Migrant Camp History author honoured for commitment to north east

By Simon Ruppert

Bruce Pennay, author of Benalla Migrant Camp: A Difficult Heritage, will be honoured with an Honorary Doctorate of Arts at a special ceremony at Charles Sturt University today (Wednesday, January 18)

Professor Pennay has worked at the University, primarily at it's Albury-Wodonga Campus, in some respect for more than 40 years.

He is receiving the Doctorate for his "professional and personal pursuits having aligned with the University’s goals of enriching the lives of regional Australians".

After more than two decades of work with the Uni, Professor Pennay has continued with the same length of service in post retirement.

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The University Council will recognise Professor Pennay’s exceptional achievement and service to the University and the Albury-Wodonga region by conferring the honour upon him at a graduation ceremony at Albury-Wodonga this morning.

In the citation supporting Professor Pennay’s nomination for the honour, it was noted that his professional and personal pursuits had aligned with the University’s goals of enriching the lives of regional Australians.

“Professor Bruce Pennay represents the values that Charles Sturt University promotes within the university and with our regional communities,” the citation read.

“He has for many years lived these values through his professional work and engagement with communities.

“His contributions in the Albury-Wodonga area support the values of the University and provide an invaluable link to the wider community.”

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Charles Sturt Vice-Chancellor Professor Andrew Vann said Professor Pennay was a worthy recipient of such a prestigious title.

“Professor Pennay’s service to the University, and his commitment to the community of Albury-Wodonga, are both on a scale that few others can match,” Professor Vann said.

“The mix of his scholarly work and community engagement activities have been to the benefit of countless colleagues, students and community groups.

“It is on behalf of Charles Sturt University and with no small amount of pride that I congratulate him on this recognition.”

When his full-time employment with the University ended after 22 years in 1998, Professor Pennay became an Adjunct Associate Professor and took up statewide responsibilities within history and heritage.

He served terms as a councillor of the Royal Australian Historical Society, and as an appointee on the NSW Heritage Council History Advisory Panel from 2004 to 2011.

In recent years Professor Pennay has published three histories, 12 academic journal articles and the same number of academic journal book reviews.

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He was a successful advocate in winning National Heritage listing for Bonegilla Migrant Camp and then State Heritage listing for Benalla Migrant Camp.

With support from councils and funding sponsorship from the Murray Darling Basin Authority, he arranged commemorative activities to mark the centenary of Hume Dam on November 28 last year.

The mini-conference he organised involved 10 speakers and attracted 200 people.

Professor Pennay said he was “pleased to be honoured”, but paid tribute to the efforts of others in furthering his career and his causes.

“I feel the award is also a recognition of the efforts of many people who struggled to secure and advance a higher education presence in Albury-Wodonga, and then helped establish a university campus engaged in developing a vibrant regional culture,” Professor Pennay said.

“I am grateful to the School of Environmental Sciences and the Institute of Land Water and Society, which have encouraged my interest in the historic environment and heritage.

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“I am also grateful to colleagues in other faculties and university units, which have collaborated with me in several really worthwhile projects.

“A wide set of fellow historians, museum and heritage place curators have helped me pursue and refine my interest in post-war immigration.

“That interest stems from my feeling that immigration is a central question of this time.

“This age is a time of people churn worldwide - it is appropriate to reflect on how the community went about and still goes about taking in strangers, at the neighbourhood level.”

The Honorary Doctorate will be conferred at the Charles Sturt graduation ceremony at 9.30 am today, Wednesday, December 18, at the Albury Entertainment Centre.