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Ballard, John Addison (1930–2014)

by Chris Ballard

John Ballard, by Jacqueline Daly, 1989

John Ballard, by Jacqueline Daly, 1989

ANU Archives, 1885/7404

John Addison Ballard, political scientist and specialist in decolonisation and public policy, held various positions at the ANU from 1972 to 2014. Born and raised in the United States, John was a graduate of Dartmouth College (BA 1952) and Harvard Law School (JD 1955). He entered the PhD program in political science at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University where, inspired by letters from his friend John Steadman, he decided to work in Africa, having never travelled abroad. In 1960, just before leaving for Africa, he met and married Brigid Hamilton, and together they embarked on a lengthy program of field research, traversing French Equatorial Africa in a Landrover. His thesis on ‘The Development of Political Parties in French Equatorial Africa’ was completed in 1964.

From 1963 until 1970, John took a series of teaching positions in Nigeria, at the University of Ife, the University of Ibadan and then Ahmadu Bello University in Zaria. After a brief period in the United Kingdom from 1970 to 1972, where he held a Rockefeller Foundation fellowship at the University of London’s Institute of Commonwealth Studies and a consulting role at the Open University, John was appointed Senior Research Fellow in the ANU Department of Political Science (RSSS). From 1972 to 1976, he was based in Port Moresby, attached initially to the ANU New Guinea Research Unit, and then as Professor of Administrative Studies at the University of Papua New Guinea (1974–76).

In 1976, John resumed his ANU appointment in Canberra, as Senior Lecturer in the Department of Political Science at the Faculty of Arts, ANU, a position he held until his retirement in 1995. He had been Convenor for the cross-campus Graduate Program in Political Science and International Relations from 1991 to 1995, and continued to work as a consultant at the ANU Graduate School until 1997; thereafter he remained a visitor on several programs, notably Gender Relations in the College of Asia and the Pacific.

His teaching and research interests developed over time, from an early focus on the processes of decolonisation in Africa and colonial Papua New Guinea (PNG) to those of decentralisation in the newly independent Melanesian states, most especially in the newly created Southern Highlands Province in PNG. Public policy assumed an increasingly central position, from questions of policymaking in PNG—the topic of his 1981 book Policy-Making in a New State: Papua New Guinea 1972–1977—to later interests in tobacco policy and then AIDS. From 1987 to 2002, he was heavily involved as a consultant and member on numerous committees in the national and regional development of AIDS policy.

As this wide-ranging trajectory implies, John had a facility for traversing disciplines, roles and fields. He inherited his mother’s love of music and found his own way to architecture and art—interests that introduced him to still wider circles of friends, and that he then shared with others with great enthusiasm. He was a formidable networker, maintaining contact with an extraordinary number of people—friends and family, university colleagues and students past and present. Many wrote to him during his last few months, and a constant refrain in this correspondence was how he had inspired his friends and colleagues through a happy mixture of connection and exhortation. The words ‘supportive’, ‘generous’, ‘enthusiastic’ and ‘warm’ are repeated in these letters and give at least a sense of the quality that drew people to him.

John had been diagnosed with post-polio syndrome in 1998—he had contracted bulbar polio in Nigeria in 1968 (characteristically, he had only taken two of his courses of three anti-polio medications). During his last few months, he was often short of breath, but never of some means of communication—he called, emailed and entertained visitors prolifically. In his last hours, he took to writing on a Perspex tablet, still working on the family history that he had compiled over the past 15 years, with albums of photographs going back to the 1860s and a genealogical database listing an astonishing 70,000 ancestors and relatives—the extension to family, perhaps, of his genius for networking. He is survived by his partner Ted Reid, his former wife, Brigid Ballard, and their children, Hassan, Jummai, Chris and Jonathan, and grandchildren, Tessa and Sebastian. John Ballard’s research papers and materials, along with copies of all of his publications, have been deposited at the ANU Pacific Research Archives and are available for consultation.

Additional Resources

Citation details

Chris Ballard, 'Ballard, John Addison (1930–2014)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, https://oa.anu.edu.au/obituary/ballard-john-addison-32481/text40302, accessed 7 July 2022.

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