Ken Pioneering PNG educational administrator, ASOPA alumni and one of Australia’s most distinguished educators, Prof Ken McKinnon, AO, will be the guest speaker at the October ASOPA reunion in Brisbane.

After attending Adelaide and Queensland universities, Ken decided to head for PNG, completing an ASOPA course from January to April 1954 before arriving in Port Moresby in May that year. He says now: “My Sydney sojourn came after two years at Oodnadatta, so was mostly a time for savouring the offerings of the city - not neglecting ASOPA luminaries such as James McAuley and Camilla Wedgewood.”

At the beginning of 1955 Ken was posted to Samarai as Area Education Officer, the beginning of a stellar career in educational administration. After completing a doctorate at Harvard University, he was appointed PNG Director of Education in 1966, occupying the position until 1973. These were the years of rapid expansion and professionalisation of education in the then Territory as it prepared for Independence in 1975.

C1985unesco_mckinnon_tn After leaving PNG, Ken became the first Chairman of the Australian Schools Commission (1973-81), which had been set up by the Whitlam Government. In 1981 he was appointed Vice-Chancellor of Wollongong University, a position he held until 1995. In this role he was credited with transforming the university into one of Australia’s leading campuses. During this period (1984-88), I served with him on the Australian National Commission for UNESCO when he was Chairman. [Photo: Ken with Gough Whitlam and then education minister Susan Ryan at a national commission meeting.]

Ken, a self-confessed press junkie, is now Chairman of the Australian Press Council, which  adjudicates on complaints from the public about bias and inappropriate publication. “To many individuals the press looms so powerful and so large that they feel the scales seem unequally weighted against them in making comment,” he says.


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