Passionate educator delighted by award

Passionate educator delighted by award
Brendan Rees

A Parkville woman who has devoted nearly half a century of her working life to environmental education has been appointed a Member of the Order of Australia (OAM).

Annette Gough, a professor emerita in the School of Education at RMIT University, said she was passionate about teacher education because “a good teacher can make such a difference to a student’s learning, or not – they can open up horizons for students and encourage their passions”.

When told of her prestigious award, which was part of this year’s Australia Day Honours List, that recognised her service to tertiary and environmental education, she said she was honoured and humbled.

“I am delighted to be a woman being recognised with an award, and to see the field I have worked in for the past nearly 50 years – environmental education – being seen as worthy of recognition,” she said.

Though it was one that took her by surprise, she said, admitting that when she was first notified of the award by email, she had “trouble believing it”.

“It was a huge surprise. I never expected to be recognised by such an honour. And then I wondered who had nominated me and if I could not tell anyone before it was announced on January 26! I also wished my parents were still alive as they would have been so proud of me.”


But she added, “Can I say that I just wish it was not an Australia Day award. As long-time recogniser of today as Invasion Day, I stand in solidarity with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to honour their survival in the face of over two hundred years of colonisation.”


Prof Gough said she was driven to “do education differently” by “leading students to learn through asking questions and pursuing their own interests within the parameters of what is possible.”

Prof Gough began her career as a secondary school science and geography teacher, before leaving the classroom to work in the dissemination of the Australian Science Education Project materials, which she saw “as a much better way to get students to engage with science in a creative way, compared with the textbook science that most student experience”.

Career highlights include being seconded to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) regional office in Bangkok to work on training materials on environmental education for environment ministries.

She also led the Australian delegation to the 1987 UNESCO-UNEP international congress on environmental education and training in Moscow in the then USSR.

“During my time in the department I was elected as Australia’s first female president of the Australian Association for Environmental Education,” she said.

In 2005, Prof Gough became a Professor of Science and Environmental Education and Dean of the School of Education at RMIT University where she introduced some innovative double degree programs in disability studies teacher education and science teacher education as well as engage in environmental education research projects.

But she conceded her lifelong commitment to education “would not have been able to do a lot of what I have achieved without having a very supportive partner, in my case Emeritus Professor Noel Gough, and amenable children who were happy to travel (and sometimes go to school) overseas while we taught at other universities, participated in conferences, or engaged in research projects.” 

Since “retiring” from RMIT, Prof Gough has continued to supervise doctoral students, teach at The Education University of Hong Kong, co-edit a book series for Springer Nature, and write journal articles and book chapters.

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