Honorary doctorates for services to education and literature
Tuesday, 15 May 2018
Chancellor The Hon John Fahey AC presents Aunty Fay Green OAM with her honorary doctorate. Photos: GFP Graduations
The University’s highest honour, Doctor of the University, has been bestowed on Indigenous Elder Aunty Fay Green OAM and author Libby Gleeson AM.
Australian Catholic University (ACU) has awarded an honorary doctorate to two highly regarded educators who have each played a part in enriching the lives of children through their work.
Fay Mary Green (Aunty Fay) OAM, is an Indigenous Elder of the Kamilaroi people with limited formal schooling, who has dedicated her life to encouraging a love of education among indigenous Australians in the NSW town of Walgett. She received the award on Wednesday 9 May at a graduation ceremony in Sydney.
Aunty Fay was awarded the honorary doctorate for her lifelong commitment to fostering education and forging cultural and social cohesion in indigenous communities.
She is also responsible for reviving Indigenous languages in her community and for a 300 per cent increase in her local primary school’s Aboriginal students’ enrolments.
At the award ceremony, ACU Chancellor The Hon John Fahey AC said, “Young Fay Dennis, as she was back then, loved school and loved learning but at the age of 14 she was made to leave school and go to work on a station as a farmhand and a maid.”
“In spite of that, or perhaps because of it, Aunty Fay understands the potential power of education and the difference it can make to the life of every child. She has devoted her own life to helping her people recognise and understand the value of a good education.
“Taking education to others is one of the greatest gifts possible to bestow. Hundreds, thousands, millions of teachers do that every day. What makes Aunty Fay’s gift even more special is a relentless determination to help children overcome obstacles in accessing education.”
Photo: ACU Deputy Vice-Chancellor Dr Stephen Weller, The Hon John Fahey AC, Chair of Academic Board Professor Margot Hillel OAM, Libby Gleeson AM, National Head of School of Arts Professor Michael Ondaatje, Campus Dean (Canberra) Associate Professor Patrick McArdle.
Elizabeth (Libby) Gleeson AM’s lifelong dedication to literacy and storytelling was recognised with an honorary doctorate for her contribution to Australian literature at a separate graduation ceremony on Thursday 10 May.
Gleeson has written 40 books for children and her inspiring, and predominantly Australian, stories of motivation have been published worldwide. They are also available in Braille.
“Her books have delighted thousands of small children, teens and their parents, and her advocacy for reading has had an impact on so many more,” said Mr Fahey.
“Life for writers can be tough and it involves a high level of motivation and resilience. Writing is work and good writing doesn’t come easily. To write so endearingly and successfully is a mighty accomplishment.”
Raised in country New South Wales and inspired by her schoolteacher father, Gleeson gorged herself on library books as a child and studied history at Sydney University before entering teaching.
She wrote her first novel Eleanor, Elizabeth in 1984 and her books have since won a raft of awards including three Children’s Book Council of Australia awards, the Prime Minister’s Multicultural Award, the Children’s Literature Peace Prize and the Young Australian Readers Award.
In 2007 she was made a member of the Order of Australia.
Equally important to the quality of her writing has been her championing of the power of reading, writing and storytelling.
Her quest for social equality has most recently manifested itself in the founding of WestWords, an organisation established to bring opportunities for reading and writing to the children of marginalised communities in Western Sydney.