ACU National graduation to honour social justice crusader

Monday, 2 April 2007

Canberra, 29 March, 2007: Australian Catholic University (ACU National) will award human rights activist Phil Glendenning with its highest honour, Doctor of the University (Honoris Causa), at its annual Canberra graduation ceremony held at Parliament House tomorrow.

More than 190 students from ACU National’s Canberra Campus (Signadou) will graduate with degrees in education, social work, arts, theology and postgraduate and doctoral studies at the ceremony, and Mr Glendenning will give the occasional address to graduates.

ACU National Vice-Chancellor Professor Peter Sheehan AO said Mr Glendenning had “shaken the moral compass of Australian society” for his longstanding dedication to improving the lives of poor, Indigenous, politically dispossessed and suffering people both in Australia and worldwide.

“Phil Glendenning is unafraid of criticism of his work for the disadvantaged, and there has been much of this, especially from politically and socially powerful people,” Professor Sheehan said. “Indeed, he takes this criticism as a sign that others have noticed what he and his colleagues have wanted to achieve for those most in need of advocacy.

“Phil Glendenning remains a person who gives all of his mind and energy to the needy, especially those weighed down by unjust treatment – and for this reason ACU National is delighted to bestow its highest honour, Doctor of the University, upon him.”

Mr Glendenning is Director of the Edmund Rice Centre, a Sydney-based organisation that conducts research into the causes of poverty and inequity in Australia. He is also co-founder and former National President of Australians for Native Title and Reconciliation, which coordinated the 2000 Reconciliation Walk, a 250,000-person march across the Sydney Harbour Bridge in support of Indigenous rights and reconciliation. More recently, he has been the catalyst behind the Let’s Talk Project and the Deported to Danger report, both of which alerted the Australian and worldwide community to the plight of refugees forcibly expelled from Australia.

Professor Sheehan also congratulated ACU National students graduating at tomorrow’s ceremony and spoke of their ongoing mission as ambassadors for the University to make a contribution to their local, national or international communities.

“Graduation is a time for public recognition of the achievements of ACU National’s students, but it is also an acknowledgement that our graduates are going forth into the community with their newly acquired knowledge, skills and experience,” he said.

“If, in doing this, our graduates can demonstrate the ideals embedded in the University’s Mission, then Australia will be a better country for having them as part of its community.”

ACU National’s Canberra Campus is home to 600 students and offers academic programs in arts, education, social work and theology. In 2007, the Campus introduced a Bachelor of Nursing to its academic offerings, further enhancing the University’s national reputation as a leading provider of nursing education.

Australian Catholic University (ACU National) – established as Australia’s only Catholic, national, publicly funded university – is open to all. The University empowers its students and staff with a strong sense of social responsibility and concern for the moral and ethical dimensions of their study and their professional and personal lives.