At 102, David Goodall is Australia’s oldest working scientist.
He’s had a career in ecology spanning 70 years, producing more than 100 research papers, earning three doctorates and receiving a member of the Order of Australia for his contribution to the field.
His work has taken him around the world, but these days you will find him at his office at Edith Cowan University.
He still goes to the Joondalup campus at least four days a week, making the 90-minute commute that involves catching two buses and a train.
“I have no social contact in the building where my flat is and few social contacts elsewhere in Perth actually,” Dr Goodall said.
“But I know most of the people in my office corridor and it’s very nice to be able to go and talk to them from time to time even though they may be pretty busy.”
He has served as an honorary research associate at the university for almost two decades.
But now he has been told to pack up his office, with the university declaring him unfit to be on campus.
The Dean of the School of Sciences, Andrew Woodward, said the decision was made after numerous concerns were raised by staff and students about Dr Goodall’s safety and wellbeing.
“This is not an easy thing for anybody,” he said.
“This is not a decision we’ve taken lightly, this is something that has been considered over a period of time.
“We are now of the opinion where the situation is at a point where we really do need to make this change in David’s best interest and our own.”
It’s another blow for the botanist who was forced to give up his second love, theatre, a few years ago when his failing eyesight prevented him from driving to rehearsals.
Off campus time
From next year Dr Goodall will only be permitted on campus for prearranged meetings and will have to be accompanied.
His daughter, Karen Goodall-Smith, said that would have a dramatic impact on his sense of independence and mental wellbeing.
She expressed her sentiments to the university when it contacted her earlier this year to ask for her input.
“I said it would be the worst thing you could possibly do, I don’t know if he would survive it,” she said.
“After everything he has contributed, for them to do that, I’m appalled.”
Edith Cowan University said it wanted to continue its relationship with Dr Goodall and had just renewed his honorary professor position for a further three years.
However, it said he would have to work from a home office.
“We’re going to be providing a computer, a printer,” Mr Woodward said.
“When he needs to come or he would like to come on campus for meetings or to interact with other staff and students he won’t bear any cost for that, we’ll arrange that transport for him.”
Dr Goodall said he does not have room for a home office in his one bedroom unit and he was looking for an alternative space.
“I would be glad if they did reconsider it,” he said.
“But I don’t feel that I’m in a position to press it.”
He said he was eager to continue to contribute to the university, even from afar.