Vale Emeritus Professor Dean Jaensch AO

12 April, 2022

Vale Emeritus Professor Dean Jaensch AO (1936-2022)

The Australian Political Studies Association is deeply saddened to note the death in January of Emeritus Professor Dean Jaensch AO. It is impossible to overstate Dean’s contributions to the Association, let alone to the study of Australian politics and the political science profession in general. His teaching and writing about Australian politics helped shape the political knowledge of generations of politics students and citizens alike. For the best part of four decades he provided political analysis and commentary on ABC radio and television, commercial radio and occasional columns for the Adelaide Advertiser; indeed for many in South Australia Dean was the voice of politics. In 2010 Flinders University established the Dean Jaensch Scholarship to encourage students to pursue Honours level study in Politics and Public Policy. Dean was further honoured by the university in 2013 when it established the Dean Jaensch Annual Lecture.

Born in Kapunda (South Australia) in 1936, Dean grew up in and around the Clare valley. He trained as a teacher and subsequently taught in a number of rural schools before enrolling in postgraduate studies at the University of Adelaide and gaining an MA and a PhD. He took up an academic position teaching politics at Flinders University, where he remained until his retirement in 2001. Subsequently the university honoured him with Emeritus status and appointment him as an Adjunct Professor to the Discipline of Politics and Public Policy. In the intervening decades Dean produced a formidable body of work encompassing research books, textbooks, journal articles, and various writings for the media. His interests spanned the full gamut of Australian politics: elections and electoral politics, political parties and the party system, and the nature of parliament and political structures at the state and federal levels. He also had a special interest in documenting the politics of the Northern Territory.

A number of Dean’s works were written specifically as textbooks, for example Power Politics: Australia’s Party System (3 editions); and two editions respectively The Politics of Australia; An Introduction to Australian Politics; and Parliament, Parties & People: Australian Politics Today. Several of these found widespread adoption in numerous Australian universities and senior high schools. One of the strengths of Dean’s textbooks was that they were very carefully crafted to be accessible for his anticipated target readership. 

Other research works contributed to key debates within the field such as the transformation of the Australian Labor Party under the leadership of Bob Hawke (The Hawke-Keating Hijack, 1989), and the disaffection with the two major parties (A Plague on Both Your Houses, co-authored 1998). During the mid-1980s he also collaborated with two different scholars to produce an introductory book on Australian politics from a foreign policy perspective, and another aimed at developing a more theoretically oriented approach to understanding the dynamics of Australian politics. He also edited the Flinders History of South Australia: Political History. Also worth noting is that his coedited Macmillan Dictionary of Australian Politics ran to four editions.

In addition to teaching and writing about Australian politics Dean actively promoted the discipline of political science, broadly defined. He was especially active in contributing to the life of APSA. While Dean was a relative latecomer to APSA’s founding generation, he quickly became an APSA stalwart. In 1976 and for several years following, Dean became the editor of Politics (the forerunner to the Australian Journal of Political Science). As the journal editor he also had the task of editing APSA monographs, about ten during his tenure. He also ensured that a path-breaking survey, “Women in the Political Science Profession”, was published under the journal’s imprimatur as a free-standing supplement to the first issue of 1980.

With the editorship of the journal Dean inherited the management of APSA as an organisation. In those days the APSA “office” was wherever the journal editor was based. And so in addition to overseeing the journal, he also had to manage everything that went with the association itself such as membership queries, subscriptions, newsletters, and anything else that came across his desk. Some of the flavour of this is captured in an essay Dean wrote for the edited collection, The Australian Study of Politics (2009). While his “management” role might have ceased when he handed over the editorship of Politics (c.1982), the experience did not deter him from becoming APSA’s twenty-third President in 1987-88.

In all his roles, Dean gave unstintingly. His generosity was widely appreciated by colleagues and students alike. It was never too much trouble for him to make time to field a question from a student or a colleague, or to give meaningful and constructive feedback to his graduate students. Dean was a respectful, decent human being who remains a respected political scientist. Not one to suffer fools gladly, he was always quick to offer support wherever (and whenever) it was needed. His wry smile, knockabout sense of humour, and sense of justice and fair play will be sorely missed.

Emeritus Professor Jim Jose

President , Australian Political Studies Association

(On behalf of the Executive Committee of APSA)

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