University celebrates the contribution of women leaders

2 November 2014

The University of Sydney has recognised eight leading women with honorary degrees.
The University of Sydney has recognised eight leading women with honorary degrees.

Eight exceptional women including a high court judge, an award winning film director, an indigenous leader and a sex discrimination commissioner were recognised at an honorary award ceremony at the University of Sydney on Saturday, 1 November.

With the University's iconic jacaranda in full bloom, Gillian Armstrong, Justice Virginia Bell, Dr Kerry Schott, Elizabeth Broderick, Catherine Livingstone and Gail Kelly donned academic caps and gowns in the sandstone Quadrangle before accepting their degrees in the Great Hall. Lowitja (Lois) O'Donoghue and Evonne Goolagong Cawley were also conferred honorary degrees at the ceremony.

University of Sydney Vice-Chancellor Dr Michael Spence paid tribute to the women at the ceremony and said their achievements have had a profound impact in Australia and across the globe.

"The honorary degrees were conferred in recognition of the distinguished contribution these women have made to our community and their shared passion and commitment to making a real difference," Dr Spence said.

"The University of Sydney is particularly dedicated to promoting women's leadership and inspiring a new generation of female leaders. We are delighted to celebrate the achievements of these remarkable women and to have welcomed them into our community.

"As Australia's first university, we have combined our international reputation as a leading teaching and research institution with our commitment to encouraging and empowering individuals to pursue excellence, think critically and contribute to our society. These outstanding women exemplify the qualities of leadership enshrined at the University.

"The success of these women is a testament not only to passionate commitment to their respective fields, but also to the value of female leadership and accomplishment within our society."

Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, who received a Doctor of Laws (Honoris Causa) from the University in November last year in recognition of her achievements and dedication to the principles of equality and democracy delivered a personal video message to the eight honorands which was broadcast as part of the ceremony.

"I am very pleased that those who have been chosen are a high court judge, indigenous leader, a sex discrimination commissioner and business leader because these are all issues related to the problems we have to overcome here in my country, Burma," Daw Aung San Suu Kyi said.

"All [those] who are receiving honorary degrees today have in some way or the other helped our world to go forward towards a society where we learn to live in peace with others."

As part of the official ceremony the honorands shared their wisdom on leadership and how they continue to champion change and challenge inequality.

The University of Sydney's first honorary degree was awarded more than 62 years ago to the then Chancellor Sir Charles Bickerton Blackburn and His Excellency Lieutenant-General Sir John Northcott, then governor of New South Wales.

"In 2014, our honorary degrees program enables us to acknowledge individuals who share our values and to affirm our support for exceptional global leadership. It is fitting today that we honour the women leaders who are changing our world," Dr Spence said.

Media enquiries: Jessica Hill, 0407 926 077,

Gillian May Armstrong AM

Doctor of Letters (Honoris Causa)

An award-winning Australian director of feature films and documentaries with an international reputation as a filmmaker, and a leading advocate for increased opportunities for women filmmakers in Australia and internationally.

The Honourable Justice Virginia Bell AC

Doctor of Laws (Honoris Causa)

Justice Bell has made an outstanding contribution to Australian law through leadership in criminal law reform and public policy development and most notably as an advocate for the economically and socially disadvantaged.

Elizabeth Broderick

Doctor of Laws (Honoris Causa)

Ms Broderick has been committed to improving gender equality through her advocacy in preventing violence against women and sexual harassment, improving lifetime economic security for women, balancing paid work and unpaid caring responsibilities, promoting women's representation in leadership and strengthening gender equality laws.

Evonne Goolagong Cawley MBE AO

Doctor of Letters (Honoris Causa)

The first indigenous Australian to succeed in tennis at an international level, Evonne is one of Australia's most admired women's tennis players and one of the country's most esteemed indigenous sportspeople. Evonne has received a number of national and international accolades including being awarded Australian of the Year in 1971. Subsequently she has contributed greatly to increasing the awareness of Australian women in sport and to facilitating Aboriginal access to sport. From 1998-2005, Tennis Australia appointed Evonne as a "Tennis Ambassador" and together they formed the national Evonne Goolagong Getting Started Program to increase overall female participation in tennis throughout Australia. Since 2005, Evonne has run the Goolagong National Development Camp for Indigenous youngsters with potential to become pro players, coaches or administrators.

Gail Kelly

Doctor of Science in Economics (Honoris Causa)

Ms Kelly is recognised for her phenomenal contributions to business and the wider community. Her achievements are many and she is widely regarded as a leading figure and spokesperson for her sector in Australia and overseas. She has held numerous senior positions at major institutions that include Westpac, St George and the CBA.

Catherine Livingstone AO

Doctor of Letters (Honoris Causa)

Ms Livingstone is currently Chairman of Telstra Corporation Ltd, a director of Macquarie Group Limited, WorleyParsons Limited, The George Institute for Global Health and Saluda Medical Pty Ltd, and a member of the NSW Innovation and Productivity Council. The Australian Shareholders Association CEO says she is "Australia's most highly influential female director". She became an Officer of the Order of Australia in 2008 for "service to the development of Australian science, technology and innovation policies, to the business sector through leadership and management roles and as a contributor to professional organisations".

Dr Lowitja (Lois) O'Donoghue AC CBE DSG

Doctor of Laws (Honoris Causa)

A Pitjantjatjara woman and one of the most prominent members of the stolen generation, Lowitja O'Donoghue has worked for Aboriginal organisations and in Indigenous affairs for the last 30 years. She was the first Aboriginal nurse in South Australia, the first Aboriginal woman to be awarded an Order of Australia, was made Australian of the Year in 1984 in recognition of her outstanding contribution to the welfare of Aboriginal people and was named a National Living Treasure in 1998. In her retirement she continues her commitment in the areas of Aboriginal health, welfare and human rights and is a Visiting Fellow at Flinders University of South Australia.

Dr Kerry Schott

Doctor of Science in Economics (Honoris Causa)

Ms Schott has held significant leadership roles in a variety of business and government organisations. At present she is the Project Director for the NSW Treasury managing the sale of government owned electricity generating capacity. Kerry Schott is highly regarded by those in both the corporate and government sectors.

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