Dennis Shanahan

Honorary Doctor of Letters

Citation delivered by Professor Alex Frino Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Global Strategy) University of Wollongong on the occasion of the admission of Dennis William Shanahan as a Doctor of Letters (honoris causa) on 23 April 2019.


Chancellor, I present Dennis William Shanahan.

It is undeniable that the current social and political landscape is influenced heavily by the media, and the ways in which news and information is reported. The responsible use of language, balanced commentary, intelligent discourse, rigorous journalism standards, personal integrity and professionalism in reporting – all are imperative in order to keep the public truthfully informed. All these qualities are possessed by Dennis Shanahan, and it is for these reasons that we are honouring his achievements.

Mr Shanahan is a prolific political journalist who contributes to the contemporary political debate through critical scrutiny in his commentary and reporting. He is one of the most compelling journalists in this country, and his work informs, influences and promotes public discourse. He has had a long relationship with the University of Wollongong, as expert speaker and advisor, where he has shared valuable information and insights about the higher education sector and broader political environment.

Based in the Canberra Press Gallery as The Australian newspaper's Political Editor since 1989, Mr Shanahan is an influential voice in the political media landscape. He has reported on ten successive federal elections, over 30 federal budgets and nine prime ministers.

As a journalist, Mr Shanahan’s career has been wide reaching. In print, radio and online he has informed audiences across Australia and internationally. He has worked in metropolitan newspapers for more than 40 years, including at the Sydney Morning Herald as the newspaper's State Political Correspondent from 1984 to 1988. He started his career in journalism directly from high school in 1971, beginning as a copy boy at the Daily Mirror in Sydney. He went on to study a Bachelor of Arts at the University of NSW while working at the Sydney Morning Herald and he gained a Master's degree in Journalism at Columbia University in New York in 1979. Mr Shanahan demonstrated a commitment to learning and education when he later returned to Australia to teach journalism at Charles Sturt University in Bathurst. Alongside this role, Mr Shanahan’s journalism career continued to shine. After his stint as State Political Correspondent for the Sydney Morning Herald, he went on to be an adviser to Attorney-General John Dowd QC in 1988 and then took on a role at The Australian as Canberra Bureau Chief where he reported regularly for 10 years before being appointed Political Editor. Currently, he provides regular political talkback on Sydney radio station 2GB.

Mr Shanahan has advanced national dialogue on issues from the Iraq troop policy to climate change and refugees, through to current issues including the energy crisis and same-sex marriage. All the while, he has examined government leadership and effectiveness on an almost daily basis. He has been commended for his reporting on several events of national and international importance. He broke the story that the Labor Party was preparing to remove Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, and penned an exclusive report on Labor’s proposed mining tax. He was also on the ground in Washington DC on September 11, reporting on the tragic events unfolding at the World Trade Towers and the Pentagon that would change the world forever.

Deputy Chancellor, today we honour Dennis Shanahan for his outstanding service to Australian society through his dedicated contribution to contemporary political debate and political writing, and for his distinguished service to the University of Wollongong. It is a privilege and a pleasure to present Dennis William Shanahan for a Doctor of Letters, honoris causa.