Ten Questions with Philip Clark

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The ANU Alumni Series

Philip Clark, Host of ABC 666 Breakfast Radio

In 1980, Philip Clark, who in 2014 was crowned Canberra’s ‘king of breakfast radio’, left ANU having successfully completed his Arts/Law degree. A young Clark had come to Canberra from Tasmania and lived at Burgmann College with the likes of Kevin Rudd and Therese Rein. In those days it was Clark, not Rudd, who was the politician, having been elected to the post of President of Burgmann College.

Clark went on to become a lawyer, a political staffer, a senior journalist for the Sydney Morning Herald and then a widely regarded radio broadcaster in Sydney, before returning to Canberra to be the host of ABC’s 666 breakfast show. A passionate ANU alumnus, Clark is also the father of former Woroni editor Olivia Clark and has another daughter currently in her 4th year at ANU. Woroni was fortunate to chat with Philip Clark as part of our ANU alumni series.

What did you love and hate the most about Canberra?

I loved the fact that it was a community of people from all over the country, the freedom, being away from home, the exhilaration of meeting a lot of smart people, and the study! I really loved staying at Burgmann College. I don’t think I hated too much. It was pretty cold in winter I guess, but until I lived in a student house and had to pay for heating it didn’t worry me too much. I loved Canberra’s seasons.

What else did you do (other than study) at ANU?

I was the President of the Residents Association at Burgmann, played a bit of AFL for the college, and got out in the bush a bit.

What was your go-to student meal?

Spaghetti bolognese. Some things never change…

Where did you socialise the most?

Mostly at Burgmann but also quite often the ANU Union Bar. Later the Boot and Flogger bar (since deceased).

What was the biggest political issue affecting you and your mates when you were at ANU, and what were your views on it?

The dismissal of the Whitlam government in 1975 was big. I went over to Parliament house that day. There were large crowds. I thought Fraser was wrong and had hijacked the government.

Did you have a favourite ANU academic and what was it that you liked about her/him?

I loved John Ritchie who taught 19th century British history, he made history a lot of fun. I also loved the intellectual excitement of Ian Hancock. In Law, I loved Prof Leslie Zines – a great teacher of constitutional Law and Equity.

If you had your time over again, would you still come to ANU and study what you did?

Yes! It was one of the best decisions I ever made. I especially loved the History and Political Science courses I did. I mostly enjoyed Law – glad I did it. It’s a great way to learn how the world works.

Knowing what you know now, what advice would you give your ANU student self?

I would definitely work harder. When I was at ANU there was a general culture of not doing too much work if you could help it. It made for a lot of fun, but in retrospect I missed some things along the way.

If the Vice Chancellor called you up today and asked you to tell him one thing you think he should do to change/improve ANU, what would it be?

Come up with better ways to teach than lectures, and improve the quality and size of small group tutorials.

Canberra gets a pretty hard time from people who live in Sydney, Melbourne and even Brisbane. What do you say to people who hate on Canberra?

The only people who hate on Canberra have never visited or lived here. Let’s face it, Canberra is a fantastic place to live. It’s small enough to be a “university town” and yet there’s plenty on. The bush is everywhere, there’s everything you want, and there’s no traffic or fuss. I love it.