Where it all began - Professor Denis Burnham Founding Director

Image: Joanne, Lachie and Denis Burnham with the tree the new parents planted in honour of their baby boy.

Parenting and studying balance where it all began for future baby expert

Last year, we (University of New England) brought you the story of UNE Distinguished Alumni Award winner and 'baby expert' Professor Denis Burnham, who shared his experiences of studying on campus in the 1970s.

While completing his Honours degree, Denis and his then wife Joanne (who was doing a Bachelor of Arts degree) became parents to baby Lachlan (read on to see how the family line continues!)

Academically, 23-year-old Denis was grappling with theories of child development in psychology, and epistemology and the origins of knowledge in philosophy; so the first-hand experience was very timely. "I had bought a book on child development and asked Professor Paul Barratt, who was then the head of the Psychology department, what else I should do to prepare for our first baby," Denis says.

"Paul turned to me and said: 'Throw the book away and just be a parent'."

Denis was a resident of St Albert's College in 1971, and in 1972 Joanne joined him at UNE. Their son Lachlan was born in March 1973 and he became a "bit of a novelty" to mates at Albies and Mary White colleges and in the Albies AFL team. "They enjoyed minding Lachie on occasions, holding and clucking and doing a bit of ‘oochie coo’ talk - which I later found in my research studies helps infants’ language development," Denis says.

Nevertheless, it was quite a juggling act. "I would come out of a lecture and Joanne would hand Lachie over and she would go into a lecture," Denis says. "Everyone was young and growing up."

For the full article, please visit: https://www.une.edu.au/connect/news/2021/04/parentingstudying-balance-where-it-all-began-for-future-baby-expert (opens in a new window).


Published 12 April 2021

University of New England