ACU Honours Four Outstanding Australians

Catholic Communications, Sydney Archdiocese,
28 May 2015

Newly created Doctor of the University, Sr Giovanni Farquer RSJ is congratulated by Selina Hasham and Fr Mark Podesta

The Archdiocese of Sydney's much admired and highly regarded Executive Director of Ecumenism and Inter-Religious Relations, Sister Giovanni Farquer, RSJ has been conferred with the Australian Catholic University's highest honour yesterday.

Created a Doctor of the University in recognition of her outstanding leadership in interfaith dialogue, Sr Giovanni was also recognised for her dedication, leadership and contributions to the Sisters of St Joseph, her invaluable service to education, her devotion to the pursuit of knowledge and her unwavering commitment to the common good.

Sr Giovanni received her Honorary Doctorate from ACU Chancellor, John Fahey AC at the graduation ceremony for graduands from ACU's Sydney School of Law and Business and School of Law and Philosophy, held at the Grand Pavilion, Rosehill on Wednesday.

"I am honoured beyond all expectations not only for myself but also for the Sisters of Joseph and the whole congregation. I hope this award will help raise awareness about the importance of interfaith dialogue," Sr Giovanni said and insists that "interfaith dialogue is an imperative, not an option."

Chancellor of ACU John Fahey AC reads the citation before Sr Giovanni Farquer

In addition to being created a Doctor of the University yesterday, Sr Giovanni delivered the Graduation Ceremony's keynote address. Entitled "Courage to Be the Best You Can Be" Sr Giovanni urged the graduating students to never "underestimate the extraordinary complementarity of all the disciplines, including science, in maintaining the spiritual and physical and moral integrity of our planet and our universe."

"Whatever your discipline - Education, Theology, Philosophy, Law or Business - you have a critical role to play in shaping the future. Claim that role with vigour and determination," she said.

Sr Giovanni describes the opportunity to speak directly to the young graduands and to try to invoke in them "the reality of the moment" was not only one of yesterday's highlights but also an "absolute privilege."

As a Doctor of the University, Sr Giovanni joins a distinguished group of eminent Australians. Among those created Doctors of the University by ACU in acknowledgement of their outstanding achievements over the past decade are Governor General Sir Peter Cosgrove, the Archbishop of Sydney, the Most Rev Anthony Fisher OP, the former Archbishop of Sydney Cardinal George Pell, former Prime Minister John Howard, the Archbishop of New York the Most Rev Timothy Dolan, the Philippines' Archbishop of Manila, Cardinal Luis Tagle and former leader of the Labor Party and Australian Ambassador to the US, Kim Beazley.

Rabbi John Levi addressed Melbourne ACU graduates after being conferred with university's highest honour

A former leader of the Congregation of the Sisters of St Joseph and a leading authority on Christology and the Koran, Sr Giovanni graduated from the University of Melbourne with an honours degree in English Literature and Middle Eastern History. In addition she holds a Masters degree in Middle Eastern History, a Masters in Education (Administration) and a Ph.d in History and Education awarded for her thesis "The Cultural Mission of the Sisters of St Joseph of the Sacred Heart."

ACU has held graduation ceremonies during the past two weeks at its Melbourne and Sydney campuses, and it has been during these ceremonies that the university has honoured three other outstanding Australians, making each a Doctor of the University (Honoris Causa).

Sr Giovanni Farquer RSJ with her proud family after receving an honorary doctorate from ACU

At ACU's graduation ceremony at the university's Melbourne campus last week, Rabbi John S. Levi AM was created a Doctor of the University for his "outstanding contribution to Jewish-Christian relations and Interfaith dialogue, and to the building of a robust multicultural Australian society, in which each faith community is able to thrive and contribute to the well-being of all, and the common good."

In the Award Citation described Rabbi Levi as a man with a "giant mind, immense curiosity and ability to share knowledge" who was not only a natural-born teacher but whose "skill had taken him to the highest level as one of Australia's most eminent leaders and historians."

One of the founders of the Council of Christians and Jews in Victoria, he also played a key role in the establishing the Council as a national organisation.

Pre-eminent Australia poet, Les Murray was also set to be conferred with a Doctor of the University at ACU's graduation ceremony in Sydney yesterday in recognition of his contribution to Australian literature and to contemporary poetry. But the much admired 76-year-old poet was unwell and was unable to receive the award in person, or deliver the Graduation Ceremony's keynote address.

Sr Giovanni Farquer with citation, Josephites, family and friends after being created an Doctor of the University by ACU

Author, historian and the National Head of the ACU School of Arts, Associate Professor Michael Oonadatje accepted the Honorary Doctorate on Les Murray's behalf and also stepped in to give yesterday's Ceremony's key note address.

Les Murray is regarded as one of the world's great contemporary English language poets. A convert to Catholicism in his teenage years, he grew up on the NSW mid-North Coast, won a Commonwealth Scholarship to the University of Sydney and by age 19 had already begun making his name as a poet.

In 1998 he received worldwide-acclaim for "Fredy Neptune," his epic novel told in eight-line stanzas of the experiences of Fred Boettcher, an Australian of German parentage, during the years between the two World Wars. Regarded by many as Australia's Odyssey the verse novel is regarded as one of the great poetic achievements in English of the second half of the 20th century.

ACU has honoured internationally admired Australian poet Les Murray AO

Up front about his battles with depression, Les Murray has also made no secret of the importance of faith in his life, and rare among Australian writers, dedicates his books of poetry to "the glory of God."

Les Murray's most recent volume of poetry, "Waiting for the Past" has just been released and comes exactly 50 years after the publication of his first book of poetry, and is his fourth full-length collection over the past 15 years.

The fourth outstanding Australian conferred with a Doctor of the University by ACU was awarded posthumously to John Phillips AO in recognition of his "eminent contributions to higher education in Australia, to the mission of Australia's Catholic University, to the Catholic Church and charitable organisations as well as to the development and implantation of Australian foreign investment policy, and to the finance and business sectors."

Mr Phillips died in November last year and his wife, Moya and the Phillips family received the honour on his behalf at yesterday's ACU graduation ceremony at the Grand Pavilion, Rosehill.

A posthumous Doctor of the University has been awarded by ACU to the late Mervyn John Phillips AO

Known for his humility and strong faith, as well as being a giant in business and public service, Mr Phillips helped implement the introduction of plastic banknotes and was involved with the floating of the Australian dollar. In addition to being chairman of several corporations such as AGL, for 32 years served as Deputy Governor of the Reserve Bank. Mr Phillips also served as Chancellor of the University of Western Sydney from 2001-2010.

A dedicated Catholic and always concerned about the common good rather than personal gain, Mr Phillips was only the second Australian to be made a Papal Knight Grand Cross of the Order of St Gregory the Great.