Vale Professor Marian Simms

10 May, 2021

Vale Professor Marian Simms

The Australian Political Studies Association is deeply saddened to hear of the death of Professor Marian Simms, one of the giants of Australian Political Science, and a trailblazer for women as subjects and practitioners of political science. With Marian Sawer, she wrote the pioneering account of women in Australian politics, A Woman’s Place (1984; second edition 1993). Marian was a deeply loved colleague, whose formidable expertise and experience was complemented by a fierce commitment to her profession, and a wicked sense of humour.

Professor Simms studied and worked at a range of Australasian universities throughout her career, in all cases leaving a legacy of innovative research, inclusive scholarship and inspiring teaching across a number of fields including gender studies and political science, ethics governance and Indigenous research policy. She was an influential figure in the study of Australian party politics, as author of A Liberal Nation (1982) and editor of The Paradox of Parties (1997), and as co-editor of six of the volumes analysing Australian federal elections between 1996 and 2019. Her scholarship was and is internationally acclaimed and she contributed to the development of gender studies in political sciences globally including the establishment of the Gender, Globalization and Democratization Committee of the International Social Science Council (ISSC) in 1998, and the Globalization, Gender and Democratization Research Committee of the International Political Science Association (IPSA) in 2002. In 2003 she was awarded the Centenary Medal for her contribution made to Australian society, specifically for her research on the 1901 election.

Professor Simms’s academic career was marked by a series of firsts, perhaps most notably the first woman to serve as Chair in Political Studies and Head of Department at the University of Otago in Dunedin, New Zealand. As Head, Marian was ambitious for the Department and took considerable pride in the achievements of its academic staff as well as the significant expansion of student enrolments during her watch. She was an extraordinary networker – she was outstanding at getting students placements for work experience and internships.

In all her roles she demonstrated a capacity for meaningful and productive collaboration, which strengthened the academy, and the public service. This was also evident in her activity outside academia including her appointment as Executive Director, Social, Behavioural and Economic Sciences at the Australian Research Council (ARC).

As members are aware Marian was a powerful force for our Association. She was a former president (1992-3), a former editor of the Australian Journal of Political Science over two periods (1987-90; 2011-2016), and a keen supporter of the APSA Women’s Caucus from its inception. Marian was committed to finding ways of making gender visible in the academy, and she initiated what are now firmly embedded practices of accounting for research grants, publications, and presence in the academy based on gender.

Marian remained active as a mentor, colleague and critical friend in her later years, and she will be greatly missed by all those who knew her. We continue to benefit from the extraordinary work she did as a scholar and administrator, and the Association will consult on an appropriate way to honour her life and legacy.

Professor Helen Sullivan

President, Australian Political Studies Association

(On behalf of the Executive Committee of APSA)

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