It's your story, Gleeson tells graduates

5 November 2014

Libby Gleeson AM (Second from right)
Libby Gleeson AM (Second from right)

Children's author Libby Gleeson AM told science and education graduates "you have only got one go at this life business" in a lively speech to The Great Hall last week.

Gleeson, who graduated from the University in 1974 with an honours degree in history and a diploma of education, received an honorary Doctor of Letters (honoris causa) [Hon DLitt] at the ceremony for her contribution to literature.

In her occasional address, she encouraged graduates not to be afraid of changing paths.

The author of The Great Bear and Hannah Plus One spoke of her love of stories and how they are innate in everyone.

"I spend my working life creating stories, talking about stories and helping others who are trying to become writers of stories," she said.

"I see us all as making and telling stories all the time. It is an overwhelming aspect of our humanity.

"We are the storytelling animal, in fact, there are those who say we are not homo sapiens. Better to describe us as homo narrans or homo fictus," she added.

After leaving the University of Sydney in the mid-70s, Gleeson taught in Picton, New South Wales, before taking to classrooms in Italy and England. And she reserved special words of encouragement for the new teachers in The Great Hall.

Education, she said, is "about opening minds to enquiry, having individuals find their passion, equip them with skills to develop that passion and set them on a path to life long, self directed learning."

Gleeson told the graduates that life isn't "just about careers, professions and about where you'll sit on a scale of income".

"You've only got one go at this life business. It's your story. You are the main character and you're also the writer. True, you may not get to create the last scene: it may happen by chance or in some way that comes unexpectedly, some way completely out of your control, but pretty much the rest is up to you," she said.