Public service leader receives honorary doctorate

Public service leader receives honorary doctorate

Kristyn Comino

2 October 2012: Jeffrey Harmer AO became the fourth person in his family to receive a University of Canberra degree when he was awarded an honorary doctorate last week.

Dr Harmer received the honour on Thursday 27 September in recognition of his 33-year career in the public service – including as Secretary of two Federal Departments.

“I am deeply honoured that the University of Canberra has acknowledged my achievements in my public service career by awarding me an honorary doctorate,” Dr Harmer said.  

Stephen Parker, Jeffrey Harmer and Tom Calma

L-R: Vice-Chancellor Stephen Parker, honorary doctorate recipient Jeffrey Harmer and Deputy Chancellor Tom Calma. Photo Michelle McAulay

“It is a great university with an excellent academic tradition and a top-class reputation. Two of my three children, as well as my wife, are graduates from the University of Canberra, so I know it well.”

Born and raised in country New South Wales, Dr Harmer’s public service career began at Environment, Housing and Community Development in 1978, following five years in Sydney as a doctoral scholar and tutor in economic geography at the University of New South Wales. 

Up until his retirement last year, Dr Harmer was Secretary of the Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs, a position he held since 2004 when he was appointed to the then Department of Family and Community Services. He had previously served as the Secretary of the Department of Education, Science and Training in 2003 and prior to this was Managing Director of the Health Insurance Commission (now Medicare Australia).

Dr Harmer now sees himself in a state of ‘semi-retirement’ as he continues his work in a range of chair or director positions, including as chairman of the National Disability Insurance Scheme Advisory Board.

In 2009, he was named the inaugural Australian Government Leader of the Year by the Australian Institute of Chartered Accountants. He was awarded a Centenary Medal in 2001 and in 2010 was made an Officer of the Order of Australia.

Dr Harmer shared his experiences in senior management with new graduates in the occasional address, encouraging them “to be optimistic and to take some risks that the confidence of having their degree should allow”.

In particular, he provided them with some advice on how to manage stress "because in senior positions like the ones I have held you do need to know how to cope with pressure.”

Dr Harmer was one of four people conferred an honorary doctorate from the University of Canberra at the graduation ceremonies held at Parliament House from 27-28 September.

Read more about the latest University of Canberra honorary doctorates and graduates:

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ACT businessman recognised with honorary doctorate