Notre Dame confers highest award of Doctor of Letters honoris causa on distinguished Australian poet Leslie Murray AO

University Acting Chancellor, Peter Prendiville, congratulates Leslie Murray AO.
Vice Chancellor, Professor Celia Hammond, Leslie Murray AO, Acting Chancellor, Peter Prendiville.

29 July 2015

The University of Notre Dame Australia has conferred the Degree of Doctor of Letters honoris causa on Mr Leslie Murray AO, Australia’s eminent poet, at a ceremony held at the University’s Sydney Campus on Tuesday 28 July 2015.

Mr Murray, a major figure in contemporary Australian literature and often referred to as the nation’s ‘unofficial poet laureate’, joins a small distinguished class of individuals, including former Australian Prime Minister, The Honourable John Howard OM AC, Australia’s Ambassador to the United States of America, The Honourable Kim Beazley AC, and The Archbishop of Sydney, The Most Reverend Anthony Fisher OP, in receiving an Honorary Doctorate from the University.

“Les Murray is the outstanding poet of his generation; his writing has helped define, in cultural and spiritual terms, what it means to be Australian,” Professor Celia Hammond, University Vice Chancellor, said in her citation.

The University of Notre Dame Australia confers the Degree of Doctor of Letters honoris causa on distinguished Australian poet Leslie Murray AO.

“Les Murray has had an exceptionally distinguished literary career. He has made a very significant contribution to the Australian literary world, our society and beyond; he has had an enormous influence on our nation’s culture. He is a most worthy recipient of Notre Dame’s highest award,” Professor Hammond said.

Mr Murray has been writing and publishing poetry for more than 50 years. He published his first book of poetry The Ilex Tree in 1965, followed by his first sole-authored poetry collection The Weatherboard Cathedral in 1969. In 1970 Mr Murray was awarded a Commonwealth literary fund fellowship and emerged as a significant figure on the Australian literary scene, winning the National Book Council Award for Australian Literature and the Grace Leven Prize.

In the 1980s, and by now a major figure in Australian literary circles, Mr Murray began to attain a greater international profile and his work was published in numerous languages. Mr Murray’s work has since been published in 15 languages – from German to Hindi. In 1989, Mr Murray’s service to Australian literature was recognised when he was appointed an Officer of the Order of Australia (AO).

During the 1990s, Mr Murray continued to produce acclaimed volumes of poetry and in 1996 Mr Murray published perhaps his most celebrated collection, Subhuman Redneck Poems. In 1999, he was awarded the Queen’s Gold Medal for Poetry on the recommendation of Ted Hughes.

In addition to his poetry, Mr Murray has been prolific as an essayist and cultural critic. He has also edited a number of Australian poetry anthologies, and has served as literary editor for Poetry Australia and Quadrant. He has successfully campaigned for direct government support for artists and promoted a society that addresses the problems of under-privileged Aboriginals.

In conferring the award, Professor Hammond stated, “Mr Murray is our nation’s herald of Australian rural life and work, and the natural world in which they are conducted. He has had an enormous influence on our nation’s culture and it was with great pleasure and pride that Notre Dame conferred on Mr Murray the Honorary Degree of Doctor of Letters”.

Read the Citation for Leslie Murray AO here.

View the video of the Conferral of Doctor of Letters


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