University of Divinity awards highest academic honour to Australian journalist and author, Dr Julia Baird.
The Chancellor of the University of Divinity, Dr Graeme L Blackman AO, conferred the Doctor of Divinity (honoris causa) on Dr Julia Baird at the graduation ceremony held on Friday 16 March 2018 at St Michael’s Uniting Church, Collins Street, Melbourne. The award, made in recognition of her outstanding scholarship and contribution as a public intellectual to the wider community in the area of religion, is the highest academic honour the University bestows. The Doctor of Divinity is the oldest award of the University, created in 1910 and first awarded in 1913.
The Vice-Chancellor, Professor Peter Sherlock, described Dr Baird’s journalism in the area of religion as courageous, saying, “at times Dr Baird’s journalistic work has been prophetic, uncovering suppressed injustice. A current example is her investigation of domestic violence in communities of faith. She not only identified the presence of abusive behaviours in religious institutions but also articulated the powerful connections (both good and bad) between theology and culture.”
“Baird’s commitment to truth, justice and the eradication of violence is evident in her participation in community and media panels to promote change for good in this area, alongside survivors and church leaders.”
The citation for her award reads:
Dr Julia Baird has made a sustained and distinguished contribution to critical debate about religion in Australia as a journalist, historian and author. Her books on the media treatment of women and the life of Queen Victoria demonstrate her uncompromising integrity in research and her flair for communication. Her incisive work as a journalist has given voice to the powerless and invited critical attention to those in power. Dr Baird’s investigation of the links between religion and domestic violence in a variety of faith traditions has demonstrated the capacity of theology to harm and to heal. She has revealed the profound connections between sacred and secular, theology and culture in contemporary Australia, and in doing so has opened a pathway for change to survivors, families, and religious communities in search of truth, justice and the eradication of abuse.
Following the presentation of the award, Dr Baird gave the graduation address to the University’s three hundred graduates, their family and friends, and University faculty.
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