Nancy (Nan) Giese
Nancy (Nan) Giese AO OBE (1922-2012) was a ‘true pioneer’ of tertiary and secondary education in the Northern Territory. As the 2004 citation for her Doctor of Education honoris causa said, she recognised community needs, ‘taking the lead in the creation of amenities and institutions’ to meet them.
Educated at Brisbane Girls’ Grammar School and the University of Queensland, she arrived in the Northern Territory in 1954, with her husband Harry and two children. She saw immediately that families like hers were leaving the Territory because their children could not matriculate, ‘good citizens lost to a developing society that badly needed them’. She led committees lobbying 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.
From the 1960s, 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. In 1974, its labs, trade workshops, classrooms, art studios, library, theatre and student accommodation were opened. At the end of that year, Cyclone Tracy swept them all away.
But Nan Giese and her steadfast colleagues did not give up. DCC teaching resumed in temporary accommodation. By January 1989, the Darwin Institute of Technology that had succeeded it was able to amalgamate with the embryo University College, to form the Northern Territory University, then Charles Darwin University (CDU). Bridging courses and scholarships for Aboriginal people were set up, and education for regional and remote areas became a priority.
In 1993, Nan Giese succeeded Austin Asche AO to become the second Chancellor of CDU. As Chancellor for 10 years (1993-2004), she was instrumental in establishing and guiding the University’s extensive art collection and fostering its musical life. She was also Chair of the University Foundation that raised funds for research and teaching projects. In 2009, CDU made her Emeritus Chancellor, in recognition of her long service in university governance.
From the 1960s, Nan Giese was on founding committees and led organisations such as the Arts Council of the Northern Territory (1972-85), the Darwin Performing Arts Centre (1984-93) and the Museums and Art Galleries Board (1964-2000s). She also served nationally on the Music Board of the Australia Council.
When she died in 2012, the Northern Territory News opened its pages to comments from those who had known and worked with her. They include: ‘She achieved an enormous amount for the people of the Northern Territory'; ‘generous, gracious and enlightening in sharing her knowledge’; ‘She made it possible for many lives to change, and helped many others fulfill their dreams.’
KeywordsEducationArts and cultureDarwin Community CollegeDarwin Institute of TechnologyNorthern Territory UniversityCharles Darwin UniversityWomenNorthern Territory HistoryCollectionNancy (Nan) Giese Collection
Letter from Minister for Education confirming Nan Giese’s reappointment as member and Chairman of the NT Council of Advanced Education for the period Jan 1988 – Jan 1991
‘Community Development Minister, Mr Marshall Perron […] who officially opened the new computer centre, with college officials’
Address to Aboriginal Health Conference at NTU, 'Aboriginal Health - Social and Cultural Transitions: Initiatives in Social Research, Health Care and Community Action', 1995