Dr José Ramos-Horta, the President of the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste, was made an Honorary Doctor of Southern Cross University at a ceremony held at the Lismore campus today (June 24).

The award to Dr Ramos-Horta, in recognition of his significant contribution to international human rights, was conferred by the University Chancellor, John Dowd AO QC. The MC for the ceremony was Janelle Saffin, Federal Member for Page and University council member.

The ceremony was part of Dr Ramos-Horta’s five-day State visit to Australia.

Dr Ramos-Horta, in receiving his award, said it was a great pleasure to be in Lismore.

“I couldn’t fail coming here on the occasion of a State visit to Australia because of Janelle Saffin, a tireless advocate for human rights in the region. Also, John Dowd a tireless advocate of Timor-Leste,” Dr Ramos-Horta said.

“Thank you all for the support we have received from Southern Cross University, but also from members of the community.

“Australia has been a most generous neighbour of Timor-Leste. The commitment Australia has made to Timor-Leste since 1999 we cannot quantify in terms of money because it is well beyond that. We can only say with sincere appreciation and gratitude how important and critical to the stability in Timor has been Australia’s support.

“Today Timor-Leste is at peace and political tension is almost non-existent.”

In presenting the award, Chancellor Dowd acknowledged the work Dr Ramos-Horta has done for his country.

“He has been a signal figure in bringing together the people of Timor-Leste,” the Chancellor said.

“We are greatly honoured by your presence in Lismore. We wish you well in the years ahead and with the growing friendship that you are helping to sponsor between Australia and your country.”

Professor Peter Lee, Vice Chancellor of Southern Cross University, said Dr Ramos-Horta was a great humanitarian who had made significant contributions to international human rights issues, education and Timor-Leste, making him a very worthy recipient of the award of Honorary Doctor of the University.

Professor Lee said the award was further evidence of the strong links between Southern Cross University and Timor-Leste.

“We are undertaking a range of projects aimed at improving the social, economic and environmental conditions in this emerging and resilient nation,” Professor Lee said.

“Our researchers in the School of Environmental Science and Management and the Environmental Innovations Research Centre, have been delivering agricultural and development programs. This includes a close collaboration with the East Timor Coffee Academy.

“We are also using our expertise in forest science to assist in the country’s rebuilding program and look forward to a continuation of our close connection with the people of Timor-Leste.”

PICTURE: Southern Cross University Chancellor John Dowd AO QC presents an Honorary Doctorate to Dr José Ramos-Horta, President of the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste.