Honorary Doctor of Letters
Citation delivered by Mr John Steele, Executive Dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences at the University of Wollongong on the occasion of the admission of Christopher M Abbott AM as a Doctor of Letters (Honoris Causa) on 19 December 2013.
Today we celebrate the achievements of Mr Christopher Abbott AM who has made an outstanding contribution to Australia both in the financial and biotech industries and in his philanthropic commitment to positively changing the lives of children.
Since coming to Australia from the UK in 1957 Christopher Abbott has made a significant impact on the Australian finance industry. He was Chairman of Maple-Brown Abbott Limited, a funds management company which he co-founded in 1984 and which by 2005 grew to manage $20 billion of funds in Australian and Asian equity markets. Mr Abbott’s distinguished career in finance has included many senior roles, such as Executive Director of the International Pacific Group (Rothschilds), and he has also held non-executive directorships in QBE Insurance Group, Thomas Cook Australia and Enterprise Management of Australia.
Mr Abbott now heads Asia Union Investments, a family company which has made significant investments in the Australian biotech industry. In 2005, he was awarded an Order of Australia for “service to the financial industry particularly through venture capital projects and to the development of the biotechnology industry in Australia”.
Since his retirement from Maple-Brown Abbott in 2006, Mr Abbott has continued to make his mark, through his philanthropic support for the development and educational opportunities of young children in Australia. This is not a new area of interest for Mr Abbott. Over the course of thirty years he has developed a strong belief that a child is given life-long opportunities through exposure to education and intellectual stimulation at an early age.
Through the Abbott Foundation, a private ancillary fund aimed at providing funding for organisations engaged in the development and education of young children, Mr Abbott has made a significant contribution to childhood education, funding Mission Australia to improve the facilities and family engagement at a number of pre-schools located in low socio-economic regions across Australia and supporting a wide range of other educational programs.
In 2008, Mr Abbott met with members of the senior leadership team at the University of Wollongong to discuss the possibility of a Children’s Discovery Centre in the Illawarra. At the time, the University was commencing a strategic investment in teaching and research relating to the early years of education. This UOW initiative and Mr Abbott’s vision coalesced and the Early Start Project was born.
Our partnership with the Abbott Foundation includes the construction of an Early Start Discovery Space which will include experiences, activity spaces, outdoor exploration courtyards and discovery galleries designed to help children learn through play in a non-threatening environment, while developing self-confidence and leadership skills.
It is hoped that the Early Start Discovery Space will be a major attraction for Wollongong when it opens in 2015 with 120,000 children expected to visit it each year. The transformational Early Start Project is aimed at creating and enriching opportunities for young Australians and at driving social change through world class teaching programs and technologies that can connect communities.
Chancellor, Christopher Abbott’s vision and commitment to improving the education and aspirations of young children have been an inspiration and it is an honour and a privilege to present him for the award Doctor of Letters, honoris causa.