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Community Connections

Vale Roger Wettenhall, 4 February 1931 – 20 January 2022

The University of Canberra has farewelled an integral member of our community, Emeritus Professor Roger Wettenhall AM, who sadly passed away recently. He was a man with an undoubted passion for public administration and had a long-standing relationship with UC.

Roger was in a position not many can claim, watching and actively influencing how UC has evolved almost since its inception.

His relationship with UC dates back half a century, since he joined the institution as Head of the School of Administrative Studies in 1971, when it was the foundational Canberra College of Advanced Education (CCAE), and only four years after it was first established.

In his academic life, Roger held various leadership roles within UC’s School of Administrative Studies (and its successors) and remained a steady constant through the tenures of numerous Vice-Chancellors.

Even when he was not actively working at UC his impact was felt, through the groundwork he laid in his field, his mentorship of staff and his support for students.

In his eulogy, friend and colleague Professor John Halligan offered this quote from former Vice-Chancellor Donald Aitkin from 1996, praising Roger’s academic efforts: “Roger has been an intellectual producer of great moment … as a teacher, a scholar, an editor and expert, he has had an unmatched impact on his field in the second half of the 20th century.”.

Acknowledged universally by his colleagues was his commitment and passion for public administration and his exemplary research that spoke for itself, setting a benchmark for those around him.

Roger had a number of interests, but his key areas of focus included the machinery of government, the age-old public vs privatisation debate, and island states.

He was a fifth generation Tasmanian, and John speculates that this is potentially where some of Roger’s interest in island states arose.

Roger played central roles in domestic and international public administration bodies, including helping to establish the national Institute of Public Administration Australia (IPAA) body, and through his work with the International Association of Schools and Institutes of Administration (IASIA).

His work with the IPAA was greatly appreciated, and led to him receiving an IPAA National Fellowship in 1983 for his outstanding contribution to public service and to the IPAA.

He was also named a Member of the Order of Australia in 2010 for his services to education as a scholar and researcher in the field of public administration. In 2016, Roger was invested as an Honorary Doctor of the University of Canberra for his distinguished achievement as a scholar and outstanding service to UC.

While the accolades and contributions from Roger in academia and to UC are multiple, outside of his work, he had even more important roles.

He was the devoted partner for 48 years of Adjunct Associate Professor and former CELTS Fellow and Senior Lecturer at the University of Canberra, Ros Byrne. He is survived by Ros, his former wife Lois, his children Irene, Lynn and Dean, five grandchildren, three great grandchildren and Lois’s son John – Roger’s family was of the highest value to him.

John Halligan describes Roger as a most decent man, whose sense of justice was innate – he will be sorely missed.

Words by Kalyx Jorgensen, photos taken by Roger’s daughter, Lynn Pittard.

You can read more about Roger, and his contributions to public administration, here.

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