The great honorary doctorates list


May 7, 2016

Here is a list first worked up by Crikey many years ago which tracks recipients of honorary doctorates.




A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z


Phillip Adams: left school in his teens but the lefty intellectual in chief and ABC broadcaster is the author of over 20 books, and has racked up four honorary doctorates from Griffith, Sydney, South Australia in 2004 and Edith Cowan Universities.

Robyn Archer: performer writer, director and festival director; was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of The Flinders University of South Australia.

Gillian Armstrong: in 1979 she became the first female to direct a feature film in Australia, My Brilliant Career. She holds an Honorary Doctorate in Film from Swinburne University and a Doctor of Letters, from the University of New South Wales for her contribution to the Australian film industry.

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Jim Bacon: the late Premier of Tasmania, who died of lung cancer in June 2004, was awarded a posthumous honorary doctorate of laws by the University of Tasmania in August 2004.

Archie Barton: member of Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation, received an honorary doctorate from University of South Australia in 1996 for his struggle to ensure compensation for the Maralinga Tjarutja people.

Peter Beattie: the Queensland premier, received an honorary Doctor of Science degree from the University of Queensland, December 2003 for his leadership and commitment to higher education through the Queensland government's Smart State initiatives.

John Bell: this Shakespearean actor has been awarded a couple of honorary Doctorate of Letters from the Universities of Newcastle in 1994 and Sydney in 1996 for his achievements in theatre.


Julian Burnside: the Queens Counsel barrister, human rights and refugee advocate, received an honorary doctorate from the University of South Australia, and the Australian catholic University in 2005.

Joh Bjelke-Petersen: the former Queensland Premier was awarded an honorary doctorate in Political Science by University of Queensland Chancellor and accomplice Llew Edwards, despite not being able to recall the meaning of the “separation of powers”. They had given an honorary doctorate to the Premier of the time when the university celebrated its 25th and 50th anniversaries, so when the 75th came along, the Senate decided there was a tradition (i.e. it had happened twice already) and Joh must be similarly honoured. This was 1986 - not long before the Moonlight State - and it caused outrage amongst staff, students and the general community. There was a minor riot at the graduation ceremony, plate glass windows were broken, Joh failed to show up, and he was allegedly awarded the honour in a private ceremony in the Administration Building some time later. He never used the title.

Wolf Blass: awarded honorary doctorate of applied science by the Charles Sturt University for helping make us a more sophisticated nation of drunkards, and for introducing our grog to the world.

Steve Bracks:
the former Victorian Premier was awarded an honorary Doctorate of Laws from Deakin University in 2010.

Sir Donald Bradman: did not get an honorary doctorate, but the council of Griffith University wrote to the Don and offered one to him for services to cricket and he wrote back declining saying that the University should give his to Menzies instead.



Jill Broadbent: company director, RBA board member, received an honorary doctorate degree from the University of Western Sydney.

Sultan of Brunei: awarded an honorary doctorate by the University of Queensland. Plans are also afoot to construct a new residential college for Muslim international (fee paying) students, who will predominantly be sourced from Brunei.

Quentin Bryce:
the former Queensland Governor made history in 2008 when she was appointed the first female Governor-General of Australia. She has been awarded honorary doctorates from a number of universities including Macquarie University, Queensland University of Technology, Charles Sturt University, Griffith University and the University of Queensland.

John Buchanan:
the former Australian cricket coach who Shane Warne so disliked. Received an honorary doctorate from the University of Queensland, Doctor of the University honoris causa in July 2006. Recognising his distinguished career and his contribution to the development of sport in Queensland and Australia.

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Rubin “The Hurricane” Carter: former boxer wrongfully jailed for murder, he was awarded an honorary doctorate in 2003 from Brisbane's Griffith University in recognition of his contribution to civil rights and social justice throughout the world.

Belinda Clark: champion cricketer, honorary doctorate from Newcastle University for service to cricket and for the promotion and development of the game for women.


Robert Clifford: chairman of the Tasmanian boat builder Incat which has just gone into administration. He received an honorary Doctorate of Engineering from the University of Tasmania in 1996.

William Clough: controversial former chairman of Clough Limited and board member of WA Newspaper Holdings has an honorary Doctorate of Engineering.

General Peter Cosgrove: received an honorary doctorate from Australian Catholic University in 2009 in recognition of his outstanding leadership and service to the Australian and international community in times of peace and of conflict.

Rev. Tim Costello:
received an honorary doctorate for his contributions to religious life and social justice from the Australian Catholic University in 2008.

Ruth Cracknell: late great actress, also received honorary doctorates from the University of Sydney and Queensland University of Technology.

