Widening Minds – UNSW and Defence

WideningMinds

Widening Minds

The University of New South Wales and the education of Australia’s Defence Leaders

By Tom Frame

Published by UNSW Press
RRP $59.99 in paperback • ISBN 9781742234427

Professor Tom Frame was commissioned to write the history of the relationship between the University of New South Wales (UNSW), the Australian Defence Force (ADF) and the Department of Defence. He is a widely published and highly respected historian who was a product of the longstanding educational collaboration.

He tackles the thorny question of his objectivity upfront, saying that he was ‘critical’ of the education he was receiving at the Kensington campus and disliked the Defence Academy’s culture as a postgraduate.

Since 1967 more than 25,000 students have graduated from UNSW after studying at Duntroon, HMAS Creswell and the Australian Defence Force Academy.

The need for tertiary education emerged during the Vietnam conflict, yet he writes that successive governments sought to reduce outlays as soon as the prevailing strategic situation appeared benign, with governments prioritising equipment acquisition and inevitably falling victim to short-term thinking and even shorter-term planning. Frame outlines the protracted negotiations with the University of NSW which culminated in a 1981 agreement to establish the Australian Defence Force Academy with the first graduation ceremony occurring in 1987.

It’s no surprise as he traces the fortunes of the relationship that there was some in the Kensington campus in the late 1990s who ‘resolutely opposed maintaining any link with Defence on political grounds ..’. Frame’s account of the appointment of Professor Robert King as Rector makes interesting reading, with a verbatim account of his interview with then CDF, Admiral Chris Barrie.

Frame says, in his conclusion, that the 50-year relationship produced many significant achievements in teaching, learning and research. How this relationship evolved and the machinations of the relationship will no doubt be of interest to our readers who place a high value on the educational standards and the quality of intellectual debate across the Defence community.

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