Professor Warren Bebbington

Welcome to my blog: I look forward to hearing from you and reading your comments about our University. I hope this becomes a great melting pot for intellectual ideas, views and debate and I welcome all of your contributions.

VC City to BaySunday was glorious weather for the annual City to Bay Fun Run, and it was a pleasure to join over 270 University of Adelaide staff and students who competed – I believe the largest team in the event.

Thanks to our sponsors, and also to those from Adelaide University Sport and the Engagement Branch who rose so early to make sure we were re-hydrated and re-carbed at the end!

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From the moment my youngest son entered primary school, it became clear he was different. Though he had no intellectual impairment, he could often not understand the teacher’s verbal instructions, his reading was slow and his speech at times repetitive and halting, he started to suffer high anxiety and became easily agitated. Outside the classroom, he could not follow the rules of team sport or even simple games, and he could make no friends. Though seemingly intelligent, mild-mannered and not physically unusual, he was avoided by other children and solitary. With the help of a child psychologist, we were able to diagnose him as having Asperger’s Syndrome, he was a high-functioning autistic.

Autism is a lifelong condition which affects an individual’s ability to communicate or form relationships with others. It is on the rise: for the State’s 12 year-old boys it now afflicts about one in 29.The diagnosis is doubling every five years.

A particular difficulty for ASD sufferers and their parents is that the condition is not obvious to teachers and other professionals, and diagnosis is based not on a blood test or objective screening, but on assessment of behavioural characteristics. Many go undiagnosed for years, enduring deep unhappiness and all manner of mistreatment.

Quickly reading all we could about the condition, my family began a protracted struggle to secure for my boy a worthwhile school experience. Generally, people with ASD experience poorer outcomes in schools than those with other disabilities: many teachers have little understanding of the condition, suspension and exclusion of an ASD child in difficulty tends to be overused, and one hears sometimes of extreme and controversial measures being taken by teachers faced with an ASD child in their class. Government-funded support from classroom aides is inadequate, and as we soon discovered, autism-friendly schools are rare.

My son was lucky that his parents could afford private carers, including a speech therapist, an occupational therapist, a paediatrician, special tutors, in-classroom aides, as well as a child psychologist. But even all of this was not enough to sustain him in a normal school: by Grade 5 he and his teachers had reached an impasse, and we realised he needed to be at a school for special needs children, where he remains today.

Being an ASD dad is many things: love and delight, concern and worry, and small victories hard won. Above all, you strive for your child to overcome his obstacles and have a fulfilling life, something you would do anything to make possible. Today, on Father’s Day, I will think of all those men who, like me, are learning to be a parent to a special needs child.


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Premier Weatherill, President Tan and Vice-Chancellor Bebbington

Premier Weatherill, President Tan and Vice-Chancellor Bebbington

On Monday, I joined Premier Jay Weatherill in announcing a new series of postgraduate scholarships in sciences and mathematics in honour of Singaporean President, and University of Adelaide distinguished alumnus, President Tony Tan.

The new scholarships will give postgraduate research students from Singapore the chance to live and study in South Australia—the University will waive student fees for the successful recipient to a value of $24,000 per year for three years (total $72,000) and the State Government will provide $5,000 per year.

We presented President Tan with a certificate to mark the scholarships and celebrate the strong ties between the University and Singapore built over the past half century.

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The growth of families in Asia affluent enough to send their children to universities abroad will continue to be extraordinarily rapid for the next decade. What is not clear is where they will choose to send them, and I so welcome the State Government’s commitment to making Adelaide an energetic and vibrant destination for international […]

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In the midst of a cold, wet Adelaide winter, it is simply unfathomable that anyone should be sleeping rough in our city. And yet more than 6000 members of our local community are doing just that every year. This morning, 50 members of staff joined me, the Chancellor and over 2000 fellow South Australians to […]

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I spent the morning today at the Elder Conservatorium of Music, teaching second and third-year students about Mozart and Wagner opera, as part of the course, Music and Ideology. Ever since leaving an academic role for university leadership I have tried to keep at least some contact with students and my discipline: and indeed, most […]

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The coming decade is likely to see step change expansion in Asian student mobility throughout the world. But if Australia is to capture its share of the growth, it will need to improve the student experience it offers, and avoid diminishing the reputation for university quality on which its success depends. This year, Australia will […]

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I was pleased to talk with Radio Adelaide’s Ewart Shaw about our Experience Adelaide initiative which connects international students with local alumni, domestic students and staff families. You can listen to the podcast or visit our Experience Adelaide website for more information on participating in this wonderful program. –wb

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CEDA – State of the State luncheon address by Professor Warren Bebbington Adelaide Festival Centre Tuesday 9 June 2015 Transcript  — check against delivery— Craig [Craig Lockhart, Chief Executive Officer, Babcock Australia] began by telling us which “Babcocks” he gets confused with. I can assure you with a name like “Bebbington” you never get confused with […]

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On Saturday, we commemorate the passing of 100 years since the ill-fated landing of Australian and New Zealand troops at Gallipoli on 25 April 1915. Their hope had been to charge across Turkey, take Constantinople and thus defeat the Ottoman Empire, ally of Germany, in the First World War. In the event, the landing was […]

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