The 2018 RMIT Honorary Awards and Graduation Ceremony was held on Friday 18 May at 3pm in Storey Hall.

Doctoral graduates

The Ceremony celebrated and recognised the achievements of 70 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.


Ms Colleen Pearce was awarded a Doctor of Social Science Honoris Causa. 

Colleen is a passionate and dedicated leader, recognised for her outstanding contribution towards improving the human rights of the most marginalised. She is currently Victoria’s Public Advocate, the first female to represent the statutory agency in this role. The Office of the Public Advocate is committed to campaigning for and protecting the human rights and interests of Victorians with disability.

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. She began her career as an Information Officer for Disadvantaged Groups as part of the Department of Social Security in Sydney and has, throughout her career, continued to promote the human rights of people who are isolated, disadvantaged and more vulnerable to abuse.

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.

As a proud member of the Yuin mob, Colleen promotes reconciliation and a society that values and respects the human rights of Aboriginal people. She has a longstanding involvement with Connecting Home, a Victorian organisation that provides support for survivors of the Stolen Generation. For many years, Colleen was a board member of Frontier Services, an organisation providing care, support and wellbeing initiatives for people living in regional and remote Australia, including Indigenous communities.

Colleen is currently a board member of Connecting Home and Wintringham, a specialist aged care service helping homeless elderly men and women, where she continues her lifelong passion to promote human rights for all.

In 2003, Colleen was awarded the Commonwealth Centenary Medal, acknowledging her ongoing contribution to community service in Victoria. Adding to her accolades, in 2016 Colleen was inducted onto the Victorian Honour Roll of Women, which recognises the ongoing contributions of women at a local, national and international level.