by JEFF DILLON

After a long involvement which began in the late 1960s, Tony Hanning, 80, the director of the Catholic Education Office in Dunedin, stepped down recently. As he completed a few last tasks, he reminisced about how he became involved.

He grew up in Queenstown and his family moved to Invercargill in about 1950. He went to Dunedin Teacher Training College in 1957 — 1958.

He returned to Invercargill to start his teaching career at Middle School. From there, it was on to Tisbury and then to Merrivale in western Southland, where he became involved in CCD and CFM.

A move to Dunedin with his young family found him teaching at George Street Normal School and completing his degree at Otago University. At the same time, he had become heavily involved in the primary teachers’ union, NZEI.

He, along with a few others, would speak up at national meetings of the union on the issue of state aid to Catholic schools. He avoided being labelled a single-issue advocate by supporting other issues of merit just as strongly.

Bishop John Kavanagh formed the Diocesan and Education Council in 1969 and Mr Hanning became a foundation member of that.

Bishop Kavanagh was also at the forefront of setting up a national body as well, with the support of the other bishops.

Mr Hanning recalled the importance of the Currie Commission report of 1960 and the moves by both the National and Labour Parties to accept the basic premise that state aid was a social justice issue during this period.

He noted the importance of a crucial meeting that he facilitated at that time. The national executive of NZEI contacted him to request an informal meeting with Bishop Kavanagh to better understand the issues. As the executive team was arriving on a late plane, the meeting was set to start at 9pm. It was 3am before the meeting finished, with Mr Hanning due to start teaching again at 9am.

When asked to report to the Diocesan and Education Council about the meeting, Mr Hanning had quipped “I don’t mind working from 9 to 3 but not twice in the one day.”

During part of this busy period, Mr Hanning was principal of the Strath Taieri School at Middlemarch. So the road between Dunedin and Middlemarch became a much-travelled route, as he attended NZEI meetings or those of the Diocesan and Education Council, which he chaired.

Options were opening up for Mr Hanning, including a possible move to Wellington, but it was suggested that he should apply for the principal’s job at St Mary’s School in Mosgiel. He was appointed there and was more readily available to help Bishop Kavanagh’s push towards integration. In 1981, he formally became part of the Dunedin Catholic Education office, working on the administrative side of restructuring the schools and
meeting the huge requirements for integration.

The move towards integration saw the need for the establishment of a catechetical studies course through co-operation between the Dunedin Teachers’ College, Otago University Theology Department and the Catholic Education office.

This provided studies as part of the education degree for students at Dunedin, who could later meet requirements to teach in integrated schools.

In 2007, in recognition of his support and achievements, he was admitted to the Knights Cavalieri of the Order of St Gregory the Great. There can be only 300 living knights worldwide.

Mr Hanning intends to continue to make a contribution to the diocese through producing the quarterly issues of The Tablet.

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