Four female students celebrate their graduations from UOW. Photo: Paul Jones

Spring graduation ceremonies recognise student achievements

Spring graduation ceremonies recognise student achievements

Aboriginal leader and advocate Aunty Gail Wallace to receive Honorary Doctorate

Aunty Gail Wallace, the first Aboriginal woman to study law at the University of Wollongong (UOW), will be recognised with an Honorary Doctorate during this week’s spring graduation ceremonies.

Hundreds of students from across three faculties – Social Sciences; Law, Humanities and the Arts; and Science, Medicine and Health – will celebrate their academic and research achievements.

There will be three ceremonies held over two days (Wednesday 6 November and Thursday 7 November), encompassing undergraduate and postgraduate students from a range of fields, including law, psychology, chemistry, nursing, and creative arts.

The spring ceremonies, held at UOW’s University Hall, are the third of four graduation events throughout the year.

Aunty Gail, who graduated from UOW with a Bachelor of Laws in 1996, will receive an Honorary Doctorate on Wednesday morning for her outstanding contribution to the community, and for her leadership and advocacy on social justice issues.

Growing up on an Aboriginal Mission at Orient Point on the NSW South Coast, Aunty Gail never imagined a future in which she entered the world of academia or the law. She enrolled at UOW in the early 1990s, 20 years after the Whitlam Government encouraged Aboriginal people to undertake tertiary studies.

Her desire to study law was motivated by her deep need to help Aboriginal people, who were falling victim to a justice system that was deeply unfair.

Aunty Gail has since become an advocate for the Aboriginal community and was responsible for spearheading the introduction of Circle Sentencing, a groundbreaking program that introduced Aboriginal Elders to the court process with the aim of reducing jail time for Aboriginal offenders.

The University’s higher degree research will also be in the spotlight during the spring graduation ceremonies this week.

Dr Julie Keys, from the Faculty of Law, Humanities and the Arts, will receive her PhD. Her thesis focused on the disparity in prestige between male and female writers throughout the past century. As part of her postgraduate degree, Dr Keys wrote an acclaimed novel, The Artist’s Portrait, which was published by Hachette this year and was shortlisted for the Richell Prize for Emerging Writers.

From the Faculty of Social Sciences, PhD graduate Dr Jennifer Norman has examined the impact of unhealthy food advertising on children’s diets. Her research has led to Dr Norman being invited to present to the Australian Senate inquiry into obesity and contributed to the development of a framework for protecting children from junk food advertising.

Chemistry PhD graduate Dr Andrew Montgomery wanted to explore a relatively unchartered area of research to make a powerful impact on the community. Dr Montgomery pursued cancer research, aiming to develop compounds that would be able to prevent cancerous cells from spreading to secondary sites in the body or metastasising. The research he undertook from 2015 to 2019 has laid the foundations for continuing cancer studies at the University.