Her Excellency Professor Marie Bashir AC CVO
Doctor of Science (honoris causa)
Citation delivered by Professor Gerard Sutton, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Wollongong on the occasion of the admission of Her Excellency Professor Marie Bashir AC CVO to the degree of Doctor of Science (honoris causa) on 29 January 2007.
Chancellor, I present Her Excellency Professor Marie Bashir, Governor of New South Wales.
Professor Marie Bashir challenges the stereotypes that divide and marginalise people in these times. Her life story is a testament to her success. She has been able to appreciate the pattern that connects many of today’s social issues. May Ziyadeh, a renowned woman writer from Professor Bashir’s ancestral land, once described poverty as “illness, indolence and enslavement”; she also observed that: “No society can enjoy good health when its members are ill... and no nation can enjoy independence if its citizens are enslaved”. Professor Bashir has confronted that poverty of body, mind and spirit through her outstanding contribution to medicine, to education and to public life.
Born in the New South Wales country town of Narrandera, Professor Bashir was educated at Narrandera Public School and Sydney Girls High School. In 1956 she graduated from the University of Sydney with bachelor degrees in medicine and surgery. Her early experience in general practice inspired an interest in psychiatry and, after completing specialist training, Professor Bashir established the Rivendell Child, Adolescent and Family Service for the assessment and treatment of young people with emotional and psychiatric problems. Her work involved her with people on the edges of mainstream society - Indigenous people, immigrants and refugees. Her pioneering achievements were recognised in 1988 by an Order of Australia award.
In 1994, Professor Bashir became the Director of Mental Health for the Central Sydney Area Health Service, overseeing the integration of community and hospital services into one clinical stream. She was appointed Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Sydney in 1993 and, in 1996, became Senior Consultant to the Aboriginal Medical Services in Redfern and Kempsey. Throughout this distinguished professional career, she has continued to enrich the lives of others through not only her medical skill but also her warmth and compassion. She has taught, mentored and inspired hundreds of students and health professionals not only in Australia, but also in the Pacific and Southeast Asia, particularly Thailand and Vietnam. Her commitment to Indigenous communities, and especially their younger members, is an abiding theme.
On 1 March 2001, Marie Bashir was appointed Governor of New South Wales, the first woman and first person of Lebanese descent to assume that office, and only the third woman to be appointed Governor of an Australian state. That same year she was made a Companion of the Order of Australia. In 2006 she was invested by Her Majesty the Queen with the insignia of a Commander of the Royal Victorian Order.
Professor Bashir has taken active roles in a range of community and cultural organisations. They are all more than formal duties as her range of gifts and interests is wide and her commitment genuine. Her patronage of the arts, particularly the Sydney Symphony Orchestra and Opera Australia, for example, is the involvement of one who is herself a lover and player of fine music.
Chancellor, Professor Bashir has achieved much in her medical career and her high public role but perhaps nothing is more important that her steadfast devotion to a cause she publicly embraced when she became Governor. She committed herself to promoting “a cultured, informed society where everyone has a seat at the table”. Her words challenge our complacency. They could well fit into the mission of a university. They are a rallying call for our new medical students who today begin their own journey towards caring for the health and welfare of people outside the mainstream in rural, regional and remote locations.
Today, we honour Professor Bashir for her achievements as a healer and administrator in improving the treatment of people suffering from the ills of mind and body. We also acknowledge her wisdom and her leadership in confronting the ills of ignorance and poverty of spirit that afflict society as a whole.
It is my great privilege and pleasure to present Her Excellency Professor Marie Bashir, Governor of New South Wales, for the award of Doctor of Science (honoris causa).