Alumni Stories: Dennis Harrison

Dennis Harrison

Dennis Harrison attended Elwood High between 1961-1964. He is a retired Geologist, Writer and Tai Chi teacher. These are some memories of his time at Elwood and life after school.

I joined Elwood High School for my third year of secondary schooling. It was my fourth secondary school. After first year high at Perth Modern school my father received a promotion and we transferred to Melbourne. I cycled through Caulfield Central and Brighton High school and then came to Elwood. Adrift from any close friends due to this instability I became a bit of a bookworm and I was equal dux with Sonya Varga in Form 3. Further instability occurred when the family bought a house in Glen Iris. Nearest school would have been Camberwell HS but as I was established at Elwood, for my last two years I commuted across the suburbs by two trams and lots of walking.

I was good at sport, captaining the U15 Saturday morning football team and I led a group of Elwood boys to join the underage St Kilda fourths; to my knowledge a first for the school. I was Cuthbert House Captain in both 1963 and 1964 and in both those years I managed to win the school mile. Both were great experiences for me.

I gained so much from Elwood and as I look back I realise just how lucky I was to have attended the school. It was like a little United Nations. At the time it was 80% Jewish and as a fifth generation Australian and part of the 20% Anglophile students, the experience of being a minority taught the valuable lesson of non-judgemental acceptance and getting on with everyone. The school had some great teachers and in my eyes none better than Mr Will, our Maths teacher. He instilled in me a love of Mathematics that has never left me and was invaluable, no essential, to my career as a Geologist. But he taught more than Maths. By wearing his academic gown into each lesson we surreptitiously absorbed the importance of learning and knowledge. Maths classes became also an opportunity for learning some philosophy and life skills.

So I say thank you Mr Will.

Mr Moody and Mr Green helped me gain second class honours in Chemistry and Physics which was enough to gain a Commonwealth scholarship and entry into Melbourne University. I gained a B.Sc in Geology and Geophysics and later added an M.Sc (Qual) (Univ. of Qld) and a Grad Diploma in Applied Finance and Investment from the Securities Institute of Australia.

I have had a 45 year career as a Geologist in industry both in Minerals and Oil and Gas. I consider I was fortunate to have surfed the resources boom of the 70’s and 80’s and despite the insecurity of the ups and downs of the industry was only unemployed for a short 6 month period. The first 12 years of my career was intensive field work which involved lots of walking but me early school days had groomed me for that as well.

I rose through the ranks and built up over 36 years of experience in Australia’s premier onshore oil and gas basin, the Cooper-Eromanga Basin. In my later years I was a consultant to the industry and because of my knowledge I later became a promoter of plays and acreage through my own private companies. It has been a rewarding and stimulating career and it all started from the education I received at Elwood High.

Career monuments are less tangible for a geologist and are unlike those of, say, an engineer or architect, who can physically touch their creations. With good fortune a geologist can claim participation in economic discoveries. I was the well site geologist on Beach Petroleum’s North Paaratte-1 well, their first commercial well after eighteen years in the game. The field and subsequent adjacent discoveries were developed to supply Warrnambool with enough gas for over twenty years. I called for the test which resulted in a new field oil discovery on the Mirage-1 well, Victoria Petroleum’s first economic discovery after twenty one years of activity. I was involved in a further four oil field discoveries in the Cooper-Eromanga basin whilst leading their exploration program for a number of years.

Today I get my enjoyment through writing, travelling, teaching Tai Chi and my grandchildren. My memoir, “You Could Be Prime Minister One Day Son - Memoirs of a Baby Boomer” was released on August 6th, 2018. It is available on both Amazon and Smashwords and may be of interest to former pupils. The book can also be accessed through my website