Almost 500 students donned the blue gowns and graduated from the University of Wollongong on Wednesday.
Students from the Faculty of Law, Humanities and the Arts, the Faculty of Science, Medicine and Health and the Faculty of Social Sciences were acknowledged for their academic achievements.
The educational life of Brian
For more than 30 years Brian Walker was learning even when he was teaching others.
So it was only natural that in retirement the former Kiama resident and Lake Illawarra High School Human Society and its Environment (HSIE) head teacher would pursue his passion for human rights.
Mr Walker completed a Bachelor of Laws, then a Master of Laws (Legal Practice) and now a PhD from the University of Wollongong.
On Wednesday he was among 500 UOW students from the Faculty of Law, Humanities and the Arts, the Faculty of Science, Medicine and Health and the Faculty of Social Sciences to be acknowledged at two graduation ceremonies.
The 78-year-old Port Macquarie student is the eldest graduate in the November cohort after receiving his PhD for research into: Australia's Refusal to Adopt a National Bill of Rights.
‘’I had long been interested in the law and wanted to learn more about it,’’ Mr Walker said.
‘’At my age, the idea of directly helping people with the law appeared unlikely, even after being admitted to the NSW Supreme Court as a legal practitioner in 2005. So I turned to research as a way to examine Australia’s human rights system and identify areas for improvement.’’
Mr Walker said this included looking at ways to introduce a national Bill of Rights.
‘’A Bill of Rights would be a major human rights achievement by the National Parliament to ensure that Australia fulfils its obligation to respect the human rights of all our citizens,’’ he said.
‘’Until a national Bill of Rights is enacted, the capacity of all Australians to enjoy their human rights will remain diminished, particularly for Australia’s underprivileged and minority groups; those who are voiceless or on the fringes of Australian society.’’
He hopes his thesis will renew discussions around developing a Bill of Rights and give further momentum to the community movement to establish a Bill.
‘’Without more effective rights protections, it’s possible that we could find ourselves faced with even more extreme oppressive authority by government,’’ Mr Walker said. ‘’Indeed, the Federal Government’s expansion of powers around policing and border protection are recent examples. Without a Bill of Rights, Australia risks falling further down a slippery slope.’’
Controversial UOW professor awarded Emeritus Professorship
Tackling controversial scientific topics has been par for the course for University of Wollongong Professor Brian Martin for more than 30 years.
The controversy his stance on these controversial topics has elicited though hasn’t surprised or fazed Prof Martin, who was awarded a prestigious Emeritus Professorship by UOW on Wednesday.
‘’I’m not sure if anything surprises me any more,’’ he said.
‘’Nonetheless, what’s going on in Australia is unique in the world as far as I can tell in terms of the coordinated attacks to try and silence anyone who's publicly critical of vaccinations.’’
Prof Martin’s comments refer to the backlash he and UOW received for accepting a PhD thesis written by Judy Wilyman.
Anti-vaccination activists seized on the thesis to use as proof vaccines are ineffective and unsafe.
Wilyman’s thesis, awarded through the university’s social sciences faculty, claimed a vast conspiracy between global health agencies to push immunisations.
‘’It may seem strange but I don’t really have a strong view about vaccinations,’’ Prof Martin said.
‘’I’d be happy to let members of the public listen to both sides or the various sides’ recommendations.
‘’I’m basically involved to defend free speech.’’
Prof Martin is the author of 15 books and hundreds of articles, including the 2013 article ‘Euthanasia tactics’, which has had more than 7000 downloads.
He said being awarded an Emeritus Professorship for intellectually and socially significant contributions to a wide range of fields, including war and nonviolent action, scientific controversies, whistle-blowing and suppression of dissent, was ‘’very nice’’.
‘’But I get the most satisfaction out of doing my work,’’ Prof Martin said.
‘’I’ve been able to do teaching and research in a wide variety of fields and tackle some very controversial topics.’’
Prof Martin, from the Faculty of Law Humanities and the Arts and the Faculty of Science, Medicine and Health, spoke at Wednesday afternoon’s UOW graduation ceremony.
It was at this event that Professor Beverly Derewianka was also awarded a prestigious Emeritus Professorship for her contribution to literacy and languages.