Associate Professor Peter Howard retires from ACU

ACU Clemente Australia National Leader, Associate Professor Peter Howard is retiring from ACU this month after more than 33 years of service. Peter first came to ACU in 1987 and has been an integral part of the university’s growth since it was amalgamated into a national university in 1990.

Peter has embodied ACU’s mission as a Catholic university through his work to initiate and oversee a range of restorative justice programs for those experiencing disadvantage, marginalisation, and isolation.

From 1988 to 1994, Peter was the academic coordinator of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander education at the university. He was involved in the start-up of the first Aboriginal education program in Moree. He also trained teachers working on social justice programs in schools and the wider community.

Peter said: “I felt that it was important to go into Aboriginal communities, and to bring those communities into a conversation about improving opportunities for education. We worked to bring communities into the decision-making processes, to do things with them, to work in partnership.”

But Peter didn’t want to stop there. In 2003, he was responsible for introducing the ground-breaking Clemente program to Australia from the USA. Clemente offers those experiencing disadvantage and social isolation the opportunity to study a university course in liberal arts subjects, providing opportunities to pursue further tertiary education, realising new possibilities and life choices.

Many Clemente students are dealing with complex issues such as mental illness, disability, addiction, unemployment, homelessness, or family breakdown, and most have had interrupted education. The program aims to break the cycle of poverty, inequality and social injustice. 

Peter said: “The Clemente program supports students to re-engage with their community while enabling them to see themselves as agents of change. The program gently reintroduces the students to the discipline of study and to techniques for reading, writing and thinking.”

And the results speak for themselves. Clemente is now run through ACU’s Strathfield, Melbourne, Brisbane, Ballarat and Canberra campuses. More than 1,300 people have participated in the program, with 206 students completing the Liberal Arts Certificate. There are 14 Clemente alumni currently enrolled in BA degrees at ACU and other graduates have completed degrees or are studying at other universities, while 14 students have completed degrees at ACU.

Peter said: “The Clemente program is immersed in the tenets of Catholic Social Teaching. Working for the common good is central to ACU’s mission as a Catholic university, which informs every aspect of the university’s life. It’s what makes ACU unique among Australian universities. Inherent to this expression is a profound reference to our Catholic traditions and beliefs.”

Although Peter has retired from ACU, he has not retired from being of service to the community. He will now serve as an appointed Trustee of the Mary Aikenhead Ministries, which works to respond to the needs of the most vulnerable and marginalised in our community.

We thank Peter for his many years of service to the ACU community and extend our best wishes to him for the future.

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