Leunig gets ACU doctorate

The Australian Catholic University has awarded an honorary doctorate to well-known and often controversial newspaper cartoonist, Michael Leunig.

The University awarded Leunig a Doctor of the University (Honoris Causa), at its annual Melbourne graduation ceremony for Arts and Sciences students this week, an ACU statement says.

ACU National Vice-Chancellor Professor Peter Sheehan said Mr Leunig possessed the rare ability to demystify the human condition through his engaging cartoons, which were often challenging or thought-provoking, but always ultimately hopeful and positive.

"From his earliest days as a writer for radical press, to his current incarnation as a cartoonist for The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald newspapers and author of more than 20 collections of art, poetry and prayer, Michael Leunig has stirred the social conscience of Australians with his sometimes quirky, but always insightful drawings," Professor Sheehan said.

"Michael has the innate ability to challenge the worst of human folly through his colourful and irreverent art, while still expressing all the joy, fun and emotional poignancy of human life.

"It is this talent that led the Archbishop of Canterbury to refer to him as a 'most penetrating spiritual commentator'

"As with all artistic expression, Michael's work is sometimes misinterpreted or misunderstood, but his champions far outweigh his critics," the professor said.

According to the statement, Leunig was declared a National Living Treasure in 1999 and his work was used in the 2006 Commonwealth Games opening ceremony in Melbourne; in the 1999 stamp series The Teapot of Truth, commissioned by Australia Post; and in the award-winning SBS animated television series Leunig Moments.

"For his services to the arts, to public discourse, and to promoting a greater understanding of who we are as a people, Michael is a highly deserving recipient of ACU National's highest honour," Professor Sheehan said.

Community activist recognised

ACU also awarded an honorary doctorate to renowned community activist Margaret Gurry at a ceremony for education graduates.

Professor Sheehan said that Ms Gurry "has dedicated her life to community engagement, lending a helping hand wherever she sees people in need".

"As an active member of the St Vincent de Paul Society, Margaret recognised early on in her career the importance of helping people lift themselves out of poverty and structures that severely limit their life opportunities.

Ms Gurry works with the society's Friday Night School, now in its 11th year, which offer education to disadvantaged people living in Melbourne high-rise flats.

She is also involved with Melbourne Refugee Sanctuary Group, the Sisters of Charity Foundation, the Australia Association of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, a charitable trust.

Her overall commitment to bettering lives was recognised in 2004 when she was made a Member of the General Division of the Order of Australia, according to the ACU statement.

ACU National graduation to honour Michael Leunig (ACU Media Release, 28/5/07)
ACU National to honour compassionate community crusader (ACU Media Release, 28/5/07)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Australian Catholic University
Leunig website

30 May 2007