David Gonski AC

Honorary Doctor of Laws

Citation delivered by Professor Paul Wellings Vice-Chancellor of the University of Wollongong on the occasion of the admission of David Michael Gonski as a Doctor of Laws (honoris causa) on 18 December 2015.


Chancellor, I present David Gonski.

On 1 January 1975, Wollongong University College became the University of Wollongong and we began making our mark independently; distinct and separate from the University of New South Wales, the institution of which the College had been a part. For these forty years the University of Wollongong has pursued its vision of providing world class teaching and research, a vision that we have fixed in our sights and from which we have not strayed. As a result our University has grown and flourished.

The University here today is the product of forty years of effort, dedication and passion: a labour of love and faith of which our students, our staff, and our community can be justly proud but our growth is also, in part, due to the seeds which were sown by the University of New South Wales. So today we acknowledge and celebrate this vital connection in our shared histories by honouring the Chancellor of the University of New South Wales, David Gonski. More than this though, we also have the opportunity to salute someone who has made significant contributions to Australian law, business, creative life, as well as education in Australia at every level.

David Gonski is a renowned figure in Australian public life. He is a man whose name has come to mean much more than success, more than virtue, more than scrupulousness, and much more than naïve optimism. Many of you will have noticed the signs that say something like “Give a Gonski” that are still attached to school fences. Not too long ago these signs were ubiquitous: attached to telephone poles, fixed to noticeboards, propped in front room windows, fastened to trees, and stuck on many thousands of station wagons as bumper stickers.

More than simple shorthand for endorsing the Review of School Education “Give a Gonski” has come to mean something else, something not about governments or funding arrangements or legislative instruments. “Give a Gonski” represents a hopefulness, a practiced and focused means of thinking about a future not limited to the next budget or the next decade or even the next generation: a future that might come about as a shrewd gift from us, here and now, to distant and unknown others whose hopes and needs we cannot yet anticipate but may be enabled by judicious and sagacious management of our public affairs.

The qualities and values embedded in the Gonski Review of School Education are the same qualities and values that have made David Gonski one of Australia’s most respected and most successful businessmen: analytical acumen, patience, wisdom, generosity and integrity. Pursuing careers in law and business over four decades it is estimated that he has served on dozens of boards and he is sometimes described as the “Chairman of Everything,” not entirely in jest. He currently serves as Chairman of the ANZ Board of Directors, Chairman of the Coca Cola Amatil Limited Board and Chairman of the Sydney Theatre Company Board.

Mr Gonski is also a notable philanthropist, serving as patron for the Australian World Orchestra, the Australian Indigenous Education Foundation, and also the youth mentoring organisation the Raise Foundation. In 2007, he was honoured with a Companion of the Order of Australia recognising his philanthropic and policy work in the arts, as well as his business and commerce enterprises, and his services to education and to the community through a range of philanthropic endeavours. David Gonski is a man who has given much and continues to give and so it is entirely appropriate we give something back.

Chancellor, for his ongoing contributions to Australian public life, it is a privilege and pleasure to present David Gonski for a Doctor of Laws, honoris causa.