On September 19 we had the pleasure to host Richard O’Brien – the retired Irish Ambassador to Australia for the annual Duhig Lecture. He spoke to Residents, staff and guests of the College about ‘some personal reflections on the story of the Irish in Australia.’
As the evening was a significant event in our Centenary year, the Forgan Smith building at UQ was bathed in the gold and green colours of St Leo’s College.
Student Club Secretary, Michael Effeney introduced our guest speaker.
Richard Anthony O’Brien, a graduate of University College Dublin, joined Ireland’s Foreign Service in 1972. Having served at the Irish Embassies in London (1974-78) and Washington (1981-85) he was appointed Spokesperson at the Department of Foreign Affairs in 1985.
In 1990 Richard was appointed Ireland’s first resident Ambassador to Poland and in 1991 as non-resident Ambassador to Lithuania and Latvia. In 1995 he arrived in Canberra as Ambassador to Australia, New Zealand and Indonesia. From 1999 he also served as Ireland’s Special Envoy to the UN Member States across the Pacific Islands. In 2002 he was appointed Ambassador to Egypt and concurrently to Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and Sudan.
In 2006 he was appointed Ambassador to Singapore and concurrently to Brunei Darussalam, Indonesia, the Philippines and East Timor as well as Alternate Irish Director to the Board of the Asian Development Bank. Richard was awarded the Order of the Republic of Poland by President Lech Walesa in 1995 and was conferred with a Doctor of Letters (Honoris Causa) at the University of Victoria in 2001.
In 2015 he was appointed a Visiting Scholar in the School of Humanities at Charles Darwin University. He served as a member of the Board of the Australia Ireland Fund and of the Irish Studies Committee at the University of New South Wales from 2010 to 2015 and continues as a member of the Children of Eureka Committee in Canberra. He is also an Honorary Life Member of the Celtic Club in Melbourne, Victoria.
Richard regaled us with many stories about families who had travelled from Ireland to Australia to make a new life – including some background about Archbishop James Duhig, after whom our lecture is named.
Richard finished his lecture with some lines from Monsignor Hartigan, alias John O’Brien, when he caught the spirit of his early days in Australia.
If you would like to read the full lecture you can download the transcript below.
The evening concluded with dinner at St Leo’s College for Residents and guests.
If you would like to relive the evening watch our video highlights.
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