Ray Crooke: artist, he received an honorary doctorate from Griffith University for his services to Art.

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Sir William Deane: former Governor-General and High Court judge, received an honorary doctorate of laws from Dublin University in recognition of his contribution to reconciliation and multiculturalism in Australia and service to humanity.


Richard Divall: as a conductor he received an honorary Doctorate of Letters from Monash University in 1992.

John Doyle: rampaging Roy Slaven received an honorary doctorate from the University of Newcastle. His great speech made up for our sole subscriber having to sit through three hours of hand clapping for each of the 3,000 recipients.

Russell Drysdale: painter, he received an honorary Doctorate of Laws from University of Melbourne conferred posthumously.

Duke of Edinburgh: professional gaffe-maker. In 1986, to celebrate its 25th anniversary, Monash University decided to award an honorary doctorate to the “Puke of Edinburgh”. At the same time, it cut funding to the library. The ceremony took place during term break. A sole subscriber who was Secretary of the Admin Exec of the Monash Association of students at the time was part of a novel little protest. As part of the protest, they had a ceremony where our hero's Chihuahua was given a degree. They did, however, have a little gown and cap made for her. Our sole subscriber still has the invite he was given to Government House for afternoon tea afterward. He didn't go, not that he thought they would actually let him in. He was refused entry to the actual degree ceremony itself, probably because he tried to bring his dog in with him.

Slim Dusty: a national treasure, he was awarded an honorary degree from Edith Cowan University in Western Australia, September 2002 for his services to country music.

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John Eales: rugby legend, received an honorary doctorate from Australian Catholic University in 2005 for his services to sport.



Ted Egan: outback singer, received an honorary Doctorate of Letters at Northern Territory University in June 2002.

Gareth Evans: motormouth, received an honorary Doctorate of Laws from the University of Melbourne in March 2002.

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Mem Fox: children's author, received an honorary Doctorate of Letters from the University of Wollongong in 1996.

Malcolm Fraser: the former Prime Minister has been awarded honorary doctorates from Deakin University, Murdoch University and the University of South Carolina in recognition of his contribution to reconciliation and multiculturalism in Australia and service to humanity.

Cathy Freeman: got one from the University of Ballarat last year for her “determination and willingness to tackle challenges”, where the University looked very silly. Most people who commented publicly were too scared to say that it was a joke, so they got around this by saying it was “a rare example of the honorary degrees process working the way it should”. A flimsy line. It was a joke. Ballarat apparently has given out several other jokes to innocent celebrities in the last few years.

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Ruby Langford Ginibi: this Australian writer, noted for her representations of urban Aboriginality, awarded an honorary doctorate by La Trobe University in 1998.

Murray Gleeson: chief justice of High Court, received an honorary doctorate from Griffith University.

Evonne Goolagong-Cawley: awarded an honorary doctorate from Charles Sturt University for her community and sporting achievements in April 2000.

Sir Guy Green:
the former was Governor of Tasmania from 1995 to 2003 was awarded an honorary doctorate of laws in 1996 from the University of Tasmania.

Rino Grollo: Melbourne-based property developer, humanitarian and prominent Australian was awarded with Australian Catholic University's highest honour, Doctor of the University in 2008, and from La Trobe University in 1998 for helping establish their Mt Buller Campus.



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Rolf Harris: entertainer and board wobbler, he received an honorary Doctorate of Letters from Edith Cowan University in 2000.

Hazel Hawke: was awarded an honorary doctorate from Curtin University in 2006. The former PM's former wife got to don the baggy hat at Curtin University in April 2006 “for her service to public life and distinguished contribution to learning, demonstrated through strong advocacy for education, particularly for women's and indigenous education".

Bill Hayden: was awarded an honorary Doctorate of Laws from University of Queensland in 1990 for his distinguished contributions to Australian life as an MP, Minister, Governor-General and Drover's Dog advocate.

Scott Hicks: the film director of Shine, graduated from Flinders University of South Australia in 1975 and was awarded an honorary doctorate in 1997.

Peter Hollingworth: received the Lambeth Doctorate of Letters from the Archbishop of Canterbury (we've put this on the list although the Archbishop of Canterbury says it is NOT an honorary doctorate).

Jose Ramos Horta: the East Timorese independence movement leader received an honorary Doctorate of Law degree from the University of NSW.

John Howard: he received honorary doctorate from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in December 2008 for "outstanding statesmanship and leading role on the world stage in promoting democracy and combating international terrorism" and his "remarkable understanding of, and exceptional support for, the State of Israel and his deep friendship with the Australian Jewish community". Morover, he received an honorary Doctorate of Laws from the University of Notre Dame in WA, and he also received an honorary doctorate from Bond University in 2009.

