Australian honorary doctorates

July 9, 2023

This list tracks Australians who have received honorary doctorates from universities.

Philip Adams: left school in his teens but still got a gong from Griffith University for services to pompousness we believe.

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

Gillian Armstrong: director, honorary doctorate of letters from UNSW for her contribution to the Australian film industry.

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 for his struggle to ensure compensation for the Maralinga Tjarutja people.

Peter Beattie: Queensland premier, received an honorary Doctor of Science degree from the University of Queensland, December 2003.

John Bell: Shakespearean actor, honorary doctorate from the University of Newcastle.

Joh Bjelke-Petersen: forgetful Queensland Premier, but his doctorate conferral was a memorable one. 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 alleged awarded the honour in a private ceremony in the Administration Building some time later. He never used the title. If a sole subscriber remembers correctly, it provoked indigenous poet Oodgeroo Noonuccal (formerly Kath Walker) to return hers to the Uni. A sole subscriber has great TV footage of current Qld. Dems Senator John Cherry in his young and skinny days, leading a student protest to the University's admin offices and making a convincing argument that the honorary degree was far from well deserved by the scurrilously corrupt and morally bankrupt Friend of the Farmers.

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.

Sir Donald Bradman: DID NOT GET AN HONORARY DOCTORATE, but the council of Griffith Uni wrote to the Don and offered one to him for services to cricket and he wrote back declining saying that the Uni should give his to Menzies instead.

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

Sultan of Brunei: awarded an honorary doctorate by the University of Queensland. Any coincidence that Brunei has become a large provider of international students to this institution? Plans are also afoot to construct a new residential college for Muslim international (fee paying) students, who will predominantly be sourced from Brunei.

Rubin "The Hurricane" Carter: former boxer wrongfully jailed for murder, honorary doctorate from Brisbane's Griffith University for his work in helping to overturn wrongful convictions, 2003.

Belinda Clark: champion cricketer, honorary doctorate from Newcastle Uni.

Robert Clifford: chairman of the Tasmanian boat builder Incat which has just gone into administration. Think his doctorate came from Tassie Uni.

William Clough: controversial chairman of Clough Limited and board member of WA Newspaper Holdings; Honorary Doctorate of Engineering.

General Peter Cosgrove: got one last year from Northern Territory Uni.

Ruth Cracknell: late great actress, Curtin University, Sydney University, Queensland University, University of Western Sydney.

Ray Crooke: artist, Griffith University.

Sir William Deane: former GG and High Court judge, honorary doctorate of laws, Dublin Uni; by UTS in recognition of his contribution to reconciliation and multiculturalism in Australia and service to humanity.

Richard Divall: conductor, an Honorary Doctorate of Letters from Monash University in 1992.

John Doyle: Rampaging Roy Slaven, 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 (including his wife for her Masters).

Russell Drysdale: painter, Honorary Doctorate of Laws University of Melbourne conferred posthumously.

Duke of Edinburgh: professional gaffe-maker. In 1986, to celebrate its 25th anniversary, Monash Uni 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 (as an attempt to reduce protests). 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. (Not very original, he concedes, given that in the late 60's a pig was given a degree in protest at Bolte getting one). 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 arvo tea afterwards. 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: national treasure, Edith Cowan University in Western Australia, September 2002.

John Eales: rugby legend, Australian Catholic University.

Ted Egan: outback singer, an honorary Doctorate of Letters at NTU, June 2002.

Gareth-Gareth Evans: motormouth, Honorary Doctorate of Laws, University of Melbourne, March 2002.

Mem Fox: children's author, Honorary Doctorate of letters from the University of Wollongong, in 1996.

Malcolm Fraser: former Prime Minister, by UTS 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 (there were quite a few, apparently) 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.

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

Murray Gleeson: chief justice of High Court; 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.

Rino Grollo: for being a great friend of La Trobe University and helping establish their Mt Buller Campus.

Rolf Harris: board wobbler, honorary doctorate from Edith Cowan University.

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

Scott Hicks: film director ("Shine"); Flinders University of South Australia (BA Honors) in 1975 and was awarded an honorary doctorate in 1997.

Peter Hollingworth: the Lambeth Doctorate of Letters (D.Litt.) 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: East Timorese independence movement leader, honorary law degree (doctoral no less) from UNSW.

John Winston Howard: from Bar-Ilan University (Israel), in recognition of his friendship to the Jewish people and his commitment to security and peace for Israel; Honorary Doctorate of Laws from the University of Notre Dame (WA).

Robert Hughes: expat Aussie basher, received one from Melbourne Uni in 1965 - it was his first degree after he dropped out of their undergraduate course.

Barry Humphries: genius, honorary doctorate from Griffith University, 1994.

Barry Humphries: Dr Humphries revceived his second doctorate, an Honorary Doctorate of Laws, from the University of Melbourneon July 22, 2003.

Puggy Hunter: Aboriginal leader, from James Cook University "in recognition of his exceptional contribution to the advancement of human well-being".

