The Honourable Dame Quentin Bryce AD CVO
About the speaker
Dame Quentin was born in Brisbane and spent her early years in Ilfracombe, a small town in Central Western Queensland. Dame Quentin graduated from the University of Queensland in 1965 with degrees of Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Laws. She was admitted to the Queensland Bar in the same year, one of the first women to be admitted in that jurisdiction.
In 1968 Dame Quentin was the first woman to be appointed as a member of the Faculty of Law at the University of Queensland, a role she held until 1983. In 1978 she joined the National Women’s Advisory Council and in 1984 was appointed inaugural Director of the Queensland Women’s Information Service, Office of the Status of Women, Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet. Three years later, in 1987, she became Queensland Director of the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission.
From 1988 until 1993 Dame Quentin served as the Federal Sex Discrimination Commissioner and from 1993-1996 she was the founding Chair and CEO of the National Childcare Accreditation Council. During the period 1997-2003, Dame Quentin served as the principal and CEO of the Women’s College at the University of Sydney.
Dame Quentin was appointed Governor of Queensland in 2003 and continued in this role until January 2008. In her civic role as Governor of Queensland, Dame Quentin continued her work with women, families and young people while extending her influence over the State’s broad and diverse spectrum, including the rural, regional, aged, indigenous, migrant and disability sectors.
Dame Quentin’s contribution to advancing human rights and equality, the rights of women and children, and the welfare of the family was recognised in her appointment as an Officer of the Order of Australia in 1988 and a Companion of the Order of Australia in 2003. In November 2003, Dame Quentin was invested as a Dame of Grace of the Most Venerable Order of the Hospital of St John of Jerusalem. During the occasion of the visit to Australia by Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II in October 2011, Dame Quentin was invested as a Commander of the Royal Victorian Order.
On the 5 September, 2008, she became the first woman to be appointed Governor-General of Australia, a position she held until late March 2014. On the 25 March, 2014, she became a Dame of the Order of Australia.
In other roles, Dame Quentin has been the Chair of the National Breast Cancer Advisory Council, and has been a member of organisations such as the YWCA, the Australian Children’s Television Foundation and the Association for the Welfare of Children in Hospital. Dame Quentin was also a US State Department Visitor in 1978 and a Member of the Australian Delegation to the Human Rights Commission in Geneva, Switzerland from 1989 to 1991.
Dame Quentin is a role model and mentor to women at every stage of their lives. She values and encourages women’s capacity to form strong and enduring bonds of friendship, intellectual and emotional enrichment.
The UTS Law Faculty was honoured that Dame Quentin agreed to lend her name to the Quentin Bryce Law Doctoral Scholarship which supports research in fields that have a potential for real-world impact and change supporting similar commitment to those values demonstrated by herself throughout her career. In 2010 Dame Quentin launched the National Forum Building Literate Nations held at UTS and reinforced the importance of literacy, stressing that it was a tool that helped us to explore our world, shape our ideas, develop our potential and ultimately express ourselves as individuals.
Dame Quentin has enjoyed a diverse and distinguished career as an academic, lawyer, community and human rights advocate, senior public officer, university college principal, and Vice-Regal representative in Queensland and Australia. Throughout her career she has been an inspiring leader who has been willing to spend time at the “coal face”, whether it is in the remote and regional areas of Australia, visiting sites of natural disasters or on the frontline with the Australian troops in Afghanistan.
It is a great honour for the University of Technology Sydney to award The Honourable Dame Quentin Bryce AD CVO an Honorary degree of Doctor of Laws (honoris causa) in recognition of her contribution to scholarship and professional practice as well as a distinguished contribution to UTS and the greater community.
Professor Vicki Sara Chancellor, Professor Attila Brungs Vice Chancellor and President, Professor Lesley Hitchens Dean of the Faculty of Law, Professor Tracy Taylor Dean of UTS Business School, members of the university community, Graduates. Good afternoon Ladies and Gentlemen. I pay my respect to the traditional keepers of this land, the Gadigal and Kuring-gai people and I acknowledge the debt of Gratitude I owe to Indigenous women who have taught me across my life what it means to be an elder.
My friends, I want you to know how thrilled and delighted I am to be with you on this day. One we will all always remember — a day to pause to reflect, to celebrate. Allow me to open my remarks with expression of my admiration and respect for this vibrant, energetic centre of excellence. It is exciting to observe your splendid vision to be a world leading university of technology being translated into practice, in cutting edge teaching, in innovative research, in continuing quality improvement, in education experience, clearly defined purpose, disciplined focus, strategic investment, all signifying serious commitment to the prosperity and the development of our nation. Results of hard work and exceptional leadership shine through the university’s rapidly growing reputation in Australia, in our region and at international level.
I have deep appreciation and warm affection for the friendship offered to me by UTS across many years through my engagement in enriching programs and social, cultural and political issues that are key to advancing knowledge, breaking new ground, promoting and protecting human rights. Always intellectual rigor, always an environment that is welcoming and truly inclusive. A particular highlight is my involvement with postgrad students through the law doctoral scholarship offered here in my name. I can’t tell you how much that means to me. Such a compliment. I love to keep in touch with those scholars and I look forward to meeting some this afternoon.
