Union Songs

The Back-Blocks Academic

A Song by Bob Brissenden©1984 Bob Brissenden

I'm a back-blocks academic, which may give rise to mirth
But selection committees know me well from Brisbane through to Perth
I've often been short listed for many a famous chair
But somehow or other I don't know why I've never quite got there

Hurrah, my applications in
I've got three referees
The field is strictly limited
There's no one from overseas
I'm wearing my suit to seminars
I've burnt my party card
And if I'm overlooked again
Then times is bloody hard

I don't write letters to the press but articles instead
I've tried out every possible lurk for a man to get ahead
The songs I sing at parties are less bawdy than before
I've even drunk the VCs scotch - a man cannot do more


This song is one of many written by R.F Brissenden in Canberra and is in his 1984 collection 'Gough & Johnny Were Lovers'. In his introduction Brissenden wrote of this song:
"In the Cold War climate that prevailed in the years between Korea and Vietnam this establishment conservatism manifested itself on a number of campuses in Australia. It took a particularly viscious political form which in the United States went under the name of McCarthyism. As a result the careers of a number of young and not-so-young Australian academics were either destroyed or wastefully delayed because of their supposedly unreliable political colouring. Canberra, oddly enough, seemed at the time to be relatively isolated from this - and it was from the security of the ANU's ivory tower that we were able to laugh at the situation in songs like 'Wouldn't it!' and 'The Back-Blocks Academic'."

In Amirah Inglis' book 'The Hammer and Sickle and the Washing Up' the song is cited as one that was sung at a Canberra party for Tom Lehrer.

Return to top of page