If Dean Brown had his way, South Australia would be the centre of innovative technology in Australia. And, for a while in his role as State Premier from 1993 – 1996, it might have been.
The Hon Dr Dean Brown AO, in Parliament for 27 years, led the South Australian Liberal Party to electoral victory in a landslide in the 1993 state elections. The Liberals had been in power for just five of the previous 25 years and the Brown-led juggernaut claimed one of the biggest landslides ever recorded at the state level. They took 14 seats from Labor and won a record 61 per cent of the two-party vote.
People predicted that the Liberals would be in power for a generation, but factionalism undid all the good work three years later.
Of his many achievements as Premier, Dean Brown’s government was the first government in the world to outsource data processing for the whole of government and thus was born the new information technology industry in South Australia.
His passion has always been for innovation and ensuring that it is effectively commercialised. As Minister for Industrial Affairs in 1980 he initiated the first Technology Park in South Australia at Mawson Lakes and then established the Entrepreneurial Workshops to commercialise new innovations.
“I have always been interested in innovations, in science, in understanding how science works and why,” he says. “I wanted to understand how things work and university was a great place to learn and understand. It opened up opportunities for me.”
His advice to current students is to learn how to learn, continue to keep learning, seize opportunities and lead rich lives.
Before heading into the plush leather surrounds of the South Australian State Government, Dean Brown was a research scientist. He was educated initially at the University of New England (UNE) in New South Wales, graduating with a Bachelor of Rural Science in 1967. In 1970 he gained a Fellowship Diploma in Business Administration at the South Australian Institute of Technology, a predecessor of the University of South Australia, and returned to UNE for his Masters in Rural Science. He worked as a Senior Research Scientist for the South Australian Department of Agriculture before his frustration with the lack of strategic thinking led him to try to change the system from within.
He was first elected to the House of Assembly for the safe Liberal seat of Davenport in 1973 and began his Ministerial career six years later as Minister for Industrial Affairs and Minister for Public Works. He became Leader of the Opposition in 1992 and then Premier in the landslide election of 1993.
His political career continued after he lost the Premiership, adding Ministerial roles of Industrial Relations, Information and Contract Services, Aboriginal Affairs, Human Services which included health and community services, and then became Deputy Premier and Minister for Human Services and Ageing. In the 2002 State elections, the Liberals were removed from power by Mike Rann’s Labor. Dean Brown became Deputy Leader of the Opposition under Rob Kerin.
Since retiring from politics in 2006 Dean Brown has worked for Seeley International in developing and commercialising new innovations in air-conditioning, especially with Climate Wizard, the global leader in delivering hyper-efficient cooling technology which has won numerous Australian and international awards. In 2007 he became a non-executive director of Scantech Ltd. which produces the world leading in-line (real time) analyser for the coal, cement and minerals industries. Among several board positions, he currently Chairs the Oversight Committee for developing innovation between Flinders University/UniSA/ TafeSA and Seeley International. He chairs the Strategy Committee of the Low Carbon Living Node of the University of South Australia and is an Ambassador for the Impact Awards which recognise outstanding innovation. He also Chairs the Playford Memorial Trust, a scholarship scheme in STEM subjects established by the South Australian Parliament which encourages young high-achieving South Australians to further their studies.
Dean Brown is a passionate South Australian and maintains the same zeal he had as Premier: focusing South Australian companies on seizing the export opportunities available to them. He also sees opportunities for young South Australians to do exactly as he did: selling Australian expertise to the rest of the world.