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UniSA honours a best-selling author and an animal campaigner

by Michèle Nardelli

Sir Terry Pratchett. UniSA awarded two honorary doctorates last month – to best-selling author Sir Terry Pratchett, OBE, and to primatologist Dame Jane Goodall.

UniSA VC Professor David Lloyd presenting the Honorary Doctorate to Sir Terry Pratchett.UniSA VC Professor David Lloyd presenting the Honorary Doctorate to Sir Terry Pratchett.

The award to Pratchett acknowledges his enormous contribution to literature and creative writing.

Author of 50 novels and co-author of more than 50 other publications, Pratchett is globally renowned as the creator of the ‘Discworld’ book series and has seen his work sell more than 85 million copies, with screen and stage adaptations around the world.

Sir Terry is an Adjunct Professor in the School of English at Trinity College Dublin and has had a similar title at UniSA since 2013.

UniSA Vice Chancellor Professor David Lloyd, who presented the award to him in the United Kingdom, says Terry Pratchett is a clear example of someone who has stayed true to his passion.

“Terry brings his immeasurable talent and intellect to doing what he loves – he has produced an enormous body of work that continues to delight and inspire millions of readers and writers around the world,” Prof Lloyd says.

“His contribution not only to literature, but also to the causes about which he is passionate, is enormous and has been rightly acknowledged in literary prizes, through sales and in awards such as this one.”

Prof Lloyd says the University is delighted that Terry has accepted the title of Honorary Doctor, his first award of this type from outside the UK and Ireland.

“This brings Terry into the UniSA community in a more personal way and brings our students and the wider University closer to the life of a great writer and a great man,” Prof Lloyd says.

Pratchett says he is delighted and honoured to receive the award.

"I have been on the receiving end of many awards throughout my career, but I really am delighted to have been acknowledged in this way by the University of South Australia,” Pratchett says.

“My love of Australia is widely known and I am only sorry that I am unable to make the journey down under to receive my Honorary Doctorate in person. Therefore, my humble thanks go to Professor Lloyd for racking up the air miles on my behalf.

“I have been blessed with good fortune in my life. I’ve turned a passion into a profession.

“While I may have ten doctorates, I confess that I never had the opportunities students have today. I never attended or completed university, my learning came from doing and from reading and from experiencing life.

“I have a pack rat mind some say and I’ve learned over time to put it to good use – sharing my knowledge in the way that I know best, through stories.”

One of the UK’s all-time bestselling authors, Pratchett is best-known for Discworld, a series of 39 stand -alone volumes.

Now in his 60s, Pratchett has been diagnosed with posterior cortical atrophy (PCA), a rare form of early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. Having lost his ability to type, he continues to write using computer dictation and has become a strong advocate for the right to die with dignity.

Shocked by the lack of research funding into Alzheimer’s, in 2008 he personally committed US$1,000,000 to the Alzheimer Research Trust.

In 2012 his documentary project, filmed alongside his long-term business manager Rob Wilkins, Terry Pratchett: Choosing to Die was produced for the BBC. Among other accolades it was subsequently awarded Best Single Documentary at the International Emmy Awards.

Choosing to Die was part two of a trilogy of award-winning documentaries the author has produced since his diagnosis, including Terry Pratchett: Living with Alzheimer’s (2009) in which he explored what the future would hold for him as a sufferer of the disease and Terry Pratchett: Facing Extinction (2013) where he returned to the rainforests of Borneo to highlight the plight of the orangutans and his own mortality.

Trustee for the Orangutan Foundation of the UK, he continues his strong support to save them from extinction.

Dame Jane Goodall.Dame Jane Goodall was awarded her Honorary Doctorate during a visit to Adelaide last week, recognising her enormous contribution to science, to primatology and more broadly to animals and conservation globally.

The award was presented by UniSA Vice Chancellor Professor David Lloyd at a special public lecture hosted by Zoos SA and presented by Dr Goodall as part of her 80th birthday speaking tour, at the Adelaide Zoo.

Prof Lloyd says Dr Jane Goodall is one of the most inspirational figures of our times.

“From her earliest years she has been drawn to animals and a quest to understand more about the way they live and the connections between people and animals – what makes us the same and sets us apart,” Prof Lloyd says.

“But like many of the students who attend UniSA, the path to higher education was not an easy one for Jane and in 1952 when she graduated from high school there was no way she could afford to go university.

“But a dream of going to Africa was more possible. In Africa she met Dr Louis S B Leakey, a meeting that changed her world and ours. As part of Leakey’s expedition at 23 years old she began her study of wild chimpanzees on the shores of the Gombe stream in Tanzania.

“With enormous patience and sensitivity, Jane was eventually accepted by the chimpanzees and soon discovered ground-breaking facts about their behaviour – that they were not vegetarian but in fact omnivores and that they had learnt to use tools to support food gathering.

“She also came to understand their society, the good and the somewhat darker aspects of it, with echoes of our own human society.”

In 1962 on the strength of her work, she was accepted at Cambridge University as a PhD candidate – one of only a handful of people to be given that opportunity without having studied an undergraduate degree.

Prof Lloyd says Dr Goodall’s passion for her research, her dedication and curiosity provided the foundation of future primate research, helped to redefine the relationship between humans and animals and has supported worldwide action to support animal conservation.

In 1977 Dr Goodall established the Jane Goodall Institute, which is a global leader in the effort to protect chimpanzees and their habitats. The Institute is widely recognised for innovative, community-centred conservation and development programs in Africa.

She founded Roots & Shoots with a group of Tanzanian students in 1991 which today connects hundreds of thousands of young people from more than 130 countries to take action to make the world a better place for people, animals and the environment.

In her 80th year Dr Goodall still travels an average 300 days per year, speaking about the threats facing chimpanzees, other environmental crises, and her hope that humankind will solve the problems it has imposed on the earth.

She has been acknowledged globally for her work receiving the French Legion of Honor, the Medal of Tanzania, the UNESCO Gold Medal Award, the Gandhi/King Award for Nonviolence, the Benjamin Franklin Medal in Life Science and Japan’s prestigious Kyoto Prize. In 2002 she was appointed to serve as a United Nations Messenger of Peace and the following year was invested as a Dame of the British Empire.