Public Advocate honoured for work supporting the most marginalised
Victoria's Public Advocate, Colleen Pearce, has been honoured for her work advocating for people on the margins of society with an honorary doctorate from RMIT University.
RMIT University Pro Vice-Chancellor, Professor Paul Gaugh, presented Ms Pearce with the Doctor of Social Science Honoris Causa at RMIT’s Doctoral Degrees Graduation Ceremony, on Friday 18 May.
Professor Gough described Ms Pearce as "a passionate and dedicated leader, recognised for her outstanding contribution towards improving the human rights of the most marginalised", and noted she is the first female to hold the role of Victorian Public Advocate.
"Colleen’s career has involved tireless advocacy for people on the margins of society including people with disability, Indigenous Australians, those struggling with drugs and alcohol, mental illness and the homeless.," Professor Gough said.
"As the Public Advocate, Colleen has been outspoken about the issue of abuse of people with disability. Her Office has undertaken research, media campaigns and led the development of the Interagency Guideline for Addressing Violence, Neglect and Abuse (IGUANA), increasing public awareness of abuse of people with disabilities. She also successfully campaigned for the closure of Sandhurst and Colanda, the last remaining disability institutions in Victoria."
Ms Pearce dedicated her award to her great grandmother, Annie Ralph, an Aboriginal Australian from the Yuin Mob, who passionately advocated for her children to have the right to access education following the exclusion of Aboriginal children from the local school.
Ms Pearce also paid tribute to her colleagues at the Office of the Public Advocate, the fierce human rights advocates I have worked with for more than 30 years and the hundreds of volunteers who work with the office.
"Their collective courage and dream of a better world continues to inspire me to fight for justice in a world that is increasingly characterised by inequality and injustice," she said.