Celebrating Dr Christina Parolin

After 14 years at the Academy, 12 of them in the role of Executive Director, we say farewell to Dr Christina (Tina) Parolin. To celebrate and acknowledge her many contributions, her colleagues have shared their memories and thoughts on her outstanding achievements and legacy.

Emeritus Professor Lesley Head FASA, FAHA:

Tina is a totally reliable source of wisdom and insight on all matters related to the Academy. Most of our close working has been on phone and Zoom rather than in person, but her warmth and kindness shines down the line.

Her outstanding achievement:

Building trusted and valued relationships with her staff, her Councils and the Fellowship.

Her legacy:

She has built a sustainable organisation and led many great projects (most recently the China Knowledge Capability one), but I think we will remember her relationships and wisdom most.

Emeritus Professor Graeme Turner FAHA:

During a most difficult decade of political hostility, reduced funding, and cascading periods of turbulence within the higher education sector, Tina has done more than any other Australian to keep the humanities alive and our interests defended.

She is a national treasure.

Distinguished Professor Genevieve Bell AO, FTSE, FAHA:

When the Chief Scientist calls you and says, we need you. The answer is always ‘’yes.’’ When the Chief Scientist calls you and says, ‘’can you deliver a RRIF [Rapid Research Information Report] in a fortnight,’’ the answer is always ‘’yes’.’

When the Chief Scientist calls you and says ‘’oh by the way, it requires bringing together social scientists and humanities research’’, you hope, more than anything, that Tina will pick up the phone. And she did.

In Zoom calls, ideas, words, words, words, editing, fighting, reviewing, and still fewer better words, it was the most extraordinary two-week collaboration, partnership and privilege. Oh yeah, and we delivered the RRIF on time.

Professor Robert Young FAHA:

Tina’s dedication to her role and her integrity in performing the role are standout characteristics. She not only served the Fellowship wholeheartedly but there was never any doubt that she was doing so with the interests of the Fellowship at the forefront of her efforts.

Professor Joy Damousi AM, FASSA, FAHA:

Tina has been a pillar of wisdom and inspiring leadership. I am indebted to her for her incredible generosity, warmth, humour and support as both a colleague and a friend.

Her outstanding achievement:

There are many outstanding achievements. One broadly has been to develop and devise strategies to embrace diversity within the Academy membership; more specifically to work with philanthropic partners on arts policy.

Her legacy:

Tina’s legacy will be the effective and productive advocacy role the Academy has assumed over the past 12 years in promoting and advancing the humanities in many forums including government policy and the tertiary education sector.

Dr Diana Eades FAHA:

Tina has made a tremendous contribution to bringing the humanities to the forefront of all government deliberations on research, education and innovation, always working with friendly self-effacing efficiency.

Distinguished Emeritus Professor Stuart Cunningham AM, FAHA, FAcSS, FRSA:

Tina is a calm and steady hand.

Her outstanding achievement:

Keeping us in the game over the long, gruelling, haul.

Her legacy:

The most far-reaching change strategy the Academy has committed to, embodied in the current Strategic Plan.

Emeritus Professor Peter Cryle FAHA:

One of the key qualities of a good Executive Director of the Academy is to engage in strategic thinking without allowing oneself to be hedged in by the self-importance of one’s interlocutors, be they academic or governmental. Tina always managed to do that thoughtfully and productively. She knew what mattered, and she helped those around her to remain clear-sighted.

Distinguished Professor Sean Ulm FSA FAHA:

As Executive Director, Tina somehow managed to work with the team and Fellows to always deliver, whatever the ask, even when the resources available were as thin as varnish.

Tina’s unwavering commitment to the Academy and the humanities centred collegiality — a defining attribute Tina bought to her interactions with everyone within and without the Academy.

She will be sorely missed!

Emeritus Fellow Colin Steele KtCross Spain, FAHA, FCILIP, FALIA:

Tina has been a wonderful colleague since her appointment and an effective supporter of the National Scholarly Communications Forum, hosted by the Academy.

Tina’s major achievement and legacy has been in establishing a  talented administrative team, enabling the Academy, in difficult political times, to provide humanities truth to power.

Dr Jon Lane, AAH Senior Policy Analyst:

Tina is the perfect combination of gentleness, wisdom, discipline and fun. She sets and meets the highest standards in her conduct and work, and makes it easy for the rest of us.

Emeritus Professor Louise Edwards FASSA, FAHA, FHKAH:

Warm, open and welcoming. Tina’s leadership style invites all types of people to participate and she ever-so-gently guides us to better performance with respectful advice sensitively delivered.

Tina showcases the best of human attributes — she is an exemplar of humanistic values and the spirit of AAH!

Tina is such an excellent model of a woman leader who nurtures other women so they can thrive and feel confident in their contributions.

Tina brought the AAH into the 21st century with her leadership on diversity, environment, and international collaboration while nurturing the humanistic concerns of the 20th century. She looked after the past while charting the future.

Distinguished Professor Ien Ang FAHA:

With her calm tenacity and unwavering commitment to the humanities, Tina has been a real rock in the many endeavours that the Academy has been involved in throughout the years. She has navigated the treacherous world of policy and bureaucracy to ensure that the Academy’s perspective is heard loud and clear.

Lesley Johnson AM, FAHA :

Tina is one of those people who make the world a better place because they are a joy to work and interact with.

A highly professional and dedicated Executive Director, Tina is great to work with, warm and thoughtful. She has steered the Academy very effectively for 12 years, leaving a legacy of a well-organised, highly respected organisation.

