Vice Chancellor Mark Scott, Mr David Hill, Chancellor Belinda Hutchinson

Doctor of Letters awarded to former ABC Director

22 April 2022
David Hill awarded Doctor of Letters (honoris causa)
David Hill, former Chairman of the ABC, was recently admitted to the degree of Doctor of Letters (honoris causa) for his remarkable contribution to Australian public life.

Mr Hill was admitted into the degree on Wednesday 13 April, in a ceremony for postgraduate students in the School of Education and Social Work. The ceremony presided over by University of Sydney Chancellor, Belinda Hutchinson AC, Vice-Chancellor and President, Professor Mark Scott, and Professor Debra Hayes, Head of the Sydney School of Education and Social Work

“Mr Hill has had an unparalleled impact on the Australian public,” Chancellor Belinda Hutchinson AC said. “He is highly regarded as a leading public servant, having served as Chief Executive of the NSW State Rail Authority and the ABC. He is also a passionate and successful advocate for institutionalised child migrants, ensuring some reparation for their suffering.”

Born in England, Mr Hill migrated to Australia with two of his brothers to work on Fairbridge Farm School in Molong, where he was expected to follow the school’s general career trajectory and become a farm labourer. 

After leaving Fairbridge aged 15 to attend East Sydney Technical College, Mr Hill was then awarded a scholarship to study at the University of Sydney. It was here he obtained all three of his tertiary qualifications and built a lifelong network of friends and colleagues. 

“Mr Hill has had an unparalleled impact on the Australian public. He is highly regarded as a leading public servant... and is also a passionate and successful advocate for institutionalised child migrants, ensuring some reparation for their suffering.”
Chancellor Belinda Hutchinson AC

Mr Hill’s career trajectory is as diverse as it is impressive. Heavily involved in student politics throughout his studies, he graduated from university into a role as a political adviser to the former Premier of New South Wales, Neville Wran, from 1976 to 1980. Following this, at the age of 36, he was appointed chief executive of the State Rail Authority, serving until 1987. 

From 1987 to 1995, Mr Hill was the managing director and chairman of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC). As managing director, he was a passionate advocate of the broadcaster and the integral role it plays in Australian society. Over his several years of leadership, he reinforced the importance of the production of local content and fought tirelessly to secure ongoing government funding. 

In more recent years, Mr Hill has pursued his passion for writing. He is the acclaimed author of Forgotten Children(2007) and The Reckoning (2022), both of which detail his firsthand experience as a child migrant on the Fairbridge Farm School. When it was first published in 2007, Forgotten Children was a catalyst for a longstanding legal case that culminated in a compensatory pay-out, and an official apology from all the institutions who failed to protect child migrants, including the British Government, the Australian Government, and the New South Wales state Government.

“I am delighted to congratulate Mr Hill on his doctorate and to welcome him into an outstanding community of alumni and community members who have been similarly honoured,” Ms Hutchinson said. “He is an exemplary leader and distinguished member of our community.” 

Honorary degrees are awarded to individuals who have made an outstanding contribution to the wider community or who have achieved exceptional academic or creative excellence.

Tess Gibney

Assistant Media and PR Adviser (Central)

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