Arthur Conacher interview, 5 September 2012

Dublin Core


Arthur Conacher interview, 5 September 2012




Three times head of Geography at the University of Western Australia Arthur Conacher talks of his career at UWA since 1968. Originally an Urban Geographer he would become a Physical Geographer with varied interests including land degradation, salinity, soil/slope and hydrology. Arthur Conacher became Senior Lecturer in 1974 becoming Head of Department for the first time from 1977-1979 and Associate Professor in 1980. He has published extensively and travelled widely with his work and in doing so has contributed to the internationalisation of the University. Arthur Conacher has recently been awarded for his work with COMLAND and the IGU and has a DSc. From 1983 – 1985 he served on the Council of the Institute of Australian Geographer, he also holds a Fellowship of the IAG and is currently an Honorary Research Fellow of the University of Western Australia.


Conacher, Arthur


University of Western Australia Historical Society


Copyright holder University of Western Australia


MP3 files


Oral History

Oral History Item Type Metadata


John Bannister


Arthur Conacher


Interview 1: 52 minutes, 54 seconds
Interview 2: 48 minutes, 42 seconds
Interview 3: 42 minutes, 47 seconds
Total: 2 hours, 24 minutes, 23 seconds

Bit Rate/Frequency

128 kbs

Time Summary

Track 1
00:00:00 Introduction. South Africa, Pietermaritzburg, New Zealand 1960.1968. Auckland degree and majoring in geography.
00:04:57 Two years master in geography. A regional planning authority. Public service. Teaching. Academic career. Lecturer and professor. Teaching and PhD. New Zealand vs Australian university. Master degree New Zealand and Australia. Ken Cumberland.
00:08:58 Paying for a Masters degree. Professor in Perth has a paid for Masters degree. Supervising students. No qualifications. Teaching external students. Quality of teaching in New Zealand. Pass and fail rates.
00:12:26 Default subject. Wanting to work outside. Interest in people and places. Queensland and coming to WA. Dave Murray* and application in WA. Several members of staff leave UWA. Geomorphology. Understanding of soil property.
00:16:45 Perth and Auckland. Memories of the department. Comparisons to Brisbane. Staff. Cartographer, photographer, workshop and vehicles. Driving a bus. Teacher and marriage.
00:20:10 Geographers marry each other. Coming to Perth. Patches of salt in the paddock. Memories of the buildings. Chemistry building. The department was an improvement. Head has a paid Masters degree. Dr Gentilly.
00:23:55 The Stephenson plan and Hackett drive. Comparisons of theatres at UWA. Cultural life of Perth and University.
00:26:05 Martyn Webb. Introductions to UWA and WA. Course structure. Masters years physical and human geography. Loss to the science faculty. Teachers and vicious circle. Rural Geography and structural changes.
00:30:10 Comparisons to Canada and depth of study. Applied geography and environmental management. Feel of UWA and the college look. Tropical grove and the farm. Prescott’s door is always open. University house, Monash Avenue and university ghetto of the university.
00:35:20 Social experiences of living in the University community. Time for lecturing and administration. Campus funding and research. Funded by private enterprise and research outcomes.
00:39:10 Sabbatical years and fresh ideas. University lecturers and benefits of someone else’s experiences. Matthew Tonts. Coming to UWA 1968. Lecturing in gowns. Webb was English Oxford formal. General and academic staff have different tea rooms.
00:42:50 Preparing courses and marking. Publication. Finding the course on arrival. Graham Rundle*. Field work and laboratory space. CSIRO. Students.
00:47:25 Five universities in Perth - UWA is the best. Geography department. Formulating a course for universal use. Not specific to WA. Geomorphology and agriculture of WA.
00:51:20 Lecturer and hopes for career and the joy of the job. Promotion to chair. Ambition.

