14 December 1998

Famous photographer to receive honorary doctorate at graduation ceremony

Internationally renowned photographer, author and performer William Yang will receive an honorary Doctor of Letters at a University of Queensland 6.15pm graduation ceremony on December 18.

Arts Faculty students will graduate at the ceremonies in Mayne Hall at 4pm and 6.15pm.

o Duchesne College principal Sister Genevieve Behan will be the guest speaker at the 4pm ceremony while Mr Yang will be the guest speaker at the 6.15pm ceremony. Bachelor of arts graduates Andrew Curtin and Carla Klease will deliver the student valedictorian addresses at the respective ceremonies.

o Sister Behan (telephone 07 3377 2300) joined the Society of the Sacred Heart in 1967 and gained her masters of arts in literature from Melbourne University in 1988. She taught literature to secondary school students in Victoria for 15 years before her appointment as principal of Duchesne College in 1993. The College was founded through the inspiration and at the direct wish of His Grace, Archbishop Duhig, in March 1937. He invited the Religious of the Sacred Heart, an Order founded in France in 1800, to undertake the direction of his first University college for Catholic women in Queensland. Sister Behan said resident students were especially proud of the fact that Duchesne had won the 1998 Inter-College Cultural Cup.

o Mr Yang (telephone 02 9365 5876) graduated from the University with a bachelor of architecture in 1968, but in the 30 years since he has won international acclaim as a photographer, author and performer.

Mr Yang will receive an honorary Doctor of Letters at a ceremony on December 18 at 6.15pm in recognition of his contribution to photography.

He said each of his positions in society - as an Australian-born Chinese, a gay man and a photographer - were marginalised from the mainstream. This perspective had formed the basis of his work and allowed him to be successful, he said.

Mr Yang said he had become a voice for minority groups at a time when prejudices, especially about race, had been given legitimacy.

"These views have become part of the social fabric and this is the cause of some alarm for me," he said.

"At the same time I know these are not the views of all Australians and I take gratefully whatever acceptances and encouragements come my way.

"I think the University of Queensland has been courageous to award me this honour. Australia as a diverse culture must be acknowledged. That I have been accepted and successful to some degree does give me heart, as we all have a hope for a decent, tolerant society."

After graduating from the University of Queensland, Mr Yang moved to Sydney where he began a career as a photographer, chronicling the cultural, gay and social scene. He is now recognised as a leading documenter of modern Australian history. Mr Yang reached the pinnacle of his profession in 1993, receiving the Higashigawa-cho International Photographic Festival Award as International Photographer of the Year.

He is also an author, performer and cultural ambassador for Australia through his photographic exhibitions, and more recently his performances in the image and narration shows Sadness and The North.

While his performance pieces cover Sydney's social life, they are also autobiographical, tracing his heritage as a third-generation, Australian-born Chinese.

o A serious car accident nine years ago left Muriel Ruth Gould, 70, with skull, facial, knee, ankle and foot injuries. She said completing her second bachelor of arts degree with the University had helped keep her mind active during her recuperation and three operations since the crash. She will receive her degree at today's 4pm ceremony cheered on by three of her six children.

The grandmother-of-nine and great-grandmother-of-three said she started her first bachelor of arts degree in 1986 and finished it in 1990 while recuperating from the car accident and continuing studying. Mrs Gould had worked as a social worker in country locums but has not had any work since the accident.

She said she felt her age and restricted mobility was off-putting to potential employers. Mrs Gould said she hopes to start postgraduate studies in the Arts Faculty next year. She already holds a bachelor of social work from the University (1983) and a graduate certificate of social research (1997). One of her sons, Robert, holds a bachelor of arts (Chinese Mandarin and anthropology) and a diploma in education from the University while one of her daughters, Annette Foy, has a bachelor of human movement studies and a bachelor of education from the University. Mrs Gould said a lack of public transport in her area, Durack, meant she often caught a taxi and two buses to the campus and spent all day studying before returning at night. The University's Disability Program staff had been a great help in locating resources, organising photocopying and other assistance throughout her studies

"I walk with a cane and am also only five foot one and a half tall! I can't read the call numbers of books on the top shelves and my leg and foot injuries made it difficult to access books on lower shelves," she said. She also thanked fellow bachelor of arts graduate Olivia Truslove for helping her learn about changes to the University's Library. Mrs Gould, who has lived in Brisbane most of her life, was born in Toowong and grew up in the Brookfield area. Leaving school at Junior standard, she completed five senior subjects at evening classes while working a 40-hour week to gain entry to University. She can be contacted on telephone 07 3372 5366.

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