At a University of New England graduation ceremony today the distinguished human rights lawyer Father Frank Brennan SJ AO urged the graduands to “transcend” their disciplines and professions by wide reading and continual learning, to “develop a sense of history”, and to think of themselves as “citizens of the world”.
Father Frank referred to the research topics of several of the people about to graduate as Doctors of Philosophy as examples of work that enriched our historical and global perspectives and that had special significance for him in recalling his own experiences of humanitarian work in East Timor and on the Thai/Cambodian border, and his concern for asylum seekers and the writing of his book Tampering with Asylum.
In urging the graduands to believe in – and strive for – change for the better, he recalled a recent visit to Palm Island with the Member for Kennedy, Bob Katter, their meeting there with councillors “educated in the issues”, and their inspection of housing projects that would have been “unimaginable 30 years ago”.
Referring to the famous judgment of the reforming British barrister, politician and judge Lord Mansfield 250 years ago that slavery was unlawful in England, he said: “We all wonder what contribution we can make to the world. We can all ‘nudge’ it in a positive direction, but every now and again there will be another Lord Mansfield. And there may be one or two Lord Mansfields here today.”
The Chancellor of UNE, Richard Torbay, presented testamurs marking their academic success to about 250 people graduating from within the Faculty of The Professions at today’s ceremony. Several of them travelled from abroad to celebrate their success – including Antero Benedito Da Silva from Timor-Leste and Rosemary Richards from New Zealand. It was Dr Da Silva’s thesis, titled FRETILIN Popular Education 1973-1978 and its Relevance to Timor-Leste Today, that Father Frank referred to in his address.
Dr Da Silva, a lecturer in the Department of Community Development at the National University of Timor-Lorosae in Dili, said it had been “a privilege” to work with his UNE supervisor, Associate Professor Bob Boughton, who has had a long association with educational development in Timor-Leste. “When I started working with him on the PhD project I felt immediately at home,” Dr Da Silva said.
Dr Richards flew from New Zealand to Armidale with her husband Ashley, her daughter Janelle Gillum, and family friends Catherine Blanks and Chris Trembath. She, too, spoke about the close collegial relationship with her supervisor, UNE’s Dr Margaret Brooks, that had enriched her PhD studies.
A Senior Lecturer in the School of Arts, Development and Health Education at New Zealand’s Massey University, Dr Richards spent two-and-a-half-years living in Armidale while working on her thesis, Young Children’s Art Experiences. “It was Margaret’s enthusiasm that prompted my university to give me a fellowship to come here,” she said. “I absolutely loved living in Armidale, and today it’s like coming home.”
THE PHOTOGRAPH displayed above expands to show Father Frank Brennan (right) with John Kauter, who graduated today as a Master of Administrative Leadership.