Track 2
00:00:00 Expanding on a theme. Helping to make it a better place. Strongly regional geography. Man environment. Lester King and Charles Cotton. Geomorphology and Morris. Site and scenery. Continental drift. Evidence of continental drift.
00:05:30 Plate tectonics. Auckland string of geography. Master and papers. History and nature of geography. Staff in Auckland. Stuart Frazer Leaves to come to UWA.
00:08:26 Fiona Woods and Auckland. Editor of the Australian Geographers Journal. Master and interest in physical and urban geographer. Dalrymple* and Bloomfield. Writing up land surface work. Teaching palaeogeology* and landscape processes at UWA.
00:12:50 The early years and development of career at UWA. Student course requirements. 24 hrs devoted to the subject. Joe Gentilly* and climate biogeography. Text books for school. Geography of Australia 3rd year. Applied Rural Geography. Convener of the Honours School.
00:17:30 Advance geomorphology and Physical and Human geography. Examining and running field work. Heavy teaching load comparisons today. Community of UWA academic staff. Changes.
00:21:26 Senior Lecturer and Head of Department. Salinity problems 70 in York Dalwallinu. Dave Murray*. The Agriculture Department and Harry Whittington*. Through flow water. Farmers and the agriculture department. People supporting farmer’s problem. PhD students and the mixing of the through flow model. Water salinity and the wheat belt.
00:28:30 Water supplies and global warming. Environmental impact and Martyn Webb.* Foresting and logging. First environmental impact statement 1974. Beth Shultz* and the south west forest defence. Karri forest being clear felled. Valentine. Sue Grist. Simon Neville.
00:34:45 UWA giving back to the community and the growth of the department. Becoming all consuming, Students couldn’t get jobs as people are opposed to comment. The Underwood tree. Woodchip. Support of big business. Getting into the environmental management.
00:39:40 Pedogeomorphic literature. Research in Israel and Reading. Old contact interaction and limited facilities. Meeting people in Israel. Interactions. Trent University and comparisons with the Canadian shield. Hydro geographical destruction and replanting. Competitive weed tree Marri.
00:46:45 Excess water and the water corporation. Senior Lecturer and Head of Department. 1970s and God Professors. VC Robert Street. Elected head 1977-9 David Murray. Appointed Chairs. Mike Taylor and John Dodson*. Preparing the texts for the first years. Duties shared.

Track 3
00:00:00 Queensland university experience brought to UWA. Election for the Head. Ian Elliot and Gentilly* – climatologist feels hard done by. School curriculum changed. Fire in the department. Becoming head for the second time. never keen on administration.
00:06:00 GIS in the department. David Treloar* - the whole submission. Special science at CURTIN. Third time as head. Things are falling apart. Alan Robson. Splitting of the old science faculty. Physical Life Sciences and Natural and Agricultural Sciences.
00:10:10 Faculty of Science. Alan Robson. Damage. Geography declines on a world scale. Martyn Webb brings in Asian geography.
00:15:05 Other problems from bad appointments. Matthew Tonts*. Dean of Faculty of Science and other positions. Responsibility for finances. Responsibilities. Geography out of Arts. Arts Faculty and Science. Awards for achievements. DSc. Joe Powell.
00:20:06 Senior Honorary Fellow. Publications and pressures of today. Public or perish. Publishing books Environment and Planning in Australia. Janet co-author. COMLAND Awards. IGU, International Geographical Union. Mike Meadows. Mediterranean and region study.
00:26:13 Publications. Environment problem solving, Tree and soil, sand seas in north China. Outcomes of COMLAND. Land use policies. The internationalisation of UWA. Working in China. Political problems.
00:30:40 Ranking and the Shanghai index. Based on reasonably objective data. Higher education ranking on an international scale.
00:33:13 Good career and memories of good field work. High powered academic exercise. Representative on international meetings. Korea, India, South America - Argentina. Catamarca* province and Buenos Aires*. Mexico City.
00:37:30 Summing up experience at UWA. Gardens and people, students. Looking to the university today and looking to the future. Specialising and being comprehensive. Old faculty and money. Money drives everything. Trying to lower teaching demands. Final words.



Conacher, Arthur, “Arthur Conacher interview, 5 September 2012,” UWA Historical Society: UWA Histories, accessed July 13, 2024,