG leading to the adoption of the professional code.  This was also a time of uncertainty of government policy for higher education and he spent considerable time in visiting departments around the country and co-ordinating a response on behalf of IAG.  At the same time the workload for IGC was enormous and the eventual success of the Congress owes more to his efforts than to any other factor.  IGC ‘88 is now a part of history but its benefits live on through the fruitful contacts afforded to Australian geographers and as a result of the financial surplus which will be held in trust to provide younger geographers to attend IGU functions overseas.

In recognition of his contributions to Australian Geographers, and to the Institute in particular, Council unanimously recommends Bruce Thom for the award of the Fellowship of the Institute.