When asked what interested him in social work in the first place, longtime resident and now Order of Australia Medal recipient Professor Peter Munn says it always comes back to his desire to learn and listen.
“It really is about the people and your ability to communicate with them. One of the key skills in any area of work is how well you can listen,” he said.
Mr Munn was named as Whyalla’s OAM recipient on Monday for his service to education. However as history shows, Mr Munn’s contribution to the education field went hand-in-hand with his social work.
After completing a Bachelor of Economics Mr Munn’s first position in the workforce was with BHP in Whyalla.
He then worked in Victoria and later overseas in London, where he was given the tough task of transferring a company to Hull in Yorkshire at the cost of 200 jobs.
“I really didn’t feel comfortable about that,” Mr Munn said.
Returning to Australia disillusioned with accounting, Mr Munn competed a a post graduate degree in Social Administration which qualified him to be a social worker.
“Coming from an accounting background, social work was incredibly different,” he said.
Mr Munn completed the course and then took on the position of Whyalla Counselling Course Director. As the only qualified social worker in Whyalla, Mr Munn worked with new migrants settling in the city in the late 1970s.
During this period Mr Munn met his wife Tricia, who he would go on to raise five children with in Whyalla. Unfortunately one of their children, Sarah, died when she was just a baby.
“She’s my best supporter, but also my most constructive critic,” Mr Munn said of Tricia.
Some years later he became an academic in the Social Work Program at the Institute of Technology Whyalla Campus, which would eventually become the University of South Australia.
Mr Munn stayed at the university for 22 years working in a variety of positions, before becoming the General Manager at Centacare Catholic Country SA.
After two years of retirement Mr Munn is now taking on a new position as Professor of Social Work at Queensland University.