Farewell to an outstanding colleague

Published: Wednesday 9th March 2016

Message from Associate Vice-Chancellor NSW/ACT Professor Marea Nicholson: We are blessed at ACU with many dedicated and talented staff members. Our 25th Anniversary last year highlighted the number of staff members who have travelled with ACU throughout its journey, many of those serving in our predecessor colleges prior to the University’s formation. This month we farewelled long time ACU academic Professor Graham Rossiter from the Faculty of Education and Arts.

Professor Graham Rossiter’s career illustrates a life dedicated to the intellectual, the commitment of a scholar and the passion for a discipline. Importantly, he has been a valuable colleague, mentor and friend to many in academia, schools and amongst his students. This is the mark of a truly rounded and deeply Christian man.

He has communicated not only the power of the intellectual life in Religious Education but also the passion, hope and joy that is an essential part of a discipline that seeks to stand at the heart of the communication of the life of Christ to each generation in new and innovative ways.

It has been said that Graham is a man slightly out of phase with the prevailing winds: he is a scientist who pursued the quest to demonstrate that religious perspectives, religious education and theology could be conducted rationally without being opposed to science, scientific discoveries or the scientific method.

It may have surprised a number of people that Graham took up the serious study of Religious Education – however, since his scientific field was concentrated on the larval development of parasites, it may not be such a surprise after all.

Various leadership roles during his years at ACU have included Head of School, Leader of Department and Director of Flagship and Centre. However regardless of his role, Graham was passionate about the key role that ACU has for supporting the enterprise of teaching religion in Catholic school systems throughout Australia.

Graham’s great academic legacy is the task of moving Religious Education from the poles around which it gravitated in the 1970’s – either doctrinaire catechesis or meaningless candle gazing in the guise of seeking one’s inner depths. Instead Graham proposed that Religious should be required to hold its own among the academic disciplines within School Education.

Today this is taken for granted, but when Graham commenced his work the idea that there would be Religious Education departments within Schools was completely foreign as was the idea that the staff should be trained in the academic discipline appropriate to their pedagogical domain. Religious Education at the time was simply an extension of the Sunday homily and correct doctrinal practice – not a discipline requiring serious academic skill and application.

He is the author of over 195 scholarly articles, resources, reports, chapters and books.  He has contributed to the education of vast numbers of teachers in Catholic Schools in NSW and beyond. Throughout he has been focused on the central question for humanity – the quest for identity and for how to live.

Graham’s contributions should be lauded for this alone – but it is the fact that he has persevered in the discipline arguing its centrality, its breadth and its importance for over 40 years that demonstrate how important his work has been.

Above all, he has been a good friend to so many still at ACU and those who have gone before.

We wish Graham all the best in his retirement and thank him for his outstanding contribution to ACU and Religious Education.