The Hon. Gough Whitlam launches Rev. Dr Canon Stuart Barton Babbage's Memoirs at New College
New College’s second Master the Rev. Dr Stuart Barton Babbage’s autobiography was launched Tuesday December 7 by former Prime Minister of Australia, the Honourable Gough Whitlam at New College, University of New South Wales.
Over 240 people attended the College’s main dining room for a reception and book signing ceremony surrounding the launch. Three former Archbishops of Sydney, the Right Reverends Sir Marcus Loane, Donald Robinson and Harry Goodhew were all in attendance to honour Dr Babbage, along with Sydney Anglican clergy, laity and members of the broader community. Other notable guests included current regional Bishops Robert Forsyth (representing the Archbishop Jensen) and Glenn Davies. Professor Trevor Cairney, current Master of New College, hosted the event welcoming everyone. Trevor expressed his gratitude for the life of Stuart, commenting that it had been a life well lived contributing much to the College’s history and traditions.
Dr Babbage, a former Dean of Sydney and Melbourne, was Master of New College from 1973 – 1983. He oversaw the admission of women to the College and introduced eminent speakers at formal dinners, where a ‘who’s who’ of campus and society attend to share their views and experiences with the student body. He also introduced the College’s ongoing work in academic Christian scholarship and apologetics by holding regular ‘Forum’ dinners. These provided opportunity for serious wrestling with contemporary issues such as genetic engineering, censorship, apartheid, culture, ecology and other faiths. Dr Babbage’s Christian intellectual endeavours twenty one years ago provide impetus for the annual New College Lectures and the present Centre for Apologetic Scholarship and Education (www.case.edu.au).
Mr Whitlam gave his frank observations of the contemporary Anglican Church in Sydney and beyond. Gough spoke on the history of the Anglican Church in Sydney, Australia and the world. Although Gough said that he was not a believer he showed an astonishing amount of knowledge about church activities and personalities. Mr Whitlam commented on the importance of church people to Australian society, and the significant role Stuart had played in connecting the church with the society at large. This is central to New College’s mission as a College on UNSW to this day.
Mr Whitlam outlined the impact that Dr Babbage and other clergy had on his public and private life. He warmly endorsed Babbage’s book Memoirs of a Loose Canon (Acorn Press 2004) as capturing much of the personal, local and world events that had meant much to him and many others. Dr Babbage, a colourful and humorous character gained laughs in responding to the former Prime Minister, getting a good reaction when telling the joke of a parishioner who had come up to a pastor after a sermon and said your remarks were ‘superfluous’, indicating that his memoirs might be in the same vein he thanked everyone for coming to celebrate.
High Court Justice Michael Kirby said in his forward to the Memoirs “I welcome this book. It gives a glimpse at the whimsy, irony, intelligence and kindliness that all his friends know.” Several members of New College’s Alumni and friends returned for the first time in some years, it was a great gathering, reinforcing the collegiality that is central to New College.