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New Chancellor alert! Who is Patricia Forsythe and why should I care?

View of Newcastle of University's City Campus. Sandstone wall with silver metal university logo and name, with the top four floor windows and a verandah in the background.

As Peter Hyslop writes, it’s the first time we’ve had a female chancellor since 1994.

It was a typical, run-of-the-mill Wednesday morning when all students pressed the delete button on a University email announcement. The only difference was, this email was announcing a new Chancellor. Here at Yak, we were the only ones to read the letter, so allow us to explain why it matters to you.

What’s a Chancellor, something that hangs off the ceiling?
No, that’s a chandelier. New Chancellor, pictured left, Chandelier, pictured right. But, hey, they are both symbols of status.

An image of Patricia Forsythe, next to a stock image of a chandelier

Newly appointed University of Newcastle Chancellor, Patricia Forsythe.

Why haven’t I heard of Patricia Forsythe?
You live under a rock.

The Hon. Patricia Forsythe AM served as the High Commissioner to New Zealand, in the Parliament of NSW as a Liberal member, and the Executive Director of the NSW Business Chamber, among many other things. She’s worn many hats. And to top that all off, Forsythe graduated from our University way back in the 70’s. Because most students were likely sucking their thumbs while she was making waves in the public service, it’s understandable this may be the first you’ve heard of her.

Political Career
Forsythe has been a member of the Liberal Party since 1968, joining as a school student. Since then she’s served as the NSW State Executive, on the Federal Council Delegate, and of course, in the state’s Legislative Council. In her first speech to parliament in 1991, she drew attention to the importance of selective schools and options in education and referenced the pride she took in the University.

During her time in parliament she was described as a moderate and spoke against voluntary student unionism – that is, the ability to opt out of paying for something like UNSA.

It doesn’t appear there are too many skeletons in her closet.

Why should I care?
That’s a good question. Contrary to popular belief, a University Chancellor does have a role to play in the strategic direction, management, research and finances of the institution. In this case, the Chancellor chairs the council, who collectively make these decisions in line with other governing bodies.

In short, the new Chancellor will have some control in what happens, so you may as well get to know her.

In a statement delivered to the media, Forsythe said our University is uniquely placed in a period of industrial change.

“In our region, the University’s role is as vital today as it was in the 1990’s, when Newcastle embraced a new vision and path forward following the closure of many steel manufacturing plants,” she said.

“The Hunter is currently undergoing a period of transition. Once the engine room of the state’s economy through mining and energy, the Hunter now must take advantage of emerging opportunities in industries such as renewable energy, technology, and defence,” Forsythe said.

It’s an important reflection as Newcastle goes through yet another period of industrial upheaval and change.

Feature Image by Leanne Elliot, Yak Writer 

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