Elizabeth (Betty) Churcher AO



Chancellor, Betty Churcher, AO, has made an outstanding contribution to the art world in Australia. Mrs Churcher is an accomplished artist, writer, critic and historian who has shown a commitment over many decades to bringing art alive to Australian audiences.

Born in Brisbane and educated at Somerville House, she trained as a practising artist at the Royal College of Art in London, graduating with 1st class honours in 1956. On her return to Australia, she taught art in secondary schools and Kelvin Grove College of Advanced Education. In 1975, she returned to London to read Art History at the Courtauld Institute of Fine Arts, University of London, completing her Master of Arts in 1977. She was appointed Dean of the School of Art and Design at the Phillip Institute of Technology in Melbourne in 1982.

After a successful career as an arts academic, Mrs Churcher moved into the field of art gallery management. In 1987, she was appointed Director of the Art Gallery of Western Australia, and in 1990 took the helm of the National Gallery of Australia where she served as Director until 1997. In this role, she developed her vision of making art relevant and accessible to ordinary people.

Mrs Churcher served on, or chaired, a number of national advisory art boards including the Visual Arts Board, the Australia Council, the Council of Australia Art Museum Directors, the National Committee of UNESCO, Art Exhibitions Australia, and the ANU Institute of the Arts Board.

She has authored journals, articles, seminar papers and books, including Understanding Art, published in 1974, Jon Molvig: The Lost Antipodean, published in 1984 and The Art of War, published in 2004. An art critic for The Australian newspaper in the 1970s, Mrs Churcher was named The Australian’s Australian of the Year in 1997.

Mrs Churcher is also a successful arts broadcaster. She wrote and presented a number of art programs for ABC television, including Betty Churcher’s Take 5, Eye to Eye with Betty Churcher and Proud Possessors. The Art of War for SBS Independent will go to air on Anzac Day, 2005.

Betty Churcher is an Adjunct Professor at the Australian National University’s Centre for Cross-Cultural Research. She was awarded Officer of the Order of Australia in 1996 and holds three other honorary doctorates.

Chancellor, in recognition of her distinguished service to the arts in Australia, I present to you Mrs Betty Churcher, AO, for conferral of the award of Doctor of the University honoris causa to which she has been admitted by the Senate of the University.


Doctor of the University honoris causa