Insurgent intellectual honoured with highest ANU accolade

Professor Desmond Ball. Photo by Bob Cooper.
14 November 2013
Professor Desmond Ball. Photo by Bob Cooper.

He’s the prize-winning economics student who was arrested for climbing a statue of King George V during an anti-Vietnam War rally, and the man who blew the lid on the secret military facility at Pine Gap.

Now Professor Desmond Ball has received the Peter Baume Award from The Australian National University.

The prize is the University's most prestigious accolade and is named after former ANU Chancellor, Professor the Hon Peter Baume AC. It recognises ANU academics whose contributions to the economic, cultural, scientific or social development of Australia or the international community have demonstrated eminent achievement and merit of the highest degree.

Professor Ball received the prize from ANU Chancellor Professor the Hon Gareth Evans AC QC in a special ceremony today.

The award recognises Professor Ball’s incredible contribution to the field of strategic and defence studies during his almost 50-year career at the Strategic and Defence Studies Centre in the ANU College of Asia and the Pacific – 25 of which have been spent as Special Professor.

During his remarkable career Professor Ball has worked on Australia’s signal intelligence, advised former US President Jimmy Carter on the potential for all-out nuclear conflict during the Cold War, exposed Australia’s secret history of cracking diplomatic cables, and examined first-hand Southeast Asia’s ‘shadow wars’.

He’s also been a ‘person of interest’ for ASIO; measured Australia’s rivers, mountains, and more to understand the nitty-gritty of defending the continent from invasion; and last year had a book of essays released in his honour with contributions from former Australian ministers Alexander Downer and Kim Beazley.

And former US President Jimmy Carter, writing in a collection of essays in honour of Professor Ball published last year, said that he had helped save the wold from nuclear holocaust by showing that the deterrence of 'mutually assured destruction' wasn't enough to prevent the US and Soviet Union, from falling into all-out nuclear war. 

Speaking at today's ceremony, ANU Chancellor Evans said that Professor Ball was the University’s “living national treasure”.

“For almost half a century on this campus, Professor Desmond Ball has led the way in his unceasing efforts to understand the nature of defence and security,” he said.

“In honouring him with the Peter Baume Award, the University’s highest accolade, we pay tribute to one of Australia’s greatest minds, a servant of the ideals to which we aspire.”

See a list of previous Peter Baume Award winners here.

Lasting legacy
A further honour was bestowed on Professor Desmond Ball at today’s Peter Baume Award ceremony, with the announcement of an endowed chair in his name.

The Ball Strategic Endowment pays tribute to the career of Professor Desmond Ball, who has held the position of ANU Special Professor of Strategic Studies since 1987.

Dean of the ANU College of Asia and the Pacific, Professor Andrew MacIntyre said the endowment, established within the ANU Endowment for Excellence, promotes Professor Ball's lifelong commitment to academic engagement with some of the world’s most sensitive and important areas.

“It will support future generations of scholars who will devote themselves to the study of Australian defence, and the changing security dynamics of Asia and the Pacific,” he said.

The endowment will see leading strategic and defence studies thinkers from around the world come to ANU for a period of three to six months each year. These scholars will work with academics in the Strategic and Defence Studies Centre at the ANU College of Asia and the Pacific.  

“The endowment seeks to raise A$1.5 million and has already raised 10 per cent of that figure. The first appointment to the chair will be made in 12 months’ time,” said Professor MacIntyre.

More information can be found at

More: read a feature article on Professor Ball's remarkble career.

Watch a video of Professor Ball chatting about the highs and highs of his career with Dr Nicholas Farrelly.



Updated:  24 April, 2017/Responsible Officer:  Dean, ANU College of Asia & the Pacific/Page Contact:  CAP Web Team