Graeme Hugo’s sudden demise has cut deeply into my being. It is also a tragedy for the University of Adelaide and Australia in general. As his lengthy list of publications, the awards he has received and his services to Australian academia in numerous boards indicate, Graeme Hugo was a man of enormous energy and varied talents.
I go further: he was a renaissance man. Such a word-picture may seem an unlikely epitaph for a demographer, but he was no ordinary number cruncher. I believe that in his younger days he had been a “boat person” experiencing the illegal movement of Indonesian to neighbouring Malaysia. In this sense he was not just an armchair researcher, but also an ethnographer who knew what fieldwork was and is.
Graeme was at Flinders University when we first met in those halcyon days of the late 1970s and 1980s when the academic exchanges between Adelaide University and Flinders University were as considerable as sociable (alas no more). Though he lived in a neighbouring suburb, our exchanges then were casual at best. These exchanges improved in spurts when he moved to Adelaide University and especially when he supervised the postgrad work of a bright young lecturer from Colombo University whom I knew.
Our interests began to overlap about five years back when he delivered an outstanding public lecture on Australia’s demographic trends. For me his messages were an eye-opener. They meshed with my interest in the heightened debate on “boat people” and migration. They informed my writings on the strident Australian media reports on these issues. I consulted Graeme on several occasions and record here that he was highly critical of both governmental and civil libertarian spins on this complex topic.
As the organisational changes at Adelaide University saw Graeme’s office located in the east wing ground floor of Napier Building our interaction increased, sometimes in chance meetings, but also when I popped into his office for ‘sustenance.’ Graeme Hugo, let me suggest, was a workaholic, whose workaholic office was invariably a mess of files, books and what-have-you. As with many a productive genius I believe that he could unerringly navigate his way through the confusion to any document he required!
Graeme Hugo was not all work and no play. I dropped into his office on occasions to talk cricket — a field which he followed avidly. Our chats in this field were always lively. Just one month back we two were in full agreement on a hot topic: India’s asinine and stupid refusal to adopt the DRS technology in monitoring umpiring decisions. Both of us, moreover, had happened to hear Harsha Bhogle’s defence of this policy on ABC Grandstand radio commentary. In unison both of were shocked that such an engaging and intelligent commentator as Bhogle could descend to specious arguments in defence of pigheaded idiocy from a hegemonic force in the green fields of cricket.
That is why I insist that my friend Graeme was a renaissance man. And, YES, he remains one yet……. Michael Roberts
A Public Notice: ONE
ONE of Adelaide University’s most respected academics and public intellectuals, demographer Professor Graeme Hugo (AO), has died. A university spokeswoman said he had passed away after a “very short” battle with cancer.
Vice-Chancellor Warren Bebbington has paid tribute to the prolific researcher and author. “We are deeply saddened by the untimely passing of our esteemed colleague, researcher Professor Graeme Hugo,” he said. “A man of enormous intellect and vision, Professor Hugo shared his knowledge so generously — his unique contribution to the way we understand our society, in Australia and internationally, is a remarkable and enduring legacy.He will be sadly missed by the University of Adelaide community.”
The spokeswoman added that Prof Hugo was “one of the most respected professors at the university” and “probably one of the most well travelled and well recognised”.
In 2012 Prof Hugo was named an Officer of the Order of Australia (AO) for distinguished service to population research, particularly the study of international migration, population geography and mobility, and for leadership roles with national and international organisations.
He was Professor of Geography and Director of the Australian Population and Migration Research Centre at Adelaide University, as well as an Australian Research Council Australian Professorial Fellow.
The author of more than 400 books, journal articles and book chapters, as well as numerous conference papers and reports, was also a regular media commentator.
Prof Hugo held an ARC Federation Fellowship between 2002 and 2007 and had a number of positions with Federal Government agencies and committees. He was appointed deputy chair of the Aged Care Financing Authority and a member of the National Sustainability Council in 2012, and was also a member of the Australian Statistical Advisory Committee.
ANOTHER NOTICE: TWO …. RENOWNED demographer Graeme Hugo has died after a short battle with cancer. The University of Adelaide professor, who was 68, also was director of the Australian Migration and Population Research Centre. He was named an Officer of the Order of Australia for his services to population research in 2012.
An author of more than 400 books, journal articles and book chapters — many of which recently focused on problems faced by jobseekers from non-English speaking backgrounds — Professor Hugo was a regular voice on radio as a social commentator.
South Australian Premier Jay Weatherill yesterday said Professor Hugo’s death was an “enormous loss to South Australia and the nation”. “Mr Hugo was an international thinker of the highest calibre and was greatly respected,” Mr Weatherill said. “I regarded him as a friend and I am deeply saddened at his passing.”
University of Adelaide Vice-Chancellor Warren Bebbington said Professor Hugo was an intellectual giant who would be missed by the academic community. “We are deeply saddened by the untimely passing of our esteemed colleague, researcher Professor Graeme Hugo AO,” Professor Bebbington said.
“A man of enormous intellect and vision, Professor Hugo shared his knowledge so generously — his unique contribution to the way we understand our society, in Australia and internationally, is a remarkable and enduring legacy.”
The university’s acting deputy vice-chancellor of research, Richard Russell, said Professor Hugo had shared his knowledge with young people from around the world, particularly in Indonesia where he had a “deep connection … his legacy will live on through his students and that’s not such a bad way to be remembered in this world”.
Professor Hugo held an ARC Federation Fellowship between 2002 and 2007 and had several positions with government agencies and committees. He was appointed deputy chair of the Aged Care Financing Authority and was a member of the National Sustainability Council in 2012.