Public Lecture and Honorary doctorate: Baroness Sheila Hollins

Published: Thursday 14th April 2016

Message from Associate Vice-Chancellor John Ballard: On Wednesday of this week, the St Patrick’s Campus hosted another in its series of public lectures, culminating in the award of an honorary doctorate to the presenter, The Baroness Sheila Hollins. Baroness Hollins is Emeritus Professor of the Psychiatry of Learning Disability at St George’s (University of London).

She was President of the Royal College of Psychiatrists from 2005–2008, President of the British Medical Association (2012-2013) and currently President of the College of Occupational Therapists and Chair of the British Medical Associations Board of Science. In 2010 Sheila Hollins was created a Crossbench Life Peer in the House of Lords and in 2014 she was appointed by Pope Francis to the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors.

The presentation, stemming from her personal experiences and faith base as a lay Benedictine, demonstrated a lifelong commitment to the dignity of the human person and the common good. For more than four decades, Baroness Hollins has been a leading voice in research and advocacy of people suffering a lifetime of disadvantage as a result of developmental intellectual and learning disabilities. Developing a passion for the welfare of young people during her time as a medical practitioner at Westminster Children’s Hospital, Baroness Hollins would use her position as Head of the Department of Psychiatry and Disability at St George’s University of London to lead research focused on the physical and mental health of young people with intellectual disabilities.

Baroness Hollins pushed young people’s welfare issues into the public narrative, publishing over 200 articles and becoming the successful founder and lead author of the Books Beyond Words series. First published in 1989, the series of 50 titles focuses on social, personal and health-related issues for people whose intellectual disabilities leave them unable to read normal print books.

Following an insightful and inspirational presentation, The Baronness was awarded the highest honour of Australian Catholic University, Doctor of the University (honoris causa) in recognition of her distinguished career in health care and a lifetime of caring and advocating for the dignity of all humans, particularly those people marginalised through abuse and disability.

The text of Baroness Hollins’ presentation will be available on the ACU web site and that of the Archdiocese of Melbourne.