My friends, UTS is renowned as a place that is thoroughly contemporary were things happen, where you want to be, a place that leads discourse. Last week I participated in a major conference here to mark the 40th anniversary of Anne Summers’ landmark text Damned Whores and God’s Police, a PhD that became a best seller, five editions over 100,000 sold. How far have women come in our long struggle for gender equality? We asked. What about men’s roles in Australia’s culture. I was exhilarated by my first viewing when I was here last week for that conference of the amazing new Gehry Building. What a fantastic contribution to architecture and design in this beautiful city. A bold statement in creativity and adventurous spirit and what fine workmanship on show, something you all must so enormously proud of.
Graduates, may I say that I understand how very special this day is for you and for your families. University life has been a very big part of my own. Yes, you will look back on this occasion with enduring and endearing nostalgia but for now as the Chancellor has said, you can indulge in the utter relief of completing a rigorous course of study, the satisfaction of conquering intellectual challenge, pushing yourself with heart and nerve and sinew. Graduation opens up adventures and experiences that you can scarcely begin to imagine now, oh the disasters, the delight, the disappointments, the glittering prizes, the transformations.
Today represents a significant notch in the most important journey in life to the centre of oneself. I have been thinking very deeply about you, about what lies ahead for you, I care about you and what I want for you, what I expect of you and for you. As you might expect a grandmother cannot resist giving advice and speaking from her heart on an occasion like this. But before I do, I want to thank the University for making this a most memorable day for me too. I am honoured by your gesture that recognises my own voyage, begun as a little girl in a country town in Central Western Queensland inspired by noble ideals of justice, fairness and making the world a better place. Aspirations held close and firm, as Joseph Conrad exclaimed ‘oh youth the strength of it, the faith of it, the imagination of it.’ Graduates, as I look out to you I rejoice in the possibilities for you, what might they be and that is the excitement, the anticipation of it all. You can plan, you can hold hopes in your heart, you can make choices but the wonderful thing about life is that you don’t know how it is going to turn out.
Recently I was speaking in conversation as they say with the Honourable Justice Jane Matthews at the Sydney Women Lawyer’s dinner. A grand occasion, hundreds of men and women in every field of the profession. Jane and I graduated in the 60s, rare birds in those times. Her Honour a pioneer in what I would describe as the classic legal career, practice as a Solicitor, then the Bar, then the bench, the first woman in the New South Wales Supreme Court. I had in mind a similar path, but I took another road, one that rose up before me, completely by chance. It led me to academe, to community work, to human rights, roles that didn’t exist when I graduated and positions that I could never have dreamt I might occupy. When people tell you there are too many lawyers, that there aren’t enough jobs to go round and all that negative kind of stuff, do not be deterred. It is an undoubted advantage to have a law degree and it will stand you in great stead. Logical thinking, problem solving, ethical conduct and the same goes for business, what a time it is for you to make it your own, an era of entrepreneurship, technology, the idea. So my friends, believe in yourself, trust yourself that gut feeling, that intuition, do what you believe in, do what you love, keep looking until you find it, never settle for less.
Your fields of study are filled with potential for personal, professional and political growth, opportunities to give, to share, to contribute, to lead, to be part of something bigger than yourself. Opportunities for compassion, for generosity, for service. Be open to them, thrust them in your hand, say yes before you say no, ask yourself if not, why not? Seek out mentors, sponsors, supporters, don’t feel shy or awkward about this, oldies like me have a strong commitment to encouraging younger ones, making connections, suggestions, listening, sharing ideas and we learn from you.
My friends, I want you to take good care of yourself. Leave time in this hectic, noisy world for quietness, for true relaxation, for reflecting on the lovely things in life; poetry, music, romance, art, theatre, rainforest, ocean’s edge, for those energies enthusiasms, worthy causes that develop and strengthen the inner resources that we all need to draw on, especially in the dry gullies, the tough times. The stuff we need to help us face adjustments with courage and triumphs with calmness and with grace.
Graduates, I wish you the best of everything, good health, enduring friendships and love. I wish you exciting lives with balance and promise, that you will stand your ground and when necessary stand conventional wisdom on its head and when it is time for decisions be bold, be bold, be bold.
Chancellor, I note that you are to retire in February, please except our warmest congratulations on your outstanding career. I must say I have loved watching you greet every graduate with such pride and the same you are to be I think accompanied you on the first such occasion as Chancellor here at UTS. At the heart of your glittering career your passion for the pursuit of knowledge for the benefit of society, your international reputation in research is distinguished, your influence in education and universities, powerful. You stand as a source of inspiration, courage and support to generations of scholars in science, a wonderful and accomplished role model for them characterised by selflessness, service in spades. Vice Chancellor, graduates I am honoured indeed to join your distinguished alumni today. Thank you, my friends.