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A tribute to...

Dr Patricia Kelly

Published: Mon 6th Jan 2020

DR Patricia Kelly was a gifted teacher and a dedicated mentor of other educators, at school and university level. She was one of only three Australians to be elected Senior Fellows of the UK Staff Education and Development Association and continued working at the University of South Australia until her untimely passing away.

She obtained a BA and Dip. Ed. from University of Adelaide and taught in SA secondary schools such as Campbelltown High and Thebarton High from 1970. An impressive actor, she also appeared in the 1970s for Troupe, Guttersnipe Theatre and women's theatre productions in Adelaide. She was finally part of a famous joint production with Indigenous women, Is this Seat Taken, which packed the Space Theatre night after night in the 1980s.

She had a natural talent for languages, studying Russian in Adelaide, Greek in Thessaloniki and Indonesian in Salatiga. These attributes were combined with her interests in theatre and education when she negotiated and organised a tour of China by the Bell Shakespeare Company, then taught in a Chinese high school for six months.

While Education Officer for the SA Film and Video Centre, she completed a Graduate Diploma in Media under the auspices of the Australian Film, Television and Radio School, then obtained an MA from Murdoch University for a thesis analysing the TV series Embassy. She also developed a national video resource guide for the Commission for the Future.

After a few years as a language advisor to overseas students at Flinders University, she moved to Queensland University of Technology as a lecturer in cross-cultural curriculum development. There she worked with engineering academics to broaden undergraduate education. That project led to her being awarded a PhD and a book based on her doctoral research, Towards Globo Sapiens: Transforming Learners in Higher Education. The book is still available on-line and her thesis continues to be downloaded about 100 times a year. She published widely around the broad theme of educating to improve possible futures and in 2007 was invited to join the editorial board of a major international journal, Journal of Futures Studies. Her notion of globo sapiens, a wise global citizen who understands the impact of their work on communities and the planet, has been widely accepted as a desirable goal of education.

In 2011, having negotiated early retirement from QUT, she began working in transformative education with engineering and IT students at the University of South Australia. She was a key member of a team than won a national Citation for Outstanding Contribution to Student Learning.

As a child, she had spent every summer at Sellicks Beach, and she returned there to live in her last years. Knowing intimately how it had changed over her lifetime, she was a tireless campaigner for the local environment, especially her beloved Sellicks Beach and the nearby Washpool. In her later years, she did an impressive number of long walks including all of the Great Walks of New Zealand, the Tour of Mont Blanc, the UK Coast to Coast walk and no fewer than eight of the Caminos to the Spanish city of Santiago de Compostela.

She was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2015 but continued to work and do long walks as she underwent chemotherapy, major surgery and trials of an experimental immunotherapy treatment.

She leaves a son, Dr Daniel Varma, a life partner, Prof. Ian Lowe, two sisters, Aileen Coates and Nancy McWaters, and a brother, Jim Kelly.


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