Issue 9 - 1 October 2012 enews home

History academic fondly remembered



The late Rev Dr Paul Webb ... valued member of the university community

A founding member of the University College of the Northern Territory, the Rev Dr Paul Webb, has died in Darwin, aged 80.

Dr Webb, who later became a leader in Southeast Asian Studies at the Northern Territory University, was a dedicated and valued member of the university community and will be remembered warmly by colleagues.

The history academic, author and human rights advocate died in Royal Darwin Hospital of cardiac failure on 7 September.

Associate Professor of Politics (retired) and long-term colleague Dennis Shoesmith has contributed the following obituary:

Paul was born in 1932 in England. He migrated to Australia and settled in the Northern Territory where he was an Anglican Bush Brother into the 1970s. He published a book "Brothers in the Sun" (1978) which is a history of the Brotherhood. He entered the Roman Catholic Church in 2001 and was ordained in 2003.

In the 1980s Paul completed a doctorate at James Cook University in Southeast Asian history. In 1987, he took up a position as Senior Lecturer in History with the new University College of the Northern Territory at Myilly Point, Darwin. The College amalgamated with the Darwin Institute of Technology in 1989, becoming the Northern Territory University (now Charles Darwin University).

He helped to establish Southeast Asian studies at the university and was director of the Centre for Southeast Asian Studies in the 1990s. He organised important conferences and seminars and the Centre produced a distinguished list of publications. He was the Associate Dean of the School of Southeast Asian Studies in the mid-1990s. His own publications were on church history, particularly in eastern Indonesia, and on Burma. Paul was an enthusiastic and caring teacher and will be remembered warmly by students and colleagues. He was a kind and good man, a practical man who led a busy and useful life.

Paul was an active advocate of human rights. He travelled in Thailand across the border into Burma to record the plight of Karen people under attack from the Burmese military. He was a long-standing advocate of democratic and human rights in Burma and founded and led a Burmese support group in Darwin. His annual Burmese dinners raised money to help children and displaced families in Burma. He appeared on behalf of Burmese asylum seekers in court. He had a Burmese family, a Burmese couple and their child.

In 1990-1991 he was active in a support group in Darwin for Cambodian boat people who had fled civil war in Cambodia.

Paul was also a life-long advocate of animal rights. His house was home to up to a dozen dogs and cats.

He will be sadly missed by many friends.