University of Divinity awards highest academic honour to Australian social justice scholar and advocate for change, Professor Frank Brennan SJ AO
In November 2018, the Council of the University of Divinity resolved to award the degree of Doctor of Divinity (honoris causa) to Professor Frank Brennan SJ AO. The Chancellor of the University, Dr Graeme L Blackman AO, will confer the award on Professor Brennan at a date to be advised.
The Doctor of Divinity is the oldest award of the University, created in 1910 and first awarded in 1913. It is the highest academic honour that the University bestows. The award is made in recognition of Fr Brennan’s sustained and distinguished contribution to social justice and public policy in Australia and internationally as a scholar, widely-published writer, and advocate for change, particularly for issues surrounding law and justice for abuse victims, Indigenous Australians, refugees and asylum seekers, and the people of Timor-Leste.
Fr Brennan is a graduate of the Melbourne College of Divinity, having received the Bachelor of Divinity (Honours) in 1986. The Vice-Chancellor, Professor Peter Sherlock, recently described how Fr Brennan’s “professional contribution and engagement draws on theological insight to constitute a remarkable and sustained application of the University’s vision and mission.”
The citation for Fr Brennan’s award reads:
Professor Frank Tenison Brennan SJ AO, BA (Hons), LLB (Hons) (UQ), BDiv (Hons) (MCD), LLM (Melb) has made a sustained and distinguished contribution to social justice and public policy in Australia and internationally as a scholar, widely-published writer, and advocate for change, particularly for issues surrounding law and justice for abuse victims, Indigenous Australians, refugees and asylum seekers, and the people of Timor-Leste.
A Jesuit priest, Fr Brennan is currently CEO of Catholic Social Services Australia, as well as Adjunct Professor at the P M Glynn Institute of Australian Catholic University, Research Professor at the Australian Centre for Christianity and Culture of Charles Sturt University, and Adjunct Professor of the College of Law and the National Centre for Indigenous Studies of Australian National University. In 2008-2009 Fr Brennan chaired the National Human Rights Consultation Committee established by the Rudd Government, and in 2017-2018 was a member of the Turnbull Government’s Expert Panel to examine whether Australian law adequately protects the human right to freedom of religion. For several years, Fr Brennan was a Board Director of St Vincent’s Health Australia and has been Advocate in Residence for Catholic Health Australia, Catholic Social Services Australia and the St Vincent de Paul Society.
Fr Brennan was made an Officer of the Order of Australia for services to Aboriginal Australians in 1995, particularly for his work as an advocate in the areas of law, social justice and reconciliation. In 1996 he was jointly awarded, with Pat Dodson, the inaugural Australian Council for Overseas Aid Human Rights Award, and was Rapporteur at the Australian Reconciliation Convention during 1997. The following year he was appointed an Ambassador for Reconciliation by the Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation and was named a Living National Treasure during his involvement in the Wik debate. In 2002 he was awarded the Humanitarian Overseas Service Medal for his work as Director of the Jesuit Refugee Service in East Timor.
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