Hiroyuki Iwaki: conductor, an honorary Doctorate of Laws from Monash University, in 1991.

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

Elizabeth Jolley: author, two, from Macquarie and UQ.

Brian Johns: former ABC chief, honorary doctorate from Queensland University of Technology.

Barry Jones: got one from Wollongong University in 1995, presumably for services to the arts or science.

Robert Juniper: artist, an Honorary Doctorate from the University of Western Australia in 1984.

Paul Keating: antique clock collector, has one from Keio University in Tokyo and another from the National University of Singapore, and according to an old SMH article is also a visiting professor at UNSW.

Paul Kelly - the Australian's legendary senior journo received an honorary Doctorate of Letters from UNSW.

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

Yvonne Kenny: diva, honorary doctorate of music, Sydney University.

Justice Michael Kirby: got one last year from University of South Australia (and it wasn't for inadvertently making Hitman Heffernan look like the little, little man that he is).

Dame Leonie Kramer: the former Sydney Uni Chancellor received an honorary Doctorate of Letters from UNSW.

Dalai Lama: Honorary Doctorate of Law, Melbourne University.

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

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

Professor Dr HRH Princess Chulabhorn Mahidol: Thailand's youngest Royal, awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Science by the University of Wollongong.

David Malouf: author, Univeristy of Sydney.

Nelson Mandela: from University of South Australia.

Michael McHugh AC: Justice of the High Court of Australia; Honorary Degree of Doctor of Laws, University of Newcastle.

Jack Mundeyv inventor of green bans, Honorary Doctorate, UNSW, 1999.

David Murray: Commonwealth Bank CEO, awarded an Honorary Doctorate by Macquarie University. He is an MGSM old boy from his MBA days there and Club Mac has certainly benefited from the people's bank pouring bucket loads of cash into the uni.

Jac Nasser: sacked Ford CEO, has an honorary doctorate from RMIT.

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

Greg Norman: Great White Shank, awarded doctorate by Griffith Uni. Purely coincidentally, GU Gold Coast was trying to crank up its golf studies program. To this day they run challenging courses such as 'International Certificate in Golf Operations'. Will the real Shark please stand up?

Lowitja O'Donoghue: honorary doctorates from Murdoch University, WA, University of South Australia, Australian National University, Queensland University of Technology, Flinders University of SA. Can any other Aussie top this tally?

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

Susie O'Neill: Madame Butterfly, honorary doctorate from University of Queensland for flapping her wings well.

Kerry Packer: Big Kerry, honorary doctorate from Bond Uni "for his services to media and business in Australia", and for royally screwing their namesake.

Charles Perkins: honorary doctorate from Sydney University.

Keiren Perkins: Olympic 1500m swinner, 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.

Neville Roach AO: chairman of the Council for Multicultural Australia and chairman of Fujitsu Australia Limited, awarded a University of New South Wales honorary Doctor of Science.

Dorothy Ross: 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: actor, Honorary Doctorate of Letters by the University of Queensland.

Dame Margaret Scott: dancer, received the nod from RMIT.

Dagmar Schmidmaier: NSW State Librarian recieved a Doctor of Letters from UNSW and is an honorary professor at UTS. Possibly for her work in changing office locations and redecorating, or maybe downsizing disgruntled library staff (about 90 applied for redundancies, most got 'em) to pay for the redecorating.

Harry Seidler: architect, just got one from Uni Sydney.

Yahoo Serious: got a gong from University of Newcastle in the same year they awarded John Bell a gong! Talk about a slip in standards. Apparently he originally hails from Newcastle. In his acceptance speech he commented that he never finished his diploma at the University and was now being given a free doctorate. Wouldn't the real PhDs just love that?

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: artist, Univeristy of Sydney.

Aung San Suu Kyi: Myanmar opposition leader, honorary doctorate of Laws, Melbourne University; Honorary Doctorate of Letters, UTS.

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: opera legend, awarded an honorary doctorate from University of Queensland.

Colin Thiele: children's author, University of South Australia.

Mark "Tubby" Taylor: air-conditioning spruiker; UNSW "Doctorate of Science honoris causa in recognition of his distinguished contribution and leadership in Australian sport". We're stumped if we can pick the connection between cricket and science, although boxing is the "sweet science". Apparently the Council chewed the fat (excuse the pun) for some time about awarding Tubby Taylor an honorary doctorate, with quite a few very vociferous dissenters. He only just got up, according to our source, and the whole debate caused a fair bit of angst.

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

Steve Vizard: the businessman and entertainer reveived a Deakin University honorary degree of Doctor of Laws (honoris causa) in April 2005.

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

Nicholas Whitlam: made a hash of running the NRMA, his troubles starting not long after being awarded an honorary doctorate from the UNSW in 1996.

Ray Williams: crook, an honorary degree from Monash University.

Hugh Wirth: RSPCA president, Doctor of Veterinary Science (DVSc) honoris causa from Melbourne University.

Simone Young: conductor, got one from UNSW.