Tributes flow as Flinders remembers

It is with great sadness that we acknowledge the recent passing of several members of our University community.

We extend our deepest condolences to families and friends.


Basia Bonkowksi (1952-2022) (BA (Hons) ’75)

Basia was the host of SBS’s popular 1980s music television shows Rock Around the World and Continental Drift.

Writing and performing was Basia’s passion from an early age, although she enrolled in law at the University of Adelaide upon leaving high school. However, everything changed when Basia was 17, and she became ill with Hodgkins Lymphoma. The experience of being confronted with her mortality prompted a career rethink, and she switched to Flinders University and studied for an English Literature and Drama degree.

Armed with knowledge and skills from her degree, Basia’s television career was soon on a fast track. She became a household name through her charismatic hosting of SBS’s music television shows Rock Around the World and Continental Drift. Such was the strength of her cultural impact in the 1980s that Aussie pub rock band, Painters and Doctors, wrote a song about her, aptly named Basia. The song was a tribute to her ultra-cool presentation style, declaring, “She’s sitting there with her multi-coloured hair / She’s sitting there with that multi-cultured stare”.

After Basia and her husband Kimble Rendall adopted two children, William and Camille, she released “Jesse’s World”, a book about the international adoption process, inspired by their experiences as adoptive parents. Her second book, “Shimmer”, based on her mother’s life, was released in 2009.

In 2019, Basia was awarded a Flinders University Distinguished Alumni Award for her significant contribution to the creative arts as a television producer and presenter, author and movie reviewer.


Dr Ruth Starke (1946-2022) (BA(Hons) ’96, PhD(EHLT) ’01)

Beloved writing academic Dr Ruth Starke passed away on 5 September. Dr Starke was an outstanding graduate of Flinders University’s Bachelor of Arts Honours program, and in 1995 was jointly awarded the Ann Flaxman prize in English.

The following year she was awarded the University Medal for outstanding academic achievement. She completed her PhD in English and Creative Writing in 2001. She was invited to become a writer-in-residence to support the creative writing program, where her incisive editorial eye and characteristic wit helped to develop the talent of both honours and postgraduate students.

Ruth also published more than 20 novels for young people, including the award-winning NIPS XI, which was named Honour Book (Younger Readers) in the 2001 CBC Awards and is currently on the Fiction for Young Readers curriculum, Noodle Pie and the Captain Congo series of graphic novels.

She was awarded the Carclew Fellowship in 2002, and served as a judge for both the Colin Thiele Writing Fellowship and the Independent Arts Fellowship, as a book reviewer for Australian Book Review, Viewpoint and Radio Adelaide, an editorial adviser for ABR, and a past Chair of the SA Writers Centre.

Until her passing, Dr Starke retained her academic status with Flinders, where she was Editor, Creative Writing, for Transnational Literature, and she nurtured many creative writers through that role. She is remembered by colleagues as being great fun and for having a wicked sense of humour.


Dr Malcolm Thompson (1931-2022)

Foundation staff member in Chemistry Dr Malcolm Thompson passed away recently. He started at Flinders not long after its official opening in 1966, and remained with the University until 1997. At the time of his passing, Dr Thompson was an Honorary Research Fellow with the College of Science and Engineering.

In 2004, he generously provided funds to establish and endow the Malcolm Thompson Prize for Research in Organic Chemistry, to encourage excellence in research in the field of Organic Chemistry.

He was a well-liked and respected member of the Flinders community, known to say that his involvement with Flinders students kept him young.


Dr Laurie Chitti (1971-2022)

Respected local gastroenterologist and medical school lecturer Dr Laurie Chitti passed away recently after a battle with cancer.

Throughout his career, Dr Chitti worked closely with second-year medical students as block lead for the Gastrointestinal System (GIT). He was instrumental in establishing the Northern Territory Medical Program and introducing GIT training to the NT.

Dr Chitti is remembered by colleagues as a kind and generous man with a cracking sense of humour, who would bend over backwards to help those around him. His rapport and kindness to his patients, his generosity towards his friends and colleagues and his love of his family will be remembered by all who knew him.


Peter Saunders (1928-2022)

The Flinders University Library is saddened to share that former staff member Peter Saunders passed away recently. After joining the University in its early days before retiring in the early 1990s, Mr Saunders regularly dropped in after his retirement to catch up with former colleagues and hear about how the Library had changed in his absence.

Throughout his career, Mr Saunders worked at both the Central and Medical Libraries, and was also seconded as Senior Library Advisor to Brawijaya University, Malang, East Java, with the International Development Program of Australian Universities and Colleges from May 1984 until April 1985.

His interests were many and varied, and he donated many items to the collection, including the Indian Fiction Collection and contributions to the Badge Collection. He is remembered fondly by staff, who will miss his visits and his stories.


Emeritus Professor Michael Brunger (1960-2022) (BSc(Hons) ’83, PhD(PhysSc) ’89)

Prof Michael Brunger has been a valued member of Flinders University for four decades, having completed his Bachelor of Science at Flinders in 1981, followed by Honours (1st class) in 1982 and later his PhD in 1988.

Michael had an esteemed academic career, starting as a Rothmans Foundation Research Fellow at ANU from 1989-1991. Michael then took up a QEII Fellowship at Flinders in 1991, where he moved through the ranks to become Professor of Physics for the past 15 years, retiring only recently. Michael’s contributions both to Flinders University and the wider research community were recognised last week when he was awarded the prestigious title of Emeritus Professor.

Michael specialised in atomic and molecular physics, where he focused on electron and positron collisions and their applications. He was a highly regarded international researcher, having published more than 350 refereed papers, and being recognised through Fellowships of the Australian Institute of Physics, the American Physical Society and the Institute of Physics (UK).

He also served our community on the Australian Research Council College of Experts and as a member of the ARC ERA research evaluation committee for several rounds. He has mentored numerous PhD students, many of whom have gone on to receive prestigious international fellowships and positions around the globe. Michael has had a significant impact on Flinders, through his high-quality research, administration, and service, and as a proud Union member, being NTEU Flinders University Branch President.

Michael will be remembered by his smile and humour, his sharp thinking and pointed comments as well as his enthusiasm, kindness, generosity, and friendliness, and last but not least, his hat and sneakers. Michael will be missed by his many friends and colleagues.

This tribute was originally written for The Australian Institute of Physics by his colleagues:
Prof Stephen Buckman
Prof Igor Bray
Prof Sarah Harmer
Dr Darryl Jones
Dr Laurence Campbell
Prof Gunther Andersson.

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