Robert Hughes: this art critic was awarded an honorary Doctor of Letters by the University of Melbourne in 1995 - it was his first degree after he dropped out of their undergraduate course.


Barry Humphries: comedian and entertainer, he received an honorary doctorate from Griffith University in 1994 and an honorary Doctorate of Laws, from the University of Melbourne in 2003.

Puggy Hunter: an Aboriginal leader, received an honorary doctorate from James Cook University “in recognition of his exceptional contribution to the advancement of human well-being”.

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Hiroyuki Iwaki: conductor, he received an honorary Doctorate of Laws from Monash University in 1986.

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Marjorie Jackson-Nelson: the former Olympian and SA Governor received an honorary doctorate from the Charles Sturt University, April 2001.

Elizabeth Jolley: acclaimed author who was awarded honorary doctorates from the Unversity of Queensland in 1997 and from Macquarie University in 1995.

Brian Johns: the former ABC chief received an honorary doctorate from Queensland University of Technology.

Barry Jones: he holds the honorary degrees of Doctor of Letters from the University of Technology, Sydney and University of Wollongong, Doctor of Science from Macquarie University and Doctor of Laws from the University of Melbourne.

Robert Juniper: renowned artist, he received an honorary doctorate from the University of Western Australia in 1984.

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Paul Keating: antique clock collector and former PM, he has been awarded honorary Doctorates in Laws from Keio University in Tokyo, the National University of Singapore, and the University of New South Wales.

Ian Kiernan: the founder of Clean Up Australia and Clean Up the World earned his honorary doctorate from the University of New South Wales in 2006. Onlookers were urged to put all their rubbish in bins at the rear of the auditorium on their way out, or else.


Paul Kelly: the Australian's legendary senior journalist received an honorary Doctorate of Letters from the University of NSW.

Jeff Kennett: collected one from Ballarat University despite being an anti-intellectual who is proud of the fact that he never went to university and doesn't like graduates of university too much.

Yvonne Kenny: soprano, she received an honorary Doctorate of Music from Sydney University in 1999.

Michael Kirby: the former high court judge was awarded an honorary Doctor of Laws degree from the Australian National University in 2004, and an honorary Doctor of Laws from the University of NSW in September 2008.

Dame Leonie Kramer:
the former Sydney University Chancellor received an honorary Doctorate of Letters from the University of Tasmania, and honorary Doctorates of Law from both the University of Melbourne and the Australian National University.

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Dalai Lama: the exiled Tibetan leader received an honorary Doctorate of Law from Melbourne University.

Michael Leunig: the cartoonist from The Age received an honorary doctorate from Latrobe University and just happened to be the guest speaker at that particular ceremony.

Jimmy Little: pioneering Indigenous musician and performer earns his honorary doctorate from Queensland University of Technology 2004, and was awarded Doctor of the University for the Australian Catholic University in 2007.

Frank Lowy: the wheel-greasing property developer was awarded an honorary Doctorate of Letters from the University of NSW.



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HRH Princess Chulabhorn Mahidol: as Thailand's youngest Royal, she was awarded an honorary Doctorate of Science by the University of Wollongong in 1999, as well as a long list of honary degrees from universities in Thailand.

David Malouf: the acclaimed author received an honorary doctorate from the University of Sydney.

Nelson Mandela: the former President of South Africa and Noble Peace prize winner received an honorary doctorate from the University of South Australia.

Michael McHugh:
the former Justice of the High Court of Australia received an honorary Doctor of Laws from the University of Newcastle.

Jack Mundey: in 1988 the University of Western Sydney bestowed an honorary Doctor of Letters and also an honorary Doctor of Science in recognition of his years of service to the environment

David Murray: the former Commonwealth Bank CEO was awarded an honorary doctorate by Macquarie University.

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Jac Nasser: the current BHP-Biliton chairman received an honorary Doctorate of Technology from RMIT University.

John Newcombe: Newk, honorary degree “Doctor of the University, which was awarded for his services to Australian sport”, Bond University. Oh dear.

Greg Norman: the Great White Shark was awarded an honorary doctorate by Griffith University.

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Lowitja O'Donoghue: honorary doctorates from Murdoch University, University of South Australia, Australian National University, Queensland University of Technology, Flinders University.


Sir Mark Oliphant: distinguished physicist and former Governor of South Australia, was awarded an honorary doctorate by the University of Birmingham.

