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Giese, Nancy (1922 - 2012)

AO, OBE, MBE

Born
31 January 1922
Brisbane, Queensland, Australia
Died
8 May 2012
Darwin, Northern Territory
Occupation
Community Leader and Educator
Alternative Names
  • Giese, Nan (Preferred)
  • Wilson, Nancy (maiden name, 31 January 1922 - 4 May 1946)

Summary

Dr Nancy (Nan) Giese was a pioneer of education and the visual and performing arts in the Northern Territory. She was strongly involved in planning and setting up the first tertiary institutions and for ten years was elected Chancellor of the Northern Territory University, now Charles Darwin University.

Details

Born in 1922 in Brisbane, Queensland, to Robert and Daisy Wilson, Nancy Giese was a champion of education and the arts and one of the Northern Territory's most important leaders. The extent of her contribution to community life is reflected in the numerous honours she received, culminating in her 2004 award of Doctor of Education, honoris causa, from the university she was instrumental in founding, and which she served as Chancellor for ten years. The citation described her as 'a true pioneer within our community, recognizing needs and then taking the lead in the creation of amenities and institutions to meet those needs.' Other awards include Officer of the Order of Australia in 1997, OBE in 1977, the Centenary Medal and the Administrator's Medal in 2003, and Tribute to Northern Territory Women in 2005.

Educated at Brisbane Girls' Grammar School and the University of Queensland, as a young teacher she joined the flying squad travelling around the state's schools promoting health and fitness. Her boss was Harry Giese, the first Queensland Director of Physical Education (1944-47), whom she married in 1946. Their dynamic partnership powered their years in Darwin from 1954, through pioneering initiatives in education and health.

Nan Giese saw immediately that families were leaving the Northern Territory, 'good citizens lost to a developing society that badly needed them', because their children could not matriculate. She lobbied tirelessly for full secondary education and for 'amenities that were the most modern in Australia when they were built', as Trevor Read, Principal of Darwin High School, noted. She became a key member of groups such as the Graduates' Association demanding tertiary education for Territory students as part of the full range of opportunities from pre-school to post-graduate research available to other Australians. In the late 1960s a Commonwealth government report looked to the successful American model of community colleges, and recommended an independent tertiary institution which could offer both higher education and technical courses. She was a member of the planning committee and later Chair of the Council of the Darwin Community College (DCC), the prototype community college in Australia. Its labs and trade workshops, classrooms, art studios, a library, a theatre and student accommodation, opened in 1974. At the end of that year, Cyclone Tracy swept them all away.

But this was just the beginning. Nan Giese and others persisted, and in January 1989 the Institute of Technology that succeeded the DCC amalgamated with the embryo University College to form the Northern Territory University, now Charles Darwin University. Bridging courses and scholarships for Indigenous people were set up and education for regional and remote areas became a priority.
From the 1960s, Nan Giese was on the founding committees and led arts organizations such as the Arts Council of the Northern Territory, the Darwin Performing Arts Centre Board and the Museums and Art Galleries Board of the Northern Territory. The Arts Council flew in international groups from the Barangay Dancers from the Philippines to the Polish Chamber Orchestra, and toured them throughout the Territory from Milingimbi to Alice Springs. The performing arts centre and the waterside museum and art gallery opened just after Territory self-government. They are large and beautiful buildings and thriving community hubs. They enhance the modern city that has replaced the post-War frontier town of Darwin.

In all these initiatives 'there seems to be this one link, this thread right through from the beginning, the one person who's been a driving force through all those years when others have come and gone, either left Darwin or given up', said Nan's friend and fellow pioneer of Territory tertiary education, Joyce Cheong Chin.

Events

31 January 1922
Born the daughter of R. Wilson
1938 - 1946
Teacher, Queensland Education Department
4 May 1946
Married Harry Christian Giese
1954
Moved with family to Darwin, Northern Territory
1964 - 2000s
Founding committee member of the Museums and Art Galleries Board, Northern Territory
1968 - 1972
Vice-President of the North Australian Eisteddfod Council
1968 - 1983
Founding committee member of the Arts Council of the Northern Territory
1969 - 1971
Committee member of the Darwin Community College
1969 - 1973
Member of the Darwin Hospital Advisory Board
1970 - 1972
President of the National Council of Women, Northern Terrority
1 January 1971
Appointed Member of the Order of the British Empire (Civil)
1972 - 1976
Member of the Darwin Community College Interim Council
1972 - 1985
President of the Arts Council, Northern Territory
1975 - 1980
Vice-President of the Arts Council Australia; also served on Music Board
1976 - 1985
Chairman of the Darwin Community College Council
31 December 1977
Appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (Civil)
1983 - 1985
Commissioner of the Northern Territory Vocational Training Commission
1984 - 1993
Director of the Darwin Performing Arts Centre Board
1989 - 1993
Deputy Chancellor of the Northern Territory University
1993
Life member of Darwin Performing Arts Centre Board
1993 - 2004
Chancellor of the Northern Territory University
9 June 1997
Appointed Officer of the Order of Australia (AO)
2001
Northern Territory Senior Australian of the Year
2004
Doctor of Education, honoris causa, Northern Territory University

Sources used to compile this entry: Herd, Margaret (ed.), Who's Who in Australia 2002, 38 edn, Crown Content, Melbourne, 2002, 2020 pp; Additional sources: Celebration of the Life of Nancy Giese, in private hands. Records from Charles Darwin University including: Doctor of Education honoris causa Citation dated 2004 in the Nancy Giese Collection. Program for the official opening of Darwin Community College by Prince Philip dated 10 March 1974.

Related entries

Membership

Archival resources

Charles Darwin University Library

Nikki Henningham

Site-wide information and acknowledgements

National Foundation for Australian Women The University of Melbourne, eScholarship Research Centre

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