Citation for the Award of Degree of Doctor of Laws (Honoris Causa)
Since founding Mitchell and Partners in 1976, Harold Mitchell spent his career developing marketing and communications in Australia. In 2010, when Mitchell and Partners was the largest media and communications group in Australia, with a growing presence in New Zealand and the Asia Pacific region, international network Aegis Media bought the company. Harold Mitchell then took on the role of Executive Chairman of Aegis Media, Australia and New Zealand for the next three years. His leadership of Mitchell and Partners over more than thirty years, during a period of extraordinary change and convergence in the media, made a significant contribution to the development of global public communications.
Not content with corporate leadership however, in December 2000, Harold Mitchell established his eponymous foundation with an inaugural donation of $10 million. Over thirteen years the Harold Mitchell Foundation has provided over $6 million in grant funding to over 100 organisations.
Harold Mitchell brings the breadth of vision that enabled him to build the country’s largest communications group to his Foundation, which invests in projects in health, education and the arts. His deep understanding of the elements that drive cultural change shapes the Foundation’s philanthropic initiatives, as demonstrated by the funding models it offers: a Community Grants Scheme, which provides short-term grants to support projects that reflect a different theme each year; the Australia Gives Scheme, which partners with other funding bodies to support ambitious initiatives that require greater support than one group can provide; and the Leaving a Legacy Scheme that funds initiatives designed to leave an enduring community legacy.
The Foundation’s philanthropic investments are creating far-reaching benefits for Australia and the Asia-Pacific region. They span a wide range of initiatives: a partnership that created a phenomenal display at the Musée du Quai Branly in Paris – exposing Australian Indigenous art to countless Eiffel Tower visitors; working with resource companies operating in Papua New Guinea to address HIV impacts and promote education and prevention; travelling fellowships in support of early career researchers; and the creation of a Chair in Indigenous Eye Health focused on eliminating eye disease, in particular trachoma, in Australian Indigenous communities.
His corporate governance expertise and perceptive cultural insight are highly valued by many organisations. This leadership skill is exemplified through his consolidation of a united board for the combined entity that is the Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health. His work as Board Chairman, since 2012, is typical of his great enthusiasm for and commitment to medical research; his willingness, despite many pressing demands, to donate his time so generously, illustrative of his great concern for issues that affect so many members of the community.
Harold Mitchell’s extraordinary contributions attract frequent recognition. His service to the community and philanthropic leadership is focused on building community capacity, tackling ambitious and complex problems, and effecting changes that endure long after their projects are complete. He is eminently deserving of the award of Doctor of Laws honoris causa, the highest honour the University of Melbourne can bestow.