As I prepare these season’s greetings, I am reflecting on the very successful joint meeting of the Australian and New Zealand Associations of von Humboldt Fellows held on 17-19 November in Wellington. The 2017 biennial colloquium of our Associations was held in the excellent facilities of the Royal Society of New Zealand and supported by the Alexander von Humboldt-Stiftung with a Kolleg grant and the New Zealand Government. On the Friday evening, we enjoyed the warm hospitality of the German Ambassador, Gerhard Thiedemann, at his residence outside the city of Wellington.
Professor Eamonn O’Brien of the University of Auckland and the colloquium organising committee, which he chaired, are to be commended for the months of planning that led to a successful colloquium. The Australian Association of von Humboldt Fellows (AAvHF) was represented on the committee by Associate Professor Trevor Finlayson, our Honorary Secretary, and we are also indebted to him.
Fellows were very pleased to have Dr Katrin Amian from the Alexander von Humboldt-Stiftung with us again for the joint colloquium. Our Association asked her to take a message of gratitude back to Bonn from the Australian Fellows for the Foundation’s continuing support of Australian and New Zealand academics and their research and scholarship.
The Wellington colloquium was entitled Our Changing World in the South Pacific. This theme elicited excellent and professionally presented papers from members of the Associations. Importantly, Associate Professor Finlayson has taken on the demanding task of editing an online conference proceedings so that we have a permanent outcome of the very fine scholarly input into the colloquium.
Dr Andrew Matthews, President of the New Zealand Association, and I both offered opening remarks at the beginning of the colloquium. Looking at the range of colloquium presentations, I highlighted the following in considering the theme of Our Changing World in the South Pacific in my opening remarks:
- For our global community, the presentations addressed key issues like climate change and fragile ecosystems, scientific fields to which Alexander von Humboldt made pioneering contributions;
- For our respective countries, they took up challenges like the ageing society, and harnessing revolutions in science, medicine and technology for the common good;
- For our academic communities, they tackled concerns like the pressures on research and scholarship, and on opportunities for young scholars;
- For our human family, they pursued questions like the impact of long-term migration on culture – again, Humboldt’s observations of the effects of colonisation on South American societies provide insights into modern phenomena.
At each biennial colloquium the AAvHF presents the Peter Schwerdtfeger Award, which recognises the academic or professional achievement of an early-career AAvHF member, and up to two Distinguished Fellow Awards, which recognise AAvHF members who have excelled in their professional field and/or have provided significant service to the AAvHF. Nominations are considered by the AAvHF awards sub-committee chaired by the Association’s Vice-President, Professor Jeff Malpas. This year the Peter Schwerdtfeger Awardee was Dr Glen Wheeler, a young Mathematician of the University of Wollongong and Professor Alan Bretag (University of South Australia) and I received Distinguished Fellow Awards. I thank the Australian Fellows for this honour conferred upon me.
The AAvHF held its biennial general meeting at the conclusion of the colloquium, with the following elected to the national executive and the special roles indicated:
AAvHF Executive 2018-2019
|Australian Capital Territory representative||Hans Bachor|
|New South Wales representative||Julienne Harnett|
|Northern Territory representative||vacant|
|Queensland representative||Thomas Haselhorst|
|South Australia representative||Peter Hochs|
|Tasmania representative||Nathan Kilah|
|Victoria representative||Richard Sadus|
|West Australia representative||Walter Bloom|
|Member of the executive||Helmut Hügel|
|Member of the executive||Peter Jarvis|
|Member of the executive||Laura Parry|
The meeting also considered the location for the next biennial colloquium and agreed on Macquarie University in Sydney. The University’s Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Professor Sakkie Pretorius, a Humboldt Fellow, has kindly offered to host the 2019 colloquium.
In Wellington, we received a number of reports of successful celebrations of Alexander von Humboldt’s birthday. Queensland members also advised of major events in the last two years to mark German Science Day, organised by the German Consulate in Brisbane. In 2016 celebrations were held at the University of Queensland and in 2017 at Griffith University with Associate Professor Thomas Baumgartl, Queensland representative on the AAvHF executive, and Professor Rob Robson, previous President, respectively, presenting on the Humboldt Foundation and its various programs. Professor Kathy Andrews of Griffith University supported the latter occasion with a booth with materials from the Stiftung.
I highlighted several significant achievements of AAvHF members in my biennial report to members distributed prior to the Wellington meeting. Another has just come to my attention –Professor Andrews recently won a DAAD Australia-Germany Joint Research Cooperation Grant ($22,000) for collaboration and exchange with the University of Düsseldorf. We congratulate her warmly on this recognition of her work.
In 2017 the AAvHF has again had excellent support from the members of the executive, to whom I express our appreciation. I highlight especially the very generous contributions of Honorary Secretary Associate Professor Finlayson, Treasurer Professor Gary Bryant and Vice-President Professor Jeff Malpas.
May I take this opportunity to wish you and your loved ones peace and joy this Christmas and a very good New Year with blessings in abundance,
Gabrielle McMullen AM
President, Australian Association of von Humboldt Fellows