20 August 2014

Professor Brian Burdekin awarded Honorary Doctorate

Professor Brian Burdekin

Australians don’t need to look very far to see that Professor Brian Burdekin, AO has made a lasting contribution to human rights – there is no shortage of charities that support people with mental health problems and homeless youth with, Burdekin, in their title.

Today, Australia’s first Federal Human Rights Commissioner and author of the 1989 report on youth homelessness that so shocked the nation, will share insights from his international career in human rights with almost 400 graduates at the University of South Australia graduation ceremony, where he will be awarded an Honorary Doctorate.

UniSA Vice Chancellor Professor David Lloyd says Prof Burdekin has been an enduring champion for the vulnerable worldwide.

“In Brian we have a shining example of someone who has used their considerable intellect to change the world for the better,” Prof Lloyd says.

“His lifetime commitment to human rights has made an impact in Australia and in Asia, Africa, Europe and Latin America. And based on his work in Australia and his firm belief that common law alone is not enough to protect human rights, he has supported the development of Human Rights Commissions in more than 70 countries.

“Brian has been a thinker, a planner and a doer in movements that have changed the way we think, speak and act about the poor, the mentally ill, people with disabilities and the world’s disenfranchised. 

“He was part of an important shift to make Australia a more just and civil society and then he took the human rights message to the wider world.

“We delighted to be able to honour him in this way – he is a global champion for fairness, dignity and justice.”

Currently Visiting Professor at the Raoul Wallenberg Institute in Sweden and Professorial Visiting Fellow at the University of New South Wales, Faculty of Law, Prof Burdekin is an international advisor to many National Human Rights Commissions around the world.

From 1995 to 2003, as Special Adviser on National Institutions, Regional Arrangements and Preventive Strategies to the first three United Nations High Commissioners for Human Rights.

In the past 25 years he has helped to establish such Commissions in more than 70 countries and is generally considered to be the leading international expert on the subject.

He graduated in Arts and Law from Melbourne University and completed an LLM at Georgetown University in Washington DC while serving there as an Australian diplomat.

His work with homeless young people led to his appointment as Chair of the Australian Youth Foundation (1990–98) and he has been patron of the Burdekin Association for homeless young people in Sydney and the Burdekin Clinic in Adelaide for over 20 years.

In 1995 he was made an Officer of the Order of Australia for his services to human rights - both in Australia and in other countries.

He has served as Principal Advisor to a former Australian Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Minister, Trade Minister, and Minister for Federal-State Relations and the Federal Attorney General.

He was also one of the key figures involved in preparing the United Nations' principles prescribing the minimum standards for national human right institutions (the Paris Principles), subsequently adopted by the General Assembly.

Prof Burdekin will be awarded the Honorary Doctorate from UniSA on Wednesday August 20 at the morning graduation ceremony at the Adelaide Convention Centre commencing at 10.30 am.

Media contact: Michèle Nardelli office: +61 8 8302 0966 mobile: 0418 823 673 email: Michele.nardelli@unisa.edu.au

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