ANU honours for Dr Brendan Nelson

12 July 2017

The ANU has honoured former Liberal Party leader and diplomat Dr Brendan Nelson for his contribution to health, Australian politics, international relations and the education of the nation.

Dr Nelson has been awarded an Honorary Doctorate (Doctor of Laws, honoris causa) at the mid-year graduation ceremonies.

Dr Nelson was president of the Australian Medical Association from 1993-1995 before going into federal politics. He served as Defence Minister in the Howard Government and as Leader of the Opposition from 2007 to 2008.

After retiring from politics in 2009, Dr Nelson was appointed Ambassador to Belgium, Luxembourg, the European Union and North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), and since 2012, he has been Director of the Australian War Memorial.

The ANU citation said Dr Nelson has made an exceptional contribution to a broad range of public service activities.

Vice-Chancellor Professor Brian Schmidt AC said since 2012, Dr Nelson has shaped and overseen the regeneration of the activities of the Australian War Memorial, including the significant responsibility of commemorating the centenary of Gallipoli in 2015, and continuing centennial commemorations for battles fought on the Western front in Europe.

"Dr Nelson has brought the stories of those who served in war, and peacemakers, to communities across Australia," Professor Schmidt said.

"He initiated the practise of sharing the stories of women and men on the AWM roll of honour at the Last Post Ceremony, introduced an exhibition on conflict in Afghanistan, and has overseen an increase in attendance at ANZAC commemoration ceremonies from 15,000 in 2012 to 37,000 in 2014 and 128,000 in 2015, the centenary of Gallipoli."

Dr Nelson said he was humbled to be honoured by ANU.

"I have today been conferred with two privileges, perhaps as undeserving as they are surprising," Dr Nelson told the graduation ceremony.

"The first is to receive an honorary doctorate from Australia's most pre-eminent university, The Australian National University. But the second is an even greater privilege, and that is to speak briefly to you, into whose hands will be passed our common future."

He urged new graduates to have open minds and be open to new ideas, to nurture their intellects, and to help to develop a new vision for Australia.

"We need a vision that's human, and social and economic. The economic framework for that can only be provided by you."