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Graeme Hugo

Professor Graeme Hugo AO from the University of Adelaide, one of Australia’s leading geographers and a world authority on demography and migration, passed away on January 20, 2015, at the age of 68 after a short illness.

Graeme John Hugo was born on December 5, 1946, and grew up in Adelaide. His academic studies began with a BA at the University of Adelaide. He then stayed in Adelaide but moved to Flinders University where he spent 3 years as a Tutor in geography and completed an MA (1972). Next he moved to the Australian National University (ANU) in Canberra for a PhD (1975), his thesis investigating circular migration in West Java. At that time ANU had just commenced its strong focus upon the demography of Indonesia and Hugo’s research played a role in developing this.

After completing his doctorate, Hugo returned to Flinders University where he stayed from 1975 to 1991, rising through the academic ranks. He was instrumental in establishing the postgraduate program in Applied Population Studies and also made significant contributions to the National Institute of Labour Studies based at the university. During this time he also held visiting positions overseas at Hasanuddin University, Indonesia (1977-78), University of Iowa, USA (1985), University of Hawaii (1988), and University of Auckland (1989).

In 1991 Hugo was appointed Professor of Geography at the University of Adelaide, and served as head of the department from 1992 to 1996. He also had a stint as a Visiting Scholar at the United Nations Population Division in New York. In 1996 he became Director of the university’s National Centre for Social Applications of GIS, and in 2012 the Director of its new Australian Population and Migration Research Centre.  

Hugo’s academic career was spent studying migration, mobility and development in Australia and Southeast Asia, particularly Indonesia. He was interested in both international and internal migration, its changing patterns and causes, the implications for social and economic change, and the role and contribution of migrants and refugees in a multicultural society. A colleague noted his ability to think outside the box, and in so doing seed new subfields within migration studies, almost effortlessly.

His publications output was prolific. He produced more than 30 books, about 200 refereed articles, and over 250 book chapters, as well as over 1,000 conference papers, 20 plenary addresses, 120 reports and over 30 book reviews, with many more in progress at the time of his death. The latter included an entry on “Population Geography” for the AAG’s forthcoming International Encyclopedia of Geography.

Hugo’s work led to a much more sophisticated understanding of the theory and practice of migration in the Asia-Pacific region. His scholarship has been well cited, perhaps most notably the books The Demographic Dimension in Indonesian Development (1987) with Terry and Valerie Hull and Gavin Jones, and Worlds in Motion: Understanding International Migration at the End of the Millennium (1998) with Douglas Massey and others.

Hugo was renowned for his willingness to pitch in when others of a similar rank would decline, for example, teaching first year classes and marking their exams, reviewing papers for an astonishing 53 different journals, and refereeing grant applications. He also supervised 22 Masters theses and 36 PhD theses, with a further 20 ongoing when he passed away.

Recent large research projects included an Australian Research Council (ARC) Federation Fellowship (2002-07) for a study entitled “The new paradigm of international migration to and from Australia: dimensions, causes and implications” and an ARC Australian Professorial Fellowship (2009-13) for a research project on “Circular migration in Asia, the Pacific and Australia: Empirical, theoretical and policy dimensions.”

In 2012 Hugo became the Director of the new Australian Population and Migration Research Centre at the University of Adelaide, a world-class center tasked with developing a sustainable population and workforce strategy for Australia and the Asia Pacific, and looking at international patterns of migration and the challenges posed by an ageing society. Some of his most recent research focused on the problems, including discrimination, faced by jobseekers from non-English speaking backgrounds.

In addition to his extraordinary intellectual output, Hugo was an activist, concerned with the development of equitable population and migration policies informed by evidence, building positive relationships between Australia and Asian nations, and the rights of migrants and refugees. He was also a regular voice on radio as a social commentator.

In Australia Hugo was much in demand from both federal and state governments for advice on population, ageing and migration and served on a vast number of committees. In 2011 he led a major enquiry by the Australian Government on population policy. On the international scene he frequently participated in meetings focused on migration policy sponsored by agencies such as UNFPA, the World Bank, the International Organisation for Migration, and the Asian Development Bank. His reports for these agencies were highly influential. In 2009, with colleagues, he completed a study of Climate Change and Migration in Asia and the Pacific for the Asian Development Bank.

Hugo became a member of the International Union for the Scientific Study of Population (IUSSP) in 1977, and throughout his career actively contributed his expertise and time to IUSSP scientific groups and publications. He was also a Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences (Australia), and a Member of the Institute of Australian Geographers, the Australian Population Association, the Australian Association of Gerontology, the Royal Geographical Society of Australasia, and the Population Association of America. Hugo gave very valuable service to Geography as Chair of the ARC’s Expert Advisory Committee on the Social, Behavioral and Economic Sciences between 2000 and 2004.

In 2006, Hugo was an inaugural recipient of Flinders University’s Distinguished Alumnus Award for his vast contributions to academia as a teacher, researcher and author; for his distinguished service to population growth, migration and ageing; and through various leadership and advisory roles, including service to government agencies and international organisations.

This was followed in 2012 by the highest honor of the Order of Australia (AO) ‘for distinguished service to population research, particularly the study of international migration, population geography and mobility, and through leadership roles with national and international organisations.’

He was also recognized within the discipline in 2014 with the Australia-International Medal of the Institute of Australian Geographers in recognition of his outstanding contribution to the advancement of geography worldwide. 

Hugo was one of the most distinguished, dedicated and productive geographers that Australia has ever seen, and considered the leading expert on population migration in the Asia-Pacific region. He was internationally respected for the depth of his knowledge, yet also made a significant contribution to the real world beyond academia’s ivory towers. He was an inspiration to many generations of students, and a much-loved friend and colleague known for being genuine, kind, and generous.

Graeme leaves behind his partner Sharon, daughter Justine, step-daughters Melissa and Emily, and two faithful dogs, Jesse and Tyler.

 

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