Susie O'Neill: the former Olympic swimmer received an honorary doctorate from University of Queensland for flapping her wings well.

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Kerry Packer: the late media tycoon received an honorary doctorate from Bond University “for his services to media and business in Australia”.

Charles Perkins: in 1998 he was awarded an honorary Doctorate of Letters by the University of Western Sydney, and shortly before his death he was awarded and honorary Doctorate of Law by the University of Sydney.

Kieren Perkins: the duel Olympic gold medalist received an honorary doctorate from the University of Queensland.

John Pilger: blowhard, an Honorary Doctorate of Literature by Staffordshire University (UK), and an Honorary Doctorate of Philosophy from in Dublin City University, in March 1995.

Richard Pratt: donning the academic garb to receive an honorary doctorate from Melbourne University was not a new experience for the late cardboard king, having already received the award from Swinburne University of Technology and Monash University.

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Mike Rann: the SA Premier received an honorary doctorate from the University of South Australia in 2006.

Neville Roach: the former chairman of Fujitsu Australia Limited was awarded a University of New South Wales honorary Doctorate of Science.

Dorothy Ross: received and honorary doctorate from Charles Sturt University in recognition of life-long public service to many national groups including being a founder member of the Australian Press Council and National President of the Country Women's Association.

Geoffrey Rush: apart from being an Oscar winner, he was awarded an honorary Doctorate of Letters by the University of Queensland.

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Dame Margaret Scott: ballet dancer, received an honorary doctorate from RMIT where she was a former student.

Dagmar Schmidmaier: a NSW State Librarian received a Doctor of Letters from University of NSW. Possibly for her work in changing office locations and redecorating, or maybe downsizing disgruntled library staff to pay for the redecorating.


Harry Seidler: the late award winning architect also received an honorary doctorate from the University of Sydney.

Paul Simons: ex-Chairman of Woolworths Limited, was awarded a honorary doctorate from Griffith University, Queensland, in March 1995, for his “significant contribution to the retailing industry in Australia”.

Jeffrey Smart: the renowned Australian artist received an honoary doctorate from the Univeristy of Sydney.

Aung San Suu Kyi:
the 1991 Nobel Peace prize winner, along with many other awards she has received, she also was awarded an honorary Doctorate of Laws from Melbourne University.

Kevin Sheedy: the former AFL legend received an honorary doctorate, Doctor of the University, from Australian Catholic University in 2009. For his contributions to community and youth work in sport - particularly with Indigenous Australians.

David Stratton:
on 9 June 2006 Stratton received an honorary degree of Doctor of Letters from the University of Sydney in recognition of his career and his contribution to intellectual life at the university.

Anne Summers: prominent feminist and writer who has a real PhD, was awarded an honorary doctorate for her contribution to journalism and the advancement of women by the University of New South Wales.

Dame Joan Sutherland: the opera legend was awarded an honorary doctorate from University of Queensland.



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Colin Thiele: prolific children's author, he was awarded an honorary doctorate from the University of South Australia.

Andy Thomas: the first Australian in space, Andy Thomas, received a Doctor of Science from Macquarie University in August 2006.

Mark “Tubby” Taylor:
a former Australian cricket captain, he was awarded a Doctorate of Science in 1999 from the University of NSW for recognition of his distinguished contribution and leadership in Australian sport”. Apparently the Council debated this one long and hard and it was a close run thing.

Noel Turnbull: the spin king received an honorary Doctor of Communication from RMIT.

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Steve Vizard: the businessman and entertainer received a Deakin University honorary degree of Doctor of Laws in April 2005. It should be stripped given those dodgy share dealings.

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David Wenham: leading Australian actor, he was awarded Australian Catholic University's highest honour, Doctor of the University. The honor was bestowed upon David by the University in recognition of his outstanding contribution to the arts. He is also strongly committed to social and environmental issues. Not, apparently, for his work in Lord Of The Rings.

Gough Whitlam: honorary doctorate for services to self-agrandisement from the University of Western Sydney.

Nicholas Whitlam: had a conflict-ridden stint at the top of NRMA and his troubles starting not long after being awarded an honorary doctorate from the University of NSW in 1996.

The Wiggles: received the highest honour from Australian Catholic University in March 2006, Doctor of the University, for their outstanding contribution to early-years education and child development through the arts.

Ray Williams: the former HIH CEO who did jail time collected an honorary degree from Monash University, which received substantial funding from the failed insurance company.

Hugh Wirth: the RSPCA president received an honorary Doctorate of Veterinary Science from Melbourne University.

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Simone Young: legendary conductor who has received honorary doctorates from the universities of Sydney and Melbourne.