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Kate Carnell

Kate Carnell

L-R: Deputy Chancellor Tom Calma, Kate Carnell and Vice-Chancellor Stephen Parker. Photo: Michelle McAulay

By Kristyn Comino

Former ACT Chief Minister and beyondblue CEO Kate Carnell AO said she was "surprised, absolutely delighted and very honoured" to receive an honorary doctorate from the University of Canberra.

"It is especially pleasing to be recognised by the University of Canberra, an institution that is very important to Canberra. As Chief Minister, I was pleased to be able to facilitate the passing of the legislation that made the University an ACT owned entity in 1997," Ms Carnell said.

Ms Carnell was elected to the ACT Legislative Assembly in 1992, and became leader of the ACT Liberal Party in 1993. She was elected Chief Minister in March 1995, making her the first Liberal woman elected as either Chief Minister or Premier in Australian history.

As Chief Minister and Minister for Health she drove significant reform in financial management, business development, health information management and funding models.

Ms Carnell was CEO of beyondblue from 2012 to 2014, a national support organisation for depression, anxiety and related disorders, of which she had been a director since 2008.

Prior to this she was Chief Executive of the Australian Food and Grocery Council, representing the majority of Australia's food and grocery manufacturers – companies that jointly turn over $100 billion a year and employ 315,000 people.

Ms Carnell was also the former CEO of the Australian General Practice Network. She is a pharmacist by profession, having bought her first pharmacy at just 25-years-old. She was the first female to become National Vice-President of the Pharmacy Guild of Australia, of which she is a life member, was the inaugural chair of the ACT Branch of the Pharmacy Guild and chair of the Australian Institute of Pharmacy Practice.

During her occasional address, she spoke to graduates of the skills she learnt in pharmacy and how they equipped her for her life in politics and leadership generally. She also emphasised to graduates "the importance of embracing change".

"Get involved in your professional organisation and other relevant representative groups – networking with people in other professions is important, not just with the people you work with. Most importantly, find a job you love and make a difference!"

Ms Carnell was honoured on Australia Day 2006, named an Officer of the Order of Australia. She  has also served on many boards including  the Australian Red Cross, the Aged Care Standards and Accreditation Ltd, General Practice Education and Training Ltd and is currently chair of the CRC Forestry Ltd.