Professor Mark Finnane FAHA, FASSA:

Tina’s patience, inclusiveness, attention to detail, nurturing of talent, quiet diplomacy, loyalty and the enjoyment of her job expressed in that quiet laugh.

Her outstanding achievement:

Enabling successful implementation of international collaborations — thinking back to her earliest work facilitating the Ireland/Australian Workshop and forward to the ARC LASP project on the Humanities in Asia.

Her legacy:

Securing the humanities as an indispensable presence in the Australian research landscape through persistent advocacy within and beyond the Academy .

Han Baltussen FAHA:

I first met Tina when I became a member of the Academy’s Council. Her friendly and calming influence on new members as well as the proceedings and her team were obvious from the start. In an unassuming but confident way she keeps things on track. Easygoing yet exacting, she is a natural leader in all the good senses of the word. I wish her all the best with her new endeavours.

Professor Joe Lo Bianco AM, FAHA:

Her outstanding achievement:

Helping to establish our standing with the other Learned Academies, management and conception of a vastly expanded number of policy-influencing projects including through the ACOLA process, helping to build the momentum for an Indigenous section.

Her legacy:

Many things: incredibly sound management of our resources, positioning of the Academy in international relations, the very model of what excellent relations with Presidents and Council looks like, the idea of a serious strategic approach to our work.

Tina is a dear friend, a person whose company I love, a fellow Carlton Tragic, a dedicated and brilliant Executive Director of AAH, a true professional in a world where people barely remember the important reasons for insisting that people should be professional.

Professor Bridget Griffen-Foley FAHA:

Tina is smart, funny, strategic, consultative, ethical and humane!

Her outstanding achievement:

Presiding over the development and implementation of a Strategic Plan that is ambitious and aspirational, authentic and accessible.

Her legacy:

An Academy of Humanities that is modern, forward-looking and simply indispensable to Australian society and the body politic!

Dr Kylie Brass, AHH Policy and Research Director:

Tina is dogged, she never gives up, she’s endlessly committed to the humanities and the public good. She builds and exemplifies trust.

Working alongside her at the Academy has been the most formative professional experience of my life.

Even more important than that, I’m lucky to call her my friend.

Emeritus Professor Malcolm Gillies AM, FAHA:

For me, Tina stands for an enviable continuity of administrative service at AAH.

Her outstanding achievement:

Developing an independent and insightful research capacity to spearhead the Academy’s advocacy, and contribute to its joint promotions with the other Academies and other humanities bodies.

Her legacy:

A stronger positioning of the humanities as we descend into a more insecure scholarly world.

Dr Marie-Louise Ayres FAHA:

Tina — a great friend and includer of Australia’s cultural institutions, especially the National Library — is a joy to work with.

Her outstanding achievement:

Tina’s sustained attention on the broadest possible humanities picture —  well beyond universities — is a great contribution.

Her legacy:

Tina’s championing and incubation of A New Approach provided the fertile ground that saw this work become both independent and powerful. Setting things free to succeed elsewhere is a great legacy.

Professor Elizabeth Minchin FAHA:

Tina is competence personified: on top of every aspect of this demanding role as Executive Director.

Her outstanding achievement:

Articulating a vision for the Academy.

Her legacy:

The Academy is now a recognised participant in the development of policy across a range of domains.

Emeritus Professor Graham Tulloch FAHA:

Tina: a delight to work with, always there to help, advise, inspire and look to the future.

Her legacy:

An Academy using the strength of its fellowship to engage more deeply with the wider world.

Emeritus Professor Richard Waterhouse FAHA, FASSA:

Tina is the most competent all round administrator I have encountered. She has also created a culture of collegiality both in the Secretariat and on Council. And she has always acted in good humour and a wry sense of humour.

Her outstanding achievement:

Tina has fostered an efficient system of governance that has both allowed the Academy to function efficiently in its core business of fostering the fellowship and also develop policies, programs and research reports which have broadened the Academy’s influence and engagement with government and the wider community.

Her legacy:

Tina has done the hard work in setting the goals and establishing the mechanisms that will allow the Academy to further develop as a relevant cultural institution. She has also fostered a culture of harmony within the Academy which will encourage loyalty to the institution and faith in its future.

Sam Tutton, AHH Fellowship & Awards Coordinator:

Tina has been an amazing boss. The passion and dedication she displays on a daily basis towards the humanities and the Academy are second to none. After 14 years at the Academy, she is a wealth of corporate knowledge.

Behind the scenes she has updated the Academy’s work processes and tech, helping the Secretariat in helping the Fellowship ensure the humanities thrive and excel, not just in Australia, but globally.

Her legacy:

Continuing to move the Academy forward in line with the changing way of life.

Emeritus Professor Will Christie FAHA:

Tina is a dear friend, as well as being a selfless representative of the Academy and tireless supporter of the humanities more generally.

Always willing to listen to any idea, Tina would find time for everyone in her busy schedule. As Director of the Humanities Research Centre and the Australasian Consortium of Humanities Researchers and Centres, I knew I only had to ask and Tina would be willing to represent the Academy at any of my events.

Her legacy:

Equanimity and warmth.

Emeritus Professor Graeme Clarke AO, FAHA:

Tina leaves a legacy of a well-balanced and fully professional Academy Secretariat, with a long history of cheerful, cooperative and efficient staffing. As a leader of her team, Tina has worked with quiet and understated efficiency, and has greatly enhanced the Academy’s professional standing with the other Academies as well as with all the relevant Government agencies.

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Acknowledgement of Country

The Australian Academy of the Humanities recognises Australia’s First Nations Peoples as the traditional owners and custodians of this land, and their continuous connection to country, community and culture.