Arthur Conacher (Fellowship)

Citation for Fellowship of the Institute of Australian Geographers Arthur Conacher
Conferred Fremantle, June 1998

Fellowship of the Institute of Australian Geographers is awarded for distinguished service to the Institute. This honour has been accorded only three times before: to Murray McCaskill in 1989, to Bruce Thom in 1992, and to John Holmes in 1997. I am delighted to note that one of these IAG Fellows is here in Perth/Fremantle at present. Today they will be joined by a fourth Fellow.

Arthur Conacher, graduated from the University of Auckland with BA (1964) and MA (Hons) 1965 and after a couple of years at the University of Queensland, he crossed the continent, to the west, and became Lecturer in the Department of Geography in 1968 University of Western Australia (UWA) within four years of its formation and where he has been ever since. Arthur was not the only Aucklander to cross the Tasman at that time: Peter Curson went the University of Tasmania, Russell Blong to the University of Sydney, and David Murray to UWA.

This award is for distinguished service to the IAG. Arthur joined the IAG some 32 years ago, recognising that being affiliated with a professional organisation should not be a passive association but rather it should represent an active commitment to the organisation. That commitment was something he and his colleagues at Auckland University recognised as students because the group I have just mentioned formed the Geographical Association which arose from a strong enthusiasm for field studies and a sense of corporate spirit encouraged by staff and particularly by John Dalrymple and Stewart Fraser the former being Arthur’s prime slopes and soils mentor. In 1964, Arthur Conacher became the first editor (along with Fiona Woods) of the Auckland Student Geographer. What he noted was that “perhaps the greatest benefit from the magazine will be derived not by those who read it, but by those who write for it”.

Service to the Institute can be defined in many ways, formally through holding office on the executive committee or study group; representing the Institute on one of the bodies to which we are affiliated; organising IAG conferences, meetings, study groups; and being responsible for the production of one of the IAGs publications in an editorial role. Arthur Conacher has done all of these things.

From 1983 to 1988 Arthur served on the Council of IAG and during that time was a strong advocate of redirecting the IAG from an essentially academic learned society to a professional association and developing the necessary constitutional changes. Registration was one outcome of that process; a process that has continued to hold the attention of IAG Council to this day. From 1993 to 1995 he represented the IAG on the Executive Committee of the Australian Geosciences Council, the group through which IAG is affiliated with the Federation of Australian Scientific and Technological Societies and one that is also grappling with professional registration or accreditation.

Arthur Conacher was organiser and conference secretary of the 21st Conference of IAG held in Perth in 1986, twelve years ago and was editor of Readings in Australian Geography the Proceedings of that conference, an initiative that has not always been followed and one that truly tests patience and friendship. And he was a driving force behind the move of the editorial office of the Institute’s Newsletter first coming to Western Australia and followed UWA colleagues David Murray and Stuart Houghton as editor in 1988. These are some of his more obvious demonstrations of service to the IAG.

But service the IAG is not just measured in these tangible and public ways. In Council’s view no less

important is the ongoing support for the IAG and its objectives. Submitting articles to, refereeing, contributing reviews and commentary to our journal Australian Geographical Studies or to the Newsletter or participating in its conferences. Arthur has given IAG support for these. His first contribution to Australian Geographical Studies on Open Systems and Dynamic Equilibrium in Geomorphology sent shock waves through the physical geography establishment ‘back east’. Nevertheless, Arthur survived the traditionalist backlash and has continued to publish research papers and reviews in AGS through to the present day. Support for the IAG also came with the publication of his and Jeanette’s 1995 publication on Rural Land Degradation in Australia in the Meridian Series a joint venture published by OUP but devised and edited by IAG.

Clearly, Arthur Conacher has given distinguished service to the Institute. It is therefore a pleasure for me to acknowledge that service and support and in recognition of him contribution admit him to a Fellowship of the IAG.


I now invite John Holmes one of the three present holders of the Fellowship to present the award. Citation prepared by Professor Roger McLean.