Australia Day honours for distinguished Notre Dame members

30 January 2014

The nation honoured three distinguished members of The University of Notre Dame Australia community on Australia Day for their outstanding contribution to medicine, health care, education and the Catholic Church of Australia.

Dr Christine Bennett AO, Dean of the School of Medicine on Notre Dame’s Sydney Campus, was awarded the Officer of the Order of Australia for distinguished service to medicine and health care leadership, as a clinician, researcher and educator, particularly in the fields of child and family health, and social policy.

Dr Bennett’s extensive contribution to medicine has been driven by a commitment to improving the health of all Australians.

"It is truly humbling to receive this great honour and acknowledgement for work that I am so passionate about,” Dr Bennett said.

“Every day it continues to be a privilege to work alongside so many dedicated colleagues committed to the better health and well-being of all Australians."

"I look forward to continuing to champion health reforms that will achieve high quality, accessible health care for all,  while developing and guiding a new generation of medical graduates and health leaders here at Notre Dame."

Also honoured was Reverend Father John Neill OP OAM who was awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia for service to education, and to the Catholic Church in Australia.

Father John was instrumental in establishing The University of Notre Dame as Australia’s first Catholic University. Appointed as Director of Notre Dame’s Planning Office in 1988, Father John became the very first employee of the University and helped steer the University’s development from its founding through a Western Australian Act of Parliament in 1989 through to the thriving higher education institution Notre Dame is today.

“It’s very nice to be nominated and I am delighted and honoured by the award but to be involved in Notre Dame and be a part of many important education and community-based projects through their inception, growth and success is in itself its own reward,” Father John said.

“I am proud that people think highly enough of what I have tried to do in my life but you don’t do all these things thinking one day someone may give you a reward.”

As well as being a pioneer staff member, Father John served as a Foundation Trustee and Governor of the University for almost 20 years (1990 to 2009). He was Notre Dame Sydney’s Foundation Chaplain and the Parish Priest of Broadway during its transition into the spiritual centre of the University and Sydney city.

Former Governor of the University, Mrs Maureen Colgan OAM, was also honoured with the Medal of the Order of Australia for service to the community through a range of organisations, including Notre Dame.

Vice Chancellor Professor Celia Hammond congratulated the recipients on their appointments to the Order of Australia.

“Under Dr Bennett’s leadership Notre Dame’s School of Medicine in Sydney has grown to include additional Clinical and Sub-Schools in Melbourne, Lithgow and Auburn,” Professor Hammond said.

“With almost 500 medical students now studying through our School of Medicine, Sydney, Dr Bennett’s leadership is paramount in shaping our community’s future generation of medical graduates and healthcare providers.

“Father John has been instrumental in shaping the purpose and character of Notre Dame as Australia’s first Catholic University. As a lifelong Priest-Educator Father John has contributed greatly to Catholic Education at all levels, particularly to Notre Dame.

“Mrs Colgan was a member of Notre Dame’s Board of Governors from 1998 to 2003, a period of great growth for the University.

Mrs Colgan remains an important part of our Notre Dame community and we are pleased that her tireless community work has been recognised.

“We congratulate Dr Bennett, Father John and Mrs Colgan on their appointments to the Order of Australia, the highest recognition in the Australian honours system for outstanding achievement and service. Their Australia Day Awards are very well deserved.”

Hannah Guilfoyle: Tel (02) 8204 4141;