One of Canberra’s great intellectual contributors, Professor Thomas Faunce, has died suddenly over the weekend at the age of 61. An ANU law professor and former intensive care doctor, he was the son of Dr Marc Faunce, who was head of Royal Canberra Hospital and consulting physician to five Australian Prime Ministers and six Governors-General.
Thomas Faunce was an expert in health law, bioethics, nanotechnology, the environment and international trade, and held joint appointments in the ANU College of Law and the ANU Medical School. Beyond campus, he also practised medicine and law and had won five Australian Research Council Discovery Grants.
Paying tribute, the ANU’s vice chancellor Professor Brian Schmidt said that Professor Faunce’s research reflected his incredibly diverse background and was at the leading edge of health, science and law. “His research tackled some of our biggest challenges, including climate change and food security,” Professor Schmidt said.
“Tom represents all the very best qualities of our great university. Research that forges new knowledge. Teaching that empowers and inspires. Outreach and engagement that shapes society for the better. He was always sharp of mind, and did not shy from asking the most complex and challenging questions; more often than not developing robust and potent answers.”
Most recently, Professor Faunce had researched how nanotechnology could help solve public health and environmental problems, including examining how artificial photosynthesis could enable every road, house and vehicle on the earth’s surface to make renewable fuel and fertiliser.
He founded the 20-year multidisciplinary course in Health Law, Bioethics and Human Rights, was one of the founding faculty members for the ANU Medical School and was instrumental in designing, delivering and leading the School’s Professionalism and Leadership theme.
An ANU honours graduate in Arts and Law, he completed his medical degree at Newcastle University and worked as a judge’s associate for Justice Lionel Murphy on the High Court, a solicitor in some of Australia’s top legal firms, including Mallesons and Freehills and was also a junior doctor and intensive care registrar in Wagga Wagga and Canberra.
The Faunce family have deep roots in the Canberra Monaro region: Professor Faunce’s great-great-grandfather, Alured Tasker Faunce, was the first resident police magistrate of Queanbeyan, Molonglo, Gundaroo and the Monaro in the 1830s. His great grandfather was the Reverend Canon Alured Dodsworth Faunce, who served in the Goulburn Anglican diocese at St John’s, Bega and St Clement’s in Yass, while his grandfather fought with Ryrie’s 2nd Light Horse Brigade at Gallipoli, Beersheba and Romani.
“He was an incredible and important part of our community for almost four decades. We thank Tom for everything he has given us. He leaves a powerful legacy. Most of all, he will be missed dearly,” the vice-chancellor said.
Funeral details are forthcoming.