Carron family tree starts with forestry

13 July 2018

He's the third generation in his family to graduate with a PhD, but the truth behind Brad Carron-Arthur is that almost his entire family has some sort of connection to Australia's national university.

Brad, who graduated with a Bachelor of Psychology (Hons) in 2011 at ANU before returning to complete his PhD in Mental Health (2018), was among the Colleges of Science graduates to receive their university qualification at the July 2018 graduation ceremony.

The mental health advocate and long distance marathon runner follows a line of at least 11 family members to graduate with degrees at ANU, but he is the third direct descendent to graduate with a PhD behind his mother Dr Philippa (Pippa) Carron (PhD Zoology 1985) and his grandfather, Dr Leslie Carron (PhD Forestry 1968).

"When he first came to live in Canberra from Queensland, Dad went to the Forestry School which was in Yarralumla. So when the Forestry School merged with ANU in the 60s, Dad was there right from the beginning," Pippa says, acknowledging her father's passion for science and academia as being a major factor in her academic success.

"My father gained a diploma in forestry from Oxford University in the 50s, then worked towards his PhD in the 60s at ANU. I was a teenager at the time and seeing my Dad working so hard at nights and weekends must have had quite a strong influence on me, though I wasn't aware of it at the time."

Les Carron's PhD was significant for forestry in Australia because he pioneered new ways of measuring plantation trees. His thesis was published as a textbook that was used in the Forestry department at ANU and other universities around Australia for decades. He also wrote A History of Forestry in Australia which was published in 1985 by ANU Press and remains the only comprehensive history of forestry in Australia.

Pippa's mother, Margaret Carron, who was the then Vice-Chancellor's research assistant, also graduated from ANU in the 70s as a mature-age student. She completed an arts degree majoring in history.

"So that was an influence as well," she said.

"For a few years, we were all there, and would bump into each other as we moved around the campus."

"My father believed for full immersion and paid for my sister and I to live on campus. My sister was at Garran Hall and I was at Burgmann College," she says.

Pippa says given her family's ties, it made sense for her two boys to study at ANU as well.

"There was a strong awareness within the family of the excellence of the University and that it was just a natural thing for them to go there. Plus it's a beautiful campus - very inspiring."

Asked if it's likely that the tradition will continue in the family past her two children, Pippa quips "Who knows! If you had have said to me in 1968 'you'll get a PhD at ANU and then your son will too', my reaction would've been 'well that's too much to contemplate!'"

Brad admits it was his Mum who was very excited - and proud - to get the word out about this family tradition.

"It wasn't a conscious choice given history, but it's certainly a culture of the family mindset that a PhD is not just an investment in yourself, but it's a contribution to knowledge," he says.

"So given the age of the University it's probably not that common but it's a good university so why rush off anywhere else!"

Brad says he was also taught to give back to society in a philanthropic way, using his knowledge gained from university.

"It wasn't purely 'I will definitely have a career in research'. It was more like 'I can see an area and a need and I'm interested to do it'," he says, in pondering his decision to continue with his postgraduate studies.

Brad now works at the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet in the Behavioural Economics Team as an advisor.  

"It seems a bit weird to transition from population mental health research into behavioural economics, but the skills I gained from my PhD were highly transferable."

Brad says he still plans to go back into mental health services, but admits that may see him hop between academia and the public service to achieve his goals.

"Now that I've been a part of the public service there's a whole lot I see I can do to help translate research into evidence-based policy."


Degrees from ANU within the Carron-Arthur family

Dr Leslie Carron, PhD Forestry, 1969 (Brad's grandfather)

Dr Philippa (Pippa) Carron, BSc(Hons), 1976, PhD Zoology, 1986 (Brad's mother)

Dr Bradley Carron-Arthur, PhD Psychology, 2018 (third generation PhD from ANU) 

Mr Richard Arthur, B Arts, 1980, LLB, 1980 (Brad's father)

Mr Ashley Carron-Arthur, BSc, 2010 (Brad's brother)

Mrs Margaret Carron, B Arts, 1983 (Brad's grandmother)

Mrs Beverley Payne (nee Carron), B Arts, 1975 (Brad's aunt)

Mr Michael Payne, B Arts, 1974 (Brad's uncle)

Ms Cassia Payne, B Arts, 2005 (Brad's cousin)

Mr Robert Arthur, B Arts, 1964 (Brad's uncle)

Ms Bronwen Arthur, B Music, 1994