Peter Robson AO

Honorary Doctor of Letters

Citation delivered by Professor Charles Areni Executive Dean of the Faculty of Business and Law University of Wollongong on the occasion of the admission of Peter Hammond Robson as a Doctor of Letters (honoris causa) on 19 July 2018.

Vice-Chancellor, I present Peter Hammond Robson.

Peter Robson_main

As we celebrate the achievements of a man who has essentially devoted himself to bettering people’s lives, the words of Albert Einstein are called to mind, “Try not to become a man of success, but rather try to become a man of value.”

Peter Robson has truly proven himself as a man of value. Since the early days of his career, Peter’s efforts have been concentrated on improving outcomes for individuals and society at large. Initially, his focus concentrated on the future of Australian manufacturing and advancing workers’ job security, pay and conditions. He then went on to become involved in the Australian Trade Union movement where he held various executive positions. Following this, Peter applied his considerable skills and business acumen to the growth and development of quality Australian higher and vocational education, both nationally and internationally. In ‘retirement’ Peter continues to give of himself, holding several board positions including being Founder and Chairman of Orange Regional Tourism and Chairman of the Board of University of Wollongong Global Enterprises.

Born in Sydney during World War II, Peter studied Chemical Engineering at the University of New South Wales (UNSW), attaining his Chemical Engineering Degree in 1964. Twenty years later he completed a Masters degree in Commerce, graduating with Honours from UNSW.

Peter’s long and distinguished career in Australian industry started in the glass industry. He was an engineer in Australian and Asian manufacturing firms at both operational and senior executive levels. However, after meeting the then leader of the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU), Bob Hawke, Peter joined the Australian Trade Union movement and in a career turn-around quickly rose to become the National Secretary for the Community and Public Sector Union, Australia's largest union at the time. Between 1978 and 1995 Peter held many senior positions with the ACTU including being President, Asia-Pacific Executive of the Public Sector Unions.

Peter has held a number of executive and Chair positions within key industry and advisory bodies from the 1970s to the present day, including with the Australian Manufacturing Council; the Ministerial Committee reviewing the Textile, Clothing and Footwear Industry Assistance Scheme; the National Procurement Board; the Jackson Committee (which advised Cabinet on manufacturing industries); the Australian Industry Development Corporation Ltd; the Industry Research and Development Board; CEA Technologies Pty Ltd; the Turnkey Group and the NSW Wine Industry Advisory Board.

In 2003, Peter joined to the Board of the University’s Illawarra Technology Corporation Limited (now UOW Global Enterprises) and was appointed Chairman in 2010. In this role, Peter came to recognise the power of education as a catalyst for positively changing people’s lives, and he played a pivotal role in shaping the organisation as one of the preeminent Australian tertiary education providers on a global scale.

Peter’s commitment to providing alternative pathways to university for low socio-economic groups and international students is reflected in his dedication to the mission of UOW College Australia. Peter devoted significant personal time and effort to ensuring the future growth and sustainability of the College, and he has been instrumental in shaping the College’s mission to provide a supportive learning environment where students build skills and knowledge through quality English language teaching and testing, vocational courses and academic pathway programs to meet their personal, educational and career goals.

Peter also directed the growth and development of the University of Wollongong’s Middle East success story – the University of Wollongong in Dubai (UOWD). Under Peter’s leadership UOWD has grown in its status and reputation as a premium and distinguished university. It is an integral part of Dubai’s academic landscape and has contributed to the development of the UAE as an education hub.

In recognition of the success of UOWD, in 2013, 2015 and 2016 UOW was awarded the New South Wales Government Premier’s Export Award for Education and Training.

In 2015, UOW Global Enterprises acquired a higher education college in Hong Kong. The transaction was the first of its kind for the Australian and Hong Kong education sectors, for which there was no ready precedent. Peter’s leadership and guidance ensured the acquisition was a success and in 2015 and 2016, UOW Global Enterprises was the recipient of the prestigious Hong Kong – Australia Business Association Excellence Awards in recognition of UOW’s acquisition and continued success.

In the 2018 Australia Day Honours, Mr Robson was appointed an Officer of the Order of Australia (AO) for his distinguished service to business. The award acknowledged his life-long dedication to the manufacturing industry, trade unions and education.

Vice-Chancellor, today we honour Peter for his significant contribution to the growth and development of quality Australian higher and vocational education both nationally and internationally, and for his distinguished service to the University of Wollongong. It is a privilege and a pleasure to present Peter Robson AO for a Doctor of Letters, honoris causa.