The 2017 RMIT Honorary Awards and Graduation Ceremony was held on Friday 19 May at 3pm in Storey Hall.

Doctoral graduates

The Ceremony celebrated and recognised the achievements of 66 doctoral students from the colleges of Business, Design and Social Context, and Science, Engineering and Health. The students’ combined years of dedication to research within their respective fields has contributed invaluable knowledge for the benefit of the communities within which we operate.

Awards

Ms Lois Peeler AM was awarded a Doctor of Social Science Honoris Causa.

Lois is a recognised elder of Yorta Yorta and Wurundjeri heritage, a passionate educator and leader. She is currently the Executive Director and Principal of Worawa Aboriginal College – the only boarding school in Australia that caters specifically for young Aboriginal women. Lois’ up-bringing included family life on the Cummeragunja Aboriginal Reserve where activism for improved conditions for Aboriginal people was deeply embedded. She grew up surrounded by strong women who, based on their personal experiences, led the fight for equal rights for Aboriginal people to education, healthcare, housing, legal services and social justice.

Lois has had a diverse career in the music industry, social activism and Aboriginal education. One of the original members of The Sapphires, an all-girl singing group from the 1960s, they toured Vietnam to entertain troops during the Vietnam War. Their story was made into an award winning feature film in 2012. Lois is also acknowledged as Australia's first Aboriginal model and TV presenter.

Her career in the community sector, the State and Federal public service – spanning 16 years managing Aboriginal Affairs departments, and later in the private sector includes positions as Assistant Director of the Aborigines Advancement League and Head of Aboriginal Tourism Australia. In 2003 Lois received The Centenary Medal for this work.

Lois’ experience includes appointment to a number of government advisory committees and directorships. She is currently Chairperson of the Department of Justice and Regulation’s Eastern Regional Aboriginal Justice Advisory Committee, a member of the Victorian Government’s Aboriginal Justice Forum, Chairperson of the Eastern Local Aboriginal Education Consultative Group, and involved in the implementation of the Marrung Aboriginal Education Action Plan.

In 2014 she was made a Member (AM) in the General Division of the Order of Australia for her significant service to the Indigenous community as an educator, advocate and role model.

At Worawa Aboriginal College, a boarding school for young Aboriginal women from years 7-10, Lois oversees a holistic approach to education that brings together Aboriginal knowledge, values and pedagogy and Western academic leadership. Its students come from all over Australia, including remote communities.

She is the Senior Victorian Australian of the Year 2017.