One of Australia’s leading female Army figures has another job: Professor at a University.
Professor Nan Bahr has commanded military regiments and been the national Deputy Head of Corps for Military Police. These days she is an expert in Australian education, serving as Southern Cross University’s Deputy Vice Chancellor (Students) and Dean of Education.
During her time as a Colonel in the Australian Army Professor Bahr was a recipient of the prestigious Prince of Wales Award. She still serves as a part time member of the Australian Defence Force.
This week she reflects on more than 36 years in the armed forces ahead of ANZAC Day on April 25.
“ANZAC Day is about remembering those who have been prepared to make the ultimate sacrifice to protect their country’s interests – it’s so important to recognise those who have given their lives to ensure the freedoms we enjoy,” Professor Bahr said.
“I’ve never been deployed into armed conflict, even though I was prepared to do so if I was called to. On ANZAC Day we recognise those who were prepared to put their lives on the line in service– that’s why we march.
“The Australian forces are widely respected for their professionalism and good humour and we should never forget how fortunate we are.”
Using a schoolyard metaphor, Professor Bahr says ANZAC Day and Australian military service has effectively been about standing up to bullies. She says we are a proud and diverse egalitarian society.
“This is about people who are prepared to put their life on the line to ensure bullies don’t have a foothold in our community, country, or other international contexts – as Australians we are not bystanders to bullies,” Professor Bahr said.
“What I say to my own two kids is to try to figure out what ways you can serve your community. Not everyone is the right fit for military service, but everyone can offer something to the community. The most important thing is to find how you can epitomise a life of service.”
Earlier this year Professor Bahr was appointed Honorary Aide-de-Camp to the Governor General for ‘gallantry or distinguished service in action or for meritorious service in the interests of the Commonwealth’. This ceremonial role requires her to attend events on behalf of the Governor General. She will, of course, perform these duties alongside her leadership role at Southern Cross University.
Professor Bahr has served in the military overseas, including training with the Royal Military Police.
“I was able to learn from their advanced simulation environments and advanced approach to urban warfare. This sort of Military Policing was new for Australia which focussed more on bush-based training at the time,” Professor Bahr said.
“I was also able to provide insight into the Australian perspective of military police training and to form military connections. While in the UK I was also supported a visit to schools of the Inner London Education Authority to observe how leading schools used drama across the curriculum and to get an international perspective for Australian education.”
As an accomplished musician and a black belt in Taekwondo, Professor Bahr’s multi-faceted career includes an international profile for her research expertise predominantly in teacher education, adolescence and responsive pedagogies.
One important contribution has been her membership of the taskforce implementing major senior schooling changes in Queensland where, from next year, eligible school leavers will receive an ATAR instead of an OP, coming into step with the rest of Australia.
This ANZAC Day Professor Bahr will play tuba with the Laurie Young Concert Band for the Kenmore march and service, before marching and playing tuba in support of the Brisbane City march.
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