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Gardener's Corner ~ 5

From Peter Kearns AM


A Tribute to Chris Duke

I first met Chris a long time ago when he was the director of the ANU Centre for Continuing Education, and I was a public servant with educational responsibilities in the ACT. I was impressed at that stage by his energy in gaining business for the Centre.

Some years later, I found that this energy was driven by a creative spirit always alert to new ways to address the big issues that blocked our search for a better world. This aspect of Chris was evident following an OECD CERI conference in Melbourne that led to the establishment of the PASCAL International Observatory with Jarl Bengtsson as chairman of the board, and Chris as the livewire executive driver.

While Chris has other achievements such as PIMA, I regard PASCAL as the most significant innovation he was involved in, particularly in the early years before other developments such as the UNESCO Institute for Lifelong Learning came into the learning city area that PASCAL had developed through PIE.

My life experience has suggested that creative people occur in small groups at particular times that are ripe for innovation. An Australian example is the influence of the “seven dwarfs” in administrative leadership after World War 2, in changing Australia in key respects. The influence of “the dwarfs” such as Nugget Coombs, Jack Crawford, and Fred Wheeler illustrates their great contribution to Australian development across a number of sectors.

Similarly, the world in the 1970s and 1980s was ripe for new and more flexible approaches to education and learning, and for leaders such as Chris Duke and Jarl Bengtsson to provide new ways, including more intensive collaboration in education between countries. Ideas such as recurrent education, learning cities and communities emerged in this environment, but much remains to be done, and a new generation of leaders is now imperative.

Chris has contributed much to connecting adult education in Australia to Asian and Pacific countries. When I think of Chris, I ponder the African word “ubuntu” which means “humanity” or “I am because you are” with tribal differences, and I think of the great African humanists such as Nelson Mandela, Desmond Tutu, and Julius Nyerere.

We need heroes to build our sense of our common humanity. Chris in my experience belongs to this tribe, along with my other heroes such as Peter Karmel, Jarl Bengtsson, and George Papadopoulos.

Stephen Hawking is another of this tribe, so I will finish with his words.

So remember to look at the stars, and not down at your feet. Try to make sense at all you see and hold on with childlike wonder about what makes the universe exist.

Not a bad summing up of Chris Duke.

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