Sir Leo Hielscher AC

Honorary award citation


Sir Leo Hielscher AC is a University of Queensland alumnus whose epic career in fiscal policy and 
economic management helped shape modern Queensland.

Born the son of a blacksmith in rural Queensland at the start of the Great Depression, he left school during World War II, joined the Queensland public service at age 15 in 1942, and bowed out of full-time service in 2010 as the world was entering the fourth industrial revolution, and he was in his 84ᵗʰ year.

His contributions over more than half a century helped the state adjust to epochal shifts in the global economy, and have been equalled by few – if any – in the Queensland public sector.

Although Sir Leo’s education at Brisbane State High School was cut short by War in the Pacific, he returned to studies during peace time. He fitted night classes around his job as a public servant and his duties to a young family, and attained an Associate in Accountancy, followed by Bachelor of Commerce at UQ.

Higher education spurred career promotions, and opened new opportunities for him to lead and innovate. He was seconded to the Queensland Treasury in the early 1960s, when the Queensland economy was, in his view, in ‘Third World’ shape.

He soon emerged as a key player in a team determined to change that.

For several decades he was at the pinnacle of Queensland’s fiscal affairs, from where he reported to a succession of 10 Queensland Premiers and 15 Treasurers, and earned respect and trust across the political spectrum, and in international and domestic business circles.

He served 14 years as the most senior Treasury Department mandarin, known as Under Treasurer, 
preceded by a decade
as Deputy Under Treasurer.

He wrote the blueprint for the state’s central financing body, Queensland Treasury Corporation, and chaired its board for 22 years. To this day, despite retiring seven years ago, he is Foundation Chairman of the corporation.

His indelible mark can be seen in areas ranging from finance and superannuation, to roads and 
transport, tourism, resources, and the arts.

He was instrumental in Queensland’s success in hosting the 1982 Commonwealth Games and World Expo 
’88. He was also central to the development of key export facilities, and to the rise of Queensland’s reputation as a place to invest, do business, and holiday.

Sir Leo has held numerous public and private sector board appointments, often as chair.

Generously, he gave precious time and wisdom to the UQ community, as a university senator in the 
1970s and ‘80s.

The many distinctions he has earned include Knight Bachelor, Companion in the Order of Australia, 
Eisenhower Fellow and Queensland Great.

In 2010 not one, but two major bridges were named in his honour: the Sir Leo Hielscher Bridges that 
enable the Gateway Motorway to cross the Brisbane River. The name is a nod to Sir Leo’s seminal 
role in the creation of the first Gateway Bridge, in the 1980s.

Chancellor, I present to you Sir Leo Hielscher, Companion in the Order of Australia, Bachelor of Commerce of this University, Doctor of the University honoris causa of Griffith University, Fellow of CPA Australia and Fellow of the Australian Institute of Management, for the award of Doctor of the University honoris causa, bestowed by the Senate of The University of Queensland.


Doctor of the University honoris causa