Honouring Daw Aung San Suu Kyi

28 November 2013

The University of Sydney ceremony begins at 15m55s.

In front of a capacity audience at the Sydney Opera House, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi last night delivered her first public address in Australia after receiving honorary doctorates from the University of Sydney and the University of Technology, Sydney.

In her speech, she spoke about her struggle for democracy and called for further constitutional reform in Myanmar.

"Those of you who think that Burma has successfully taken the path to reform would be mistaken," Daw Aung San Suu Kyi said.

"If you want to know why you are mistaken you only have to study the Burmese constitution. If you read it carefully you will understand why we can't have genuine democracy under such a constitution."

The Nobel Peace Prize winner was welcomed to the stage with a standing ovation. The Australian-Burmese community was well represented in the audience with some travelling from as far as Perth and Darwin to attend the event.

Daw Aung San Suu Kyi accepting her honorary degree from the University of Sydney.
Daw Aung San Suu Kyi accepting her honorary degree from the University of Sydney.

Dr Michael Spence, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Sydney, presented Aung San Suu Kyi with a Doctor of Laws (Honoris Causa) in recognition of her achievements.

"During her lifetime, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi has dedicated herself to the struggle of the Burmese people, standing resolutely through bitter detainment for the principles of equality and democracy. She has fought against domination. She has cherished the ideal of a society in which people live together in harmony and with equal opportunity," Dr Spence said.

"Today we honour that ideal, and we honour the sacrifices that she has made in its pursuit.

In accepting the degree, Aung San Suu Kyi acknowledged the support she had received from around the world.

"Throughout our years of struggle we have been encouraged by our friends from all over the world. The honorary degrees that were presented to me earlier, these were not just honorary degrees, these were signs that the world was with us, that we had not been forgotten in our struggle," Daw Aung San Suu Kyi said.

The University of Sydney is committed to working towards a more prosperous Myanmar, and has already started to work with Myanmar on the following projects.

  • The University is currently discussing with Oxford University ways to contribute to the reinvigoration of Yangon University.
  • Sydney Law School has begun what it hopes will be a long-term collaboration around constitutional reform.
  • The Law School also has a team of scholars in its Centre for International Law involved in research to enhance the capacity of Burma's public and private sectors to protect and promote human rights.
  • Sydney Medical School has announced the establishment of a virtual Joint Institute for Maternal and Child Health with the University of Public Health in Yangon.
  • Sydney Medical School is also offering four scholarships to Burmese medical students - one from each medical school in Burma - who wish to study at the University of Sydney.
  • Sydney Business School isworking to empower women entrepreneurs in Myanmar.

The University's Sydney Southeast Asia Centre has one of the highest concentrations of expertise on Southeast Asia in the world, with more than 220 academics across many disciplines. There are currently 53 students from Myanmar studying at the University.

Read a transcript of Dr Michael Spence's address.

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