Vale John Nowakowski
GUPSA pays tribute to John Nowakowski, National Secretary, Council of Australian Postgraduate Associations (CAPA), who died on 15 January this year.
He had only turned 27 last November. John was a chemical engineering graduate at Sydney University and as an undergrad was an active member of both the campus queer group and the Sydney University Chemical Engineering Society, being SUCES Executive Officer in 2006. He also regularly attended the annual National Queer Collaborations conferences. In 2008, John began his PhD at Sydney University and took an active role in the Sydney University Postgraduate Representative Association from the start. He was Secretary of SUPRA, November 2009-June 2010, and President, July-December 2010; in 2012 he was Vice-President (Policy), January-June, and then Director of Student Publications at SUPRA, from July. His involvement with SUPRA lead him into CAPA; he served as Queer Co-Officer and National Secretary in 2010 and then as President in 2011, and National Secretary again January-April 2012, at which time he stood down due to time constraints. However, following the crisis in which the then President of CAPA and other officebearers resigned, John was re-elected as National Secretary in September last year. Throughout his involvement with CAPA, John was a dedicated advocate for student representation and strongly believed in a grassroots approach.
As President in 2011 John undertook to visit each of the Universities across the country and by end of year had only missed one. He pursued new memberships from Bond and ACU, as well as establishing good communication with Adelaide University, University of South Australia, Bachelor Institute of Indigenous Tertiary Education, Central Queensland University, among others. He visited Griffith University that year too, and Maggie May, GUPSA President, who met him then, remembers him as someone “very committed to keeping CAPA alive when basically it was just him and a voluntary committee spread out all over Australia with no resources to do much.” According to Maggie, “John was a very passionate person about student representation and also acutely aware of all the political manouvrings required to keep CAPA alive, which he approached with a strong sense of humour and keen irony in his conversations with me, he made me laugh a lot.” She believes that without his commitment during his presidency, “CAPA may not have survived, as he was really doing it all on his own, sending out emails, press releases and updates on a regular basis. He had a lot of energy for CAPA.” He was very keen to get GUPSA back into CAPA and visited the Gold Coast to try and find some postgrad representation there too. GUPSA was itself struggling to survive at the time but finally was able to rejoin CAPA last year thanks to the funding we received from Griffith University.
John represented postgraduates to government and industry. He spoke at conferences and wrote on higher education for a variety of publications (you’ll find his articles as President in New Matilda, here). According to CAPA he was the driving force behind their most recent major study, ‘The Research Education Experience’, completed alongside the Department of Industry, Innovation, Science, Research and Tertiary Education and published May last year (you can download a copy here).
In its tribute to John, CAPA said that he “loved CAPA. He was dedicated and passionate in his support for postgraduate advocacy and representation. The Council of Australian Postgraduate Associations is a better organisation for having been graced with John Nowakowski’s involvement over the past four years. He was a person who truly gave unto others. He is well loved and well missed by all of his many friends and colleagues within our current Executive and Officer team, our alumni, affiliates and friends.”
John was a remarkable person; his death is a great loss to the postgraduate student, and queer communities of Australia. It’s a tragedy however that the only way most people will learn of his contributions is as a result of his untimely death. John’s funeral takes place Wednesday 10am 23 January St Felix Catholic Church, Bankstown.