Honorary Doctor of Letters
Citation delivered by Professor Paul Wellings CBE Vice-Chancellor of the University of Wollongong on the occasion of the admission of Lisa Wilkinson as a Doctor of Letters (honoris causa) on 24 April 2019.
Deputy Chancellor, I present Lisa Wilkinson.
It is without doubt that the Australian media influences our society and public discourse. The significant contribution of journalist Lisa Wilkinson has positively shaped the industry and continues to impact a generation of people.
Over the past four decades Lisa has established an extraordinary career in the Australian media industry, initially in publishing, then on radio, and within the last 12 years in television and online. She is one of Australia’s most esteemed journalists and corporate presenters, earning widespread respect across every medium.
Born in Wollongong and raised in Campbelltown, Lisa and her family formed strong roots in the area, and her experiences partially shaped the person she was to become. Lisa’s career began as secretary for her most-loved teen magazine, Dolly, when she was 19. Two years later her passion and drive saw her become Editor-in-Chief of Dolly – the youngest-ever editor of a national magazine. Soon after, Lisa was offered the editorship of Cleo magazine. Under her leadership the magazine doubled in circulation and became the number one selling women’s lifestyle magazine per capita in the world. Her role at Cleo later evolved to International Editor-in-Chief, running editions in New Zealand, Malaysia, and Thailand.
Later in her career, Lisa set up her own magazine consultancy whilst juggling three small children and a new role as a radio host. Lisa’s family play a large part in her life and career, and we are happy that her partner Peter and her children Jake, Louis and Billi are celebrating with us today. In 1996 Lisa made the move to television, working on a variety of programs including Nine’s Today show which claimed the number one spot in breakfast television. During that time, she was also Australian Editor-at-Large of The Huffington Post. In late 2017, after a successful 12 years as co-host of the Today Show, Lisa accepted a senior hosting and editorial role on Ten Network’s The Project and the role of Executive Editor of Ten’s new publishing hub, Ten Daily.
Lisa is a unique role model and outstanding leader. Her strength and ability to uphold ethical principles and moral values in a highly competitive and male-orientated industry has seen her branded as ‘the feminist hero Australia needed’. She resigned from the Nine Network due to a profound wage gap; her openness about the reasons for her resignation came at a time when the examination of gender equality and equal gender pay was regaining prominence as an important debate in Australian society.
Lisa has used her platform to raise awareness and champion women’s issues. In 2013 Lisa was invited to deliver ABC Radio’s prestigious annual Andrew Olle Lecture, only the second woman to deliver the Lecture in sixteen years. She used the opportunity to highlight gender inequality in the industry.
On top of her professional obligations, Lisa is also a leading and successful business mentor. She is a member of the Walkley Advisory Board, and is a global ambassador for numerous charitable organisations, including The Fred Hollows Foundation, Barnardo’s, the Breast Cancer Institute of Australia, Sydney Children’s Hospital Randwick, The Big Issue, and the Butterfly Foundation.
Lisa’s career success, women’s rights advocacy and charitable work have not gone unrecognised. In 2013 she was named among the 40 Most Inspiring Women Over 40 in Australia by Prevention Magazine. In 2016 she was appointed as a Member of the Order of Australia (AM), for her significant service to print and broadcast media as a journalist and presenter, and her service to a range of youth and women’s health groups, including the mentoring of young journalists.
Deputy Chancellor, today we honour Lisa for her significant impact on journalism, media and business in Australia and internationally, and for the contribution her outstanding leadership and advocacy has made to Australian society. It is a privilege and a pleasure to present Lisa Wilkinson for a Doctor of Letters, honoris causa.