Tribute to Margaret Whitlam at UNE graduation ceremony

Published 23 March 2012

At a University of New England graduation ceremony today, the Chancellor of the University, Richard Torbay, paid tribute to the late Margaret Whitlam on the day of her memorial service in Sydney.

Mr Torbay said that Mrs Whitlam had been “a remarkable woman” whose services to the community had been recognised by UNE when it awarded her the honorary degree of Doctor of Letters in 1995.

He welcomed the graduands to the community of UNE alumni which, he said, was “full of inspirational and talented people like Mrs Whitlam”.

The Occasional Address at today’s ceremony was presented by Professor John Quiggin, a Federation Fellow in Economics and Political Science at the University of Queensland who recalled his graduation from UNE as a Doctor of Philosophy. “I was here 25 years ago sitting on this very lawn,” he said. ‘It was a great day for me, and it’s marvellous to be back here.”

Professor Quiggin is an active contributor to Australian public debate in a wide range of media, and a regular columnist for The Australian Financial Review. He has written on policy topics including climate change, micro-economic reform, privatisation, and employment policy. Climate change, he said, was a challenge that his generation had failed to face and was still partly resistant to facing. He said he hoped the people graduating today would have a more flexible response challenges such as climate change.

Mr Torbay presented more than 200 people with their testamurs at today’s ceremony for those graduating from within the UNE’s School of Arts, School of Humanities, and School of Behavioural, Cognitive and Social Sciences. Among the 13 new Doctors of Philosophy was 83-year-old Valerie McKay from Sans Souci in Sydney, who already held three degrees – Bachelor of Arts, Master of Literature and Master of Professional Studies – from UNE. Mrs McKay said the PhD research – on the poetry and verse plays of Douglas Stewart, a subject that had interested her since her schooldays – had been an enjoyable and stimulating “retirement project”, which had included the added advantage of  “opportunities to come up here to New England”.

Today’s ceremony was the first of UNE’s four Autumn Graduation ceremonies for 2012. At tomorrow’s ceremony, for those graduating from within the Schools of Law and Business, Economics and Public Policy, the Occasional Address speaker will be Senator Fiona Nash, Senator for NSW, Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for Regional Education, and Deputy Leader of the Nationals in the Australian Senate. The two remaining ceremonies will be on Friday 30 and Saturday 31 March.

More than 2,000 people are graduating from UNE this autumn, with almost 1,000 of them being able to attend one or other of the four ceremonies.

THE PHOTOGRAPH displayed here shows Katrina Concannon delivering the vote of thanks on behalf of the graduates at the end of today’s ceremony. Ms Concannon graduated today as a Bachelor of Arts with First Class Honours and a University Medal.