Honorary doctorates for pioneering breastfeeding educator and veteran journalist

Australian Catholic University has awarded two Australian women, Natalie Mary Paton AM and Geraldine Doogue, with honorary doctorates.

Mrs Paton, founder of the Nursing Mothers’ Association, later renamed the Australian Breastfeeding Association, and respected journalist Doogue, were both awarded a Doctor of the University at separate ceremonies on October 17.

In her Occasional Address, Mrs Paton told graduating health students that starting an organisation from the ground-up was a challenge.

“It was an enormous challenge, no money, no office or equipment, just three books and the acquired knowledge of six mums,” Mrs Paton said.

“It is possible for one person to make a difference not necessarily building an organization but as you graduates enter your profession and career, your journey can be full of satisfaction and pleasure as you treat and support your patients.”

Mrs Paton established the Nursing Mothers’ Association after her own struggles to breastfeed her first child. Inspired by an article in the Readers’ Digest on a new comprehensive book about breastfeeding and a support group in the United States, Mary convinced five other mothers to form the Nursing Mothers’ Association in Melbourne in 1964.

Six decades later, the now national organisation, which changed its name to the Australian Breastfeeding Association in 2001, has supported and educated thousands of families in breastfeeding education and support.

“My proudest moments are when I meet past and current members who then tell me the affect the organisation has had on them and their families,” Mrs Paton. “So many will say, ‘I never thought I’d be able to nurse, it has changed my life for the better’.”

Fellow honorary doctorate recipient Doogue said she was “thrilled” to receive a Doctor of the University in recognition of her contribution to the Church, promoting religious tolerance, and her commitment to conversations of faith through her journalism works.

After establishing herself as a serious journalist with formidable training in reporting hard news stories, Doogue’s Catholic faith and curiosity launched her into content that went beyond the headlines. This included her work as the first presenter of ABC Radio National’s Life Matters program, nearly two decades of hosting ABC Compass, and conversations with Church leaders on her podcast, Plenary Matters.

“In my career, there has been a pattern of looking for material that doesn't necessarily hit the predictable headlines day after day, but which is very important to Australians’ sense of themselves,” Doogue said.

“My proudest journalistic achievement is getting a program on air like Life Matters which focused on the society, on the culture, and the things that didn't make the headlines.

“The search is very, very important and Australia is in a curious place. I still don't think there's nearly enough coverage of what animates people deep down.”

ACU Vice-Chancellor Professor Zlatko Skrbis has congratulated the newly conferred honorary doctorate recipients.

“As a trained Occupational Therapist, Mary Paton devoted herself to the service of others, and her commitment only grew when she welcomed her children,” Professor Skrbis said.

“Faced with the challenge of not being able to nurse her child as she would have liked, Mary took the liberty of creating the first support group of its kind in Australia, marking the foundations of the Australian Breastfeeding Association.

“Likewise, Geraldine Doogue is an inspiring journalist and media figure, who exemplifies the mission of the Australian Catholic University, in her unwavering commitment to the pursuit of knowledge, the dignity of the human person, and the common good.

“Not satisfied with the increasing click-bait culture, Geraldine has always strived to delve deeper into the humanity of a news story, reflecting her passion for meaningful storytelling and fostering understanding among her audience.

“ACU is proud to honour Mary Paton and Geraldine Doogue as Doctors of the University.”

Have a question?

We're available 9am–5pm AEDT,
Monday to Friday

If you’ve got a question, our AskACU team has you covered. You can search FAQs, text us, email, live chat, call – whatever works for you.

Live chat with us now

Chat to our team for real-time
answers to your questions.

Launch live chat

Visit our FAQs page

Find answers to some commonly
asked questions.

See our FAQs