Honour is ‘truly humbling’ for social justice trailblazer
UTS Distinguished Professor Larissa Behrendt has been recognised with an AO in the 2020 Australia Day Honours.
Distinguished Professor Larissa Behrendt’s citation as an Officer (AO) in the General Division of the Order of Australia notes her distinguished service to Indigenous education and research, the law and the visual and performing arts.
Professor Behrendt is Director of Research and Academic Programs at Jumbunna Institute for Indigenous Education and Research at the University of Technology Sydney (UTS). However, the breadth and impact of her contribution to Australian life reaches across the continent.
Her research is high-profile and influential; she plays a national advocacy role in policy, law and social justice; she has helped to change the landscape in Indigenous higher education; and she is an acclaimed writer, filmmaker and broadcaster, promoting Indigenous knowledge and culture.
Professor Behrendt wrote and directed the award-winning documentary After the Apology, which tells the stories of four Aboriginal grandmothers fighting to get their grandkids back. Her advocacy led to an ongoing review into Aboriginal children in out-of-home care.
At a time when so many Australians have shown such bravery and community spirit, this award is truly humbling.
Distinguished Professor Larissa Behrendt, AO
Her powerful documentary Innocence Betrayed tells the stories of three children murdered at Bowraville, in northern NSW, in the early 1990s. Though the families still await justice, Professor Behrendt’s work led to criminal law reform as it related to the killings.
The many Indigenous women offenders who have suffered family violence are at the heart of Professor Behrendt’s current Australian Research Council-funded research into appropriate sentencing to keep communities intact and address intergenerational trauma.
“At a time when so many Australians have shown such bravery and community spirit, this award is truly humbling and I feel grateful for the support of my family, friends and UTS who have always encouraged my public contribution,” Professor Behrendt said.
Professor Behrendt is a Eualeyai/Kamillaroi woman, born in Cooma, NSW. She was the first Indigenous Australian to graduate with a doctorate from Harvard Law School and joined UTS in 2001.
She was the university’s first Indigenous Professor of Law and the inaugural Professor and Chair of Indigenous Research; she is also recognised as one of Australia’s leading authorities on Indigenous legal matters.
“Professor Behrendt has an exceptional record of research and scholarship and her high-impact work reaches not only the academic community but also the broader Australian community. She is a leading voice on Indigenous issues and fulfils an important public intellectual role,” Professor Andrew Parfitt, Provost and Acting Vice-Chancellor, said.
“More than that though, she is a generous and inspiring colleague whose interactions with peers, students and the broader UTS community attest to her reputation as a leader in the university’s deep commitment to social justice.”
Two UTS alumni, Violet Roumeliotis and George Savvides, were announced as Members (AM) in the General Division of the Order of Australia in the Australia Day Honours.
Roumeliotis is chief executive of Settlement Services International, a community organisation and social business that works with refugees, people seeking asylum and culturally and linguistically diverse communities to overcome inequality.
She is a former Telstra Australian Business Woman of the Year, having developed Settlement Services International into an operation employing 700 staff and with an annual turnover of $110 million. In the past 14 months alone, it has helped almost 2000 new Australians find work.
Roumeliotis has a Master of Management in Community Management from UTS Business School and in 2018 was awarded a UTS Alumni Award for Excellence.
Savvides has more than 30 years of experience in the Australian and New Zealand health care sector, and was managing director of Australia's largest health fund, Medibank Private, from 2002 to 2016. He is deputy chairman of SBS and a former chair of World Vision Australia.
Savvides holds a Master of Business Administration from UTS Business School and previously served on the UTS Graduate School of Health’s Pharmacy Industry Advisory Board.