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Kingdon, Elizabeth (1949–2000)

by Liz Drysdale

Friends, colleagues and members of the family of the late Elizabeth Kingdon gathered in the Research School of Pacific and Asian Studies (RSPAS) courtyard last month to plant a tree in her memory. Elizabeth, who died of cancer in Perth on 2 June, was as an editor and research assistant in RSPAS for 20 years.

Dr Darrell Tryon, Deputy Director of the School, paid tribute to Elizabeth, and to her many talents as research assistant to a number of prominent Pacific and Asian historians and to two successive Directors of RSPAS. He spoke of Elizabeth's good-humour; ability to turn her hand to most areas of academic endeavour and her sharp critical and analytical skills, which made her a highly regarded and respected member of the School.

In a tribute from Melbourne, Professor Merle Ricklefs, former Director of RSPAS and academic editor of the Asia-Pacific Magazine, said: "Elizabeth was wonderfully creative and imaginative, I admired her originality, initiative and professionalism, and beyond that I liked her very very much. An enduring memorial in the shape of a tree is most appropriate—she will be remembered for a long time by those of us who were lucky enough to work with her.

"Professor R. Gerard Ward, another past Director, paid the following tribute: 'I have always felt that the School has been amazingly well served over the years by a wonderful group of research assistants. Their contribution has not always been recognised as fully as it should. Elizabeth was a distinguished member of this group.'

"Elizabeth's work was unusually varied, even for that very variable role of Research Assistant. Despite the classification, she was also involved in administrative tasks; designing and keeping track of financial planning tabulations; liaising around the School and beyond; and of course the more standard but varied roles good RA's take on — library research, editing, gathering and analysing data, and so on. All this was done with a keen critical mind, a slight air of surprised or whimsical cynicism, good humour, good personal relations, and great reliability and devotion to the task at hand. In many ways she was the model of an RSPAS person.

"From 1993 to 1995, we worked together as co-authors and co-editors on a project that resulted in the volume Land, Tenure and Practice in the South Pacific. Elizabeth's keen historical sense, ability to pick up new ideas, to see the flaws in arguments, and her editorial and personal skills played a major role in making the project an extremely productive and enjoyable one.

"I still find it a shock to realise that we have lost this wonderful person and scholar. She gave so much to this School. It is good to think that the tree being planted will remind us of her contributions and her personality for years to come."

Original publication

Citation details

Liz Drysdale, 'Kingdon, Elizabeth (1949–2000)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, https://oa.anu.edu.au/obituary/kingdon-elizabeth-567/text568, accessed 16 April 2021.

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