Grand Graduation kicks off new ANU tradition

10 December 2019

The Australian National University (ANU) held its first ever Grand Graduation event on Tuesday 10 December - bringing the whole community together to celebrate graduands and their 'village'.

The Grand Graduation ceremony saw more than 2,300 people gather on University Avenue, including graduating students, their family members and friends, their mentors and teachers as well as members of the wider ANU community.

The event featured a student parade as well as a picnic for students and their guests, and the conferral of an honorary doctorate for former New Zealand Prime Minister the Right Honourable Helen Clark.

Students could bring multiple guests, allowing them to celebrate with all those who supported them throughout their studies.

"This is an exciting new tradition," ANU Vice-Chancellor Professor Brian Schmidt AC said.

"Like other great institutions, ANU has created traditions that connect our community to each other and today's event is an opportunity to not only congratulate our graduands but to thank those around them for their support.

"Students are at the core of who and what we are, so it's wonderful to be able to bring our whole community together to celebrate our students as they make the leap to being graduates.

"They say it takes a village to raise a child - and it's the same with supporting a graduate through their university journey.

"This party, taking place in the beating heart of our campus, brings the whole village together to celebrate our grads and all the people who have helped them during their studies and set them up for future success."

The Vice-Chancellor also had some words of wisdom for all graduating students. 

"Some of you might know exactly where you're heading for further study or job or perhaps travel. But I also know many of you aren't quite sure what this next step will be," he said.

"Take this time, it's exciting and challenging. You cannot connect the dots looking backwards, only forwards, so be brave, and take chances but make sure you change the world on your terms. 

In addition to the new Grand Graduation, all degrees will be conferred at a record 10 graduation ceremonies between Tuesday 10 and Friday 13 December.

In total more than 3,600 students will graduate at these ceremonies. Just over 3,000 of those students will accept their certificates, diplomas and degrees in person, with the remaining 669 graduating in absentia.

Among those graduating will be two students whose studies will take them to Oxford University, after they received prestigious Rhodes Scholarships.

Emily Rowland (Bachelor of Philosophy - Honours) is fascinated by Alzheimer's disease and will study a Master of Neuroscience at Oxford.

Matt Goh (Bachelor of Philosophy - Honours) will join Emily at Oxford, and will also be presented with a University Medal this week.

They are two of three ANU scholars who've won the prestigious scholarship in the same round - with only nine given out in total for Australia. The third is Marcus Dahl, who graduated from ANU in 2018.

Fellow graduate Grace Bramwell - Bachelor of Laws (Hons) - has had a bumpier road than most to collecting her degree.

Grace has keratoconus, a degenerative eye disease. She underwent surgery early in 2018, but had plenty of support from her family, including twin sister Elsa.

"It was really difficult early on," she said. "Before our first year at uni, the longest we had ever been apart was four days.

"It'll be nice to have my sisters and parents here (for graduation). They always had the confidence that I would get through it.

"They kept me motivated throughout my degree."

Grace now hopes to pursue a career in environmental law.

She will soon move to Sydney where she will undertake an associateship at the NSW Land and Environment Court. There, she will be mentored by ANU alumna, The Honourable Justice Rachel Pepper.

Another standout graduate is Peter Swanton, a Kamilaroi man from Mackay, who will graduate with a Bachelor of Science with distinction. His degree has focused on Indigenous astronomy.

Peter also overcame major challenges during his studies - including the passing of his father.

A number of honorary doctorates will also be presented at the graduation ceremonies.

Recipients include:

  • The Right Honourable Helen Clark ONZ SSI PC - for her contribution to politics, international affairs, women's empowerment, development issues and environmental sustainability.
  • Professor Marcia Langton AM - for her contribution to Indigenous Australia.
  • Professor Jenny Graves AO - for her contribution to genomic and epigenetic research, and the advancement of women in science.
  • Professor Arthur Stockwin OBE - for his contribution to the understanding of Japanese politics and society, and the promotion of Japanese studies in Australia, the UK and Europe.
  • Professor Ichiro Kawachi - for his contribution to research, conceptualisation and integration of social science, health and inequalities, and his role as a mentor and global leader.
  • Dr Robin Hughes AO - for her contribution the University as a Council member, including as Pro-Chancellor, and to the Australian broadcast and film industry.
  • Mrs Skaidrite Darius - for her contribution to the University, to computer science, and to gender equality.
  • Professor Dame Valerie Beral DBE AC - for her contribution to health research and her life achievements.

More information about the December 2019 graduation ceremonies is available here.