Honorary awards

The Hon Gareth John Evans AO QC

The degree of Doctor of Laws (honoris causa) was conferred upon the Hon Gareth John Evans AO QC at the Faculty of Science graduation ceremony held at 11.30am on 24 October 2008.

The Hon Gareth Evans & Dr Michael Spence

The Hon Gareth Evans and Vice-Chancellor Dr Michael Spence (right) reading the citation, before conferral of the honorary degree by Deputy Chancellor Alan Cameron AM, photo, copyright Memento Photography.


Presented by the Vice-Chancellor Dr Michael Spence

Deputy Chancellor, I have the honour to present Gareth John Evans for admission to the degree of Doctor of Laws, honoris causa.

Gareth Evans always set out to make a difference, probably from his cradle. At the University of Melbourne, in 1963, he was elected President of the Students' Representative Council. This was at about the same time as Michael Kirby, James Spigelman and our own Deputy Chancellor, Alan Cameron, were cutting their teeth in the identical role at this University. If there were ever a “golden age” of student politicians, that was it.

Gareth Evans began his professional life as a senior lecturer in Law at the University of Melbourne. He was appointed a foundation Commissioner of the Australian Law Reform Commission in 1975. He was then elected to the Australian Senate in 1978. When his party came to government in 1983, he was appointed Federal Attorney-General at the age of 39. He held other ministries in succession and became a long-term Minister for Foreign Affairs. He served for a period as Leader of the Government in the Senate. In 1996 he was elected to the House of Representatives as Member for Holt, a position he relinquished in 1999.

Since his retirement from politics, Gareth Evans has served with great distinction as President and Chief Executive of the International Crisis Group (ICG). Based in Belgium, the Group has many offices world-wide. It has grown remarkably under his stewardship and it contributes to the study of responses to international conflict and crises. By examining, analysing and commenting on these, monitoring them and warning of their dangers and needs, the ICG seeks to contribute to peaceful settlement and just outcomes in such situations. The Group has grown in strength and is now extremely influential and highly valued by world leaders for its independence and practical sense. Its members include many influential retired national leaders. Their selection of Gareth Evans as President was inspiring and a great tribute to his standing in the international community.

The Hon Gareth Evans

The Hon Gareth Evans, photo, copyright Memento Photography.

Gareth Evans is constantly called on to perform important tasks for the international community. Recently he has served on a small committee established by the Secretary-General of the United Nations for restructuring the United Nations, its organs and agencies. Since 2004 he has served as a member of the Weapons of Mass Destruction Commission.

Gareth Evans has received civil honours including his appointment in 2001 as an Officer of the Order of Australia. The University of Melbourne has conferred on him the Honorary Degree of Doctor of Laws. This supplements his Bachelor of Laws degree won at that University with First Class Honours and his Master of Arts degree from Oxford University, also conferred with First Class Honours.

Gareth Evans is a most highly gifted Australian intellectual. He is a brilliant lawyer who chose to devote his life to the affairs of his country's governance and the wider service of world peace and justice. Had he decided to become a leading barrister or judge he would have been a great leader of the legal profession. Had he stayed in the honourable path of university teaching and scholarship he would have been an ornament to learning and scholarly writing. Instead, he followed the path of service to our country and a wider world. He is a true example of what can be achieved by Australians who are blessed with fine education and opportunities of public service. For his devotion to humanity in his present international role in the ICG alone he deserves our thanks and praise.

All religions, all societies and all people of goodwill honour the peacemakers, as do we today in this University. For his public life in Australia and his international work for international peace with justice we honour the Honourable Gareth John Evans, Officer of the Order of Australia, Queen’s Counsel and Australian leader, in the building of a better world.

Deputy Chancellor, I have great pleasure in presenting, for admission to the degree of Doctor of Laws, honoris causa, Gareth John Evans, and I invite you to confer the degree upon him.