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Dengate, Robert William (Bob) (1949–2011)

by Malcolm Brown

Bob Dengate was driven by two great passions: communication and equality. In his career as an educator and broadcaster he was at the vanguard of a communications revolution that brought these two great causes together.

A founder and long-time host of community radio in Bathurst, he was also a schoolteacher, university lecturer and director of HSC On-Line, an aid to students studying for the Higher School Certificate, which made expert instruction available to anyone who chose to call it up.

Robert William Dengate was born in Sydney on September 1, 1949, son of a sheet metal worker, Norman Dengate, and Kathleen ''Kit'' Dengate (nee Kelly). He went to Epping Boys High and Macquarie University, where he gained a bachelor of arts and a diploma of education. Dengate joined the NSW Department of Education as a teacher and was appointed to Bathurst High School to teach mathematics. He played cricket for a teachers' team and married a fellow teacher, Gail Bryant, in 1973. The couple had a son, Paul, born in 1975, and a daughter, Meghann, in 1978. Dengate was appointed to Oberon Central School as head teacher in science and mathematics. In 1982, he started a three-year stint as a consultant to the department in mathematics education in the metropolitan western region.

In 1986, Dengate returned to Bathurst, on the staff of the School of Teacher Education at the Mitchell College of Advanced Education, training teachers in the art of teaching mathematics. The computer was making its presence felt and he recognised its seemingly limitless possibilities. Dengate also became fascinated with community radio, which took the medium out of the hands of the few and made it available to many. He also helped found the Bathurst community radio station, 2MCE-FM, and became a director. He presented numerous programs, including the long-running Juke Box Saturday Night. He presented a morning music program and interviewed numerous personalities, including sporting identities. Like all dedicated presenters, he read up on everything, got to know politics intimately and followed every code in sport. He also had a regular spot, The Tireless Wireless Show, on Bathurst Radio 2BS, dedicated to the people of radio and to radio itself.

Communication ran deep in Dengate's family. His brother, John, taught school until the age of 50 and then went into a different form of communication, becoming a folk singer. A distant cousin, also John Dengate, became a prominent environmentalist.

In 1992, Bob Dengate's marriage to Gail ended in divorce. In 1993, Dengate started going out with Kay Gordon, a schoolteacher, later university administrator, and divorced mother of four.

Dengate saw the advantage of the internet in spreading vital information, with its reach and flexibility. As Kay was to remark, the best teaching was no longer restricted to selective and private schools. Dengate became director of the HSC Online Project, a collaborative venture of Charles Sturt University and the Department of Education and Training, which began in 1996.

The deputy vice-chancellor (administration) at Charles Sturt University, Professor Lyn Gorman, said Dengate became one of the main contributors to the online project. ''This project represented an early initiative in Australia to use the internet to publish quality-assured resources for senior high school students and their teachers, and has continued to deliver millions of pages to HSC students each year,'' she said. ''Bob played a key role as an early content developer for the mathematics section of the website.''

Dengate wrote several successful mathematics textbooks, published articles in a range of scholarly and professional journals and wrote conference papers. He delivered numerous addresses to regional and national meetings of mathematics associations. In 2005, he delivered a paper on HSC Online to a mathematics conference in Vancouver, Canada. He had strong views on many things and became an inveterate letter writer, to the local paper, the Western Advocate, and The Sydney Morning Herald. He stayed with Mitchell College following its incorporation into Charles Sturt University.

Surviving a bout of bowel cancer in 2007, Dengate married Kay in 2008 after some 14 years together, taking on three stepsons (her only daughter, Danae, died in 1999), and retired from the university in March, 2009. He immersed himself even further in his radio and community interests. Sadly, in February last year, just a week after Kay also resigned intending to travel overseas on their delayed honeymoon, it was discovered the cancer had returned. After a courageous 12-month battle, Dengate died on March 6.

Bob Dengate is survived by Kay, his two children, three stepchildren, Simon, Jason and Jeremy, four grandchildren, Mark, Courtney, Lachlan and Tara, his mother Kit and his older brother John. His funeral was held at All Saints Cathedral in Bathurst on March 10.

Original publication

  • Sydney Morning Herald, 12 March 2011

Additional Resources

Citation details

Malcolm Brown, 'Dengate, Robert William (Bob) (1949–2011)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://oa.anu.edu.au/obituary/dengate-robert-william-bob-16840/text28736, accessed 20 June 2019.

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