Historic Recognition Ceremony Honours Dr Aunty Jean Phillips with Doctor of Divinity

@University of Divinity, St Paschal Chapel, Tuesday, 6 February, 2024

In a momentous ceremony hosted at the University of Divinity’s St Paschal Chapel, coinciding with the “Raising Our Tribal Voices for Justice” Indigenous theological historic conference, the University’s highest award, the Doctor of Divinity (honoris causa), was conferred upon Dr Aunty Jean Phillips. The ceremony, held in collaboration with the School of Indigenous Studies historic conference, saw the recognition of Dr Aunty Jean Phillips’ lifetime of leadership, ministry, and tireless dedication to justice.

Presented by University of Divinity Deputy Chancellor, Professor Gabrielle McMullen AM, and Head of the School of Indigenous Studies, Professor Dr Anne Pattel-Gray, the ceremony marked a significant milestone in acknowledging Dr Aunty Jean’s remarkable contributions.

Dr Aunty Jean’s leadership, spanning the majority of her lifetime, has been a beacon in fostering understanding and reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities. Despite her enduring commitment to Australia’s First Nations people, her efforts had not received formal recognition from Church leaders until this moment.

Professor Dr Anne Pattel-Gray shared, “I have had the pleasure of Dr Aunty Jean Phillips leadership, ministry, and ecumenism for the past forty years. Her leadership has not been recognised by Church leaders and yet her dedication to Australia’s First Nations people, building understanding and reconciliation between black and white Churches has been timeless and significant.”

Renowned journalist and author Professor Stan Grant echoed this sentiment, stating, “Were it not for the example of elders like Aunty Jean Phillips, who taught us how to live a public life of faith to reach out to non-Aboriginal people to renew our nation…then forgiveness, for me, would remain out of reach.”

At 84 years of age, Dr Aunty Jean’s journey began with the Aborigines Inland Mission (AIM), evolving over 65 years where she consistently brought her Christian faith to the forefront of her work, serving and advocating for Indigenous communities. Her fearless stance for justice and reconciliation has addressed crucial issues such as living conditions, housing, employment opportunities, and the ministry to incarcerated Indigenous individuals.

A founding member of numerous Aboriginal Christian organisations, including the Aboriginal Evangelical Fellowship (AEF), the Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress (UAICC), Wontulp Bi Buya College, and Grasstree Gathering, Dr Aunty Jean’s influence extends across various sectors, including health, housing, legal services, and education.

To compile a testament to Dr Aunty Jean’s influence and leadership, statements were sought from Church leaders, Politicians, Academics, and community leaders.

Endorsements from Prominent Leaders include:

  • Rev Ravina Waldren from Murri Ministry acknowledges Dr Aunty Jean’s significant contribution to the next generation of Aboriginal Christian leaders.
  • Dr Joanna Cruikshank, Associate Professor of History at Deakin University, outlines Dr Aunty Jean’s lifetime commitment to ministry, pastoral care, teaching, and theological knowledge.
  • Presbyterian Church Revs Campbell, Richardson, and Richardson provide insights into Dr Aunty Jean’s educational praxis and her impactful leadership.
  • Tearfund CEO, Matthew Maury, acknowledges Dr Aunty Jean’s enriching advice and foundational ministry impact.
  • Common Grace acknowledges Dr Aunty Jean’s 60+ years in Christian ecumenical ministry and her lifelong dedication to justice for Aboriginal people.
  • State Member for Moggill Dr Christian Rowan MP shares his experience of working with Dr Aunty Jean for 8 years on issues impacting First Nations communities.
  • Rev Alison Cox acknowledges her experience of Dr Aunty Jean’s decade-long ministry, leadership, and awareness raising among younger generations.

The University of Divinity extends its heartfelt congratulations to Dr Aunty Jean Phillips for this well-deserved honour, acknowledging her profound influence on theological education and her enduring commitment to justice.

For media enquiries, please contact Meg Nelson, Operations Manager on mnelson@divinity.edu.au

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