10 December 2003

A well-known conservationist will be presented with an honorary degree at The University of Queensland Gatton campus’ graduation ceremony at 11am on Friday, December 12.

Dr Aila Keto, AO will be awarded a Doctor of Science honoris causa in recognition of her distinguished career and contribution to the conservation of the environment.

More than 400 students from around Queensland and interstate will graduate at the ceremony in a wide range of disciplines including agribusiness, agriculture and horticulture, animal studies, and environmental management.

A recognised authority on World Heritage matters, Dr Keto helped achieve the landmark closure in 1987 of the rainforest timber industry in north Queensland and the subsequent end of all rainforest logging on Queensland public land in 1994.

She also helped negotiate the 1999 South-east Queensland Forests Agreement with the Queensland Government, conservation groups and the Queensland Timber Board.

An Adjunct Professor since 2002 in UQ’s School of Agronomy and Horticulture, she is currently helping develop the recently launched Centre for Native Floriculture at UQ Gatton.

She is also leading a team assessing the conservation values of a 40-million-hectare area in Queensland.

A UQ graduate, Dr Keto has published widely and has a long history of service to many conservation councils and agencies.

In 1992 she become only the second Australian to receive the Fred M Parkard International Parks Merit Award, presented once a decade by the International Union for Conversation of Nature.

Other honours include a Centenary Medal (2003), Queenslander of the Year Award (2000), Premier’s Millennium Award for Excellence (2000), an Officer in the Order of Australia (1994), and recognition in the United Nations Environment Program’s Global 500 Roll of Honour (1988).

The student valedictorian at the ceremony will be Bachelor of Applied Science (environmental and production horticulture) graduand Stuart Irvine-Brown.

Other highlights at the graduation ceremony will include the following.

* Noel Meurant will be awarded the prestigious 2003 Gatton Gold Medal.

Mr Meurant graduated with a Diploma in Horticulture at the Queensland Agricultural High School and College (now UQ Gatton) before joining the Queensland Department of Primary Industries (DPI) in 1953.

His contribution to tropical horticulture has been recognised internationally, particularly in plant breeding, research and extension.

He developed and conducted plant propagation courses in most of the major tropical fruit regions in Queensland and the Northern Territory and is widely recognised as the “father of the Australian mango industry”.

He retired in 2001 after a 50-year career with the DPI, during which time he established the Bowen Horticulture Research Station.

* Bruce Thompson, who was illiterate until the age of 24, will graduate with a Bachelor of Applied Science (protected area management) and a Grade Point Average (GPA) of 6.3 out of a possible 7.

Mr Thompson said he hoped his graduation would be an example to others that higher education was not an impossible dream.

In his early 20s and working through a series of short-term jobs, he found the inspiration to learn to read, starting with books by popular children’s author Paul Jennings.

“I knew I had the potential. It was just a case of getting motivated to achieve my goals,” Mr Thompson said.

He now plans to complete honours next year and has his sights set on a PhD.

He gained entry to UQ through a Special Tertiary Admissions Test at the age of 33 and completed a Diploma of Applied Science (wilderness reserves and wildlife).

With a special interest in culture and heritage, Mr Thompson has been engaged part-time putting together an interpretive walk around the 106-year-old UQ Gatton campus.

He has researched the history and use over the years of 20 significant buildings at UQ Gatton to produce signage and an accompanying brochure for campus visitors.

* The first cohort of 28 students will graduate from the Bachelor of Applied Science (veterinary technology and management) program.

The only program of its type in Australia, it combines animal production and clinical studies across UQ’s Schools of Animal Studies and Veterinary Science.

* A fifth-generation member of a north Queensland cattle family, Julie Clarke, will graduate with the prestigious Queensland Cotton Award as the top achiever in the Bachelor of Agribusiness program.

The uniquely-structured program has an outstanding job rate with employers, particularly financial institutions, eagerly seeking graduates.

Media: for more information, contact Anthony Smith (telephone 07 5460 1229, mobile 0409 265 587).