Doctor of Laws honoris causa awarded to Michael L'Estrange AO

Document Type

Media Release

Publication Date

Summer 20-12-2012

Publisher Name

The University of Notre Dame Australia

Publication Place



In recognition of his outstanding contribution to the political, civil and diplomatic interests of Australia, The University of Notre Dame Australia has awarded the degree of Doctor of Laws honoris causa to civil servant and diplomat Michael Gerard L'Estrange AO. The award was conferred by the Chancellor, Mr Terence Tobin QC, at the first graduation ceremony for 2012 on the Sydney Campus, at which students from the Schools of Medicine, Law and Philosophy and Theology were also awarded degrees.

Vice Chancellor, Professor Celia Hammond recommended Mr L'Estrange for the award, beginning with a reference to the work of the man himself.

"A wise man once said that the commitment to shaping of public policy should be determined by the tests of reasonableness and humanity and fairness," Professor Hammond said.

"That wise man is here today to be honored for a life dedicated to the service of the public and to the nation."

Michael L'Estrange studied history at the University of Sydney where he graduated with honors in 1974. The following year, he won the Rhodes scholarship and undertook the study of philosophy, politics and economics at Oxford University from 1976 to 1979, graduating with first class honours.

When he returned to Australia Mr L'Estrange joined the department of Prime Minister in Cabinet in 1981, and among other appointments, he served in 1984 and 1985 on the staff of Justice Robert Hope's Royal Commission into Australia's Security and Intelligence Agencies.

In 1986, Mr L'Estrange was awarded a Harvard scholarship and spent two years at the Edmund A Walsh School of Foreign Services at Georgetown University in Washington DC, and at the Institute of International Studies at the University of California at Berkeley.

From 1989 to 1994, he worked for several Leaders of the Opposition, in a range of policy advisory positions and in 1995 he was appointed the inaugural Executive Director of the Menzies Research Centre in Canberra.

Mr L'Estrange has served successive governments with exemplary distinction, professionalism and intellectual rigor as Secretary to Cabinet from 1996 to 2000, High Commissioner to the United Kingdom from 2000 to 2005 and then as Secretary to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade from 2005 to 2009. As secretary to DFAT, he made a substantial contribution to foreign policy to promote Australia's national interests.

In 2007, Mr L'Estrange was appointed an Officer of the Order of Australia for service to the development and implementation of public policy in Australia, particularly national security and foreign policy and to international relations through fostering diplomatic, trade and culture interests, including strengthening Australia's relationship with the United Kingdom.

On the conferral of the honorary doctorate by Notre Dame, Michael L'Estrange addressed the audience, thanking his family for their support and extending his thanks to the University for the honour.

Mr L'Estrange congratulated the Medicine, Law and Philosophy & Theology graduands who would receive their degrees later in the ceremony.

"Today is not only a genuine milestone in the lives of these young men and women who are graduating, it's also a source of great pride and hope for the members of all those families and friends and colleagues at this University who have helped them on their journey to date," he said.

"Today therefore very much belongs to these newest graduates at this University. You are the rightful focus of our congratulations and best wishes and in my remarks today I'd like to focus on your achievements and the challenges and opportunities that await you."

Mr L'Estrange said that each graduand, with their varying career paths, would have different guiding lights on their journeys, but it was important for each of them to maintain a sense of perspective and optimism for the future.

"For those of you who will graduate today, this University has given you the most valuable of assets; the asset of an intellectual perspective built on a holistic view of education," Mr L'Estrange said.

"The University of Notre Dame Australia has made a distinctive and distinguished contribution to Australia. In a remarkably successful way, it has met the highest standards of educational excellence with a focus on ethics, faith, pastoral care, social justice and community service. It has linked the modern Australian university tradition with the older traditions of the great Catholic universities of Europe and North America. And in its pursuit of these aspirations, this University has given its graduates not only a capacity to engage in their chosen professions but actually a broader mission in life, one of service to society and faithfulness to the values that this University recognizes."

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