Human rights trailblazer appointed as CQUniversity's new Chancellor

30 August 2022

CQUniversity Australia has announced trailblazing human rights proponent Mr Graeme Innes AM as its fourth Chancellor.

The appointment of Mr Innes – an internationally renowned lawyer' author and company director – follows a nationwide competitive recruitment process and University Council approval.

It accompanies the recent announcement that current Chancellor and Central Queensland industry identity' Mr John Abbott AM' would be retiring from the role later this year after seven years and almost a decade on the University's Council.

Mr Innes said he was delighted to be appointed as the University's new Chancellor and looked forward to building on CQUniversity's legacy of accessibility and inclusion in higher education and training.

"I admire CQUniversity's commitment to inclusion and accessibility when it comes to its student body and the University's longstanding leadership when it comes to engaging with its regional communities.

"As a regional university' CQUniversity has an important responsibility to deliver opportunities for people from all backgrounds' so that they can access high quality vocational and tertiary education.

"I look forward to playing a role in ensuring that accessibility barriers to higher education and training in the regions are broken down' whether those barriers are because of disability' socioeconomic status or geography'" said Mr Innes.

Mr Innes told The Australian newspaper that CQUniversity stood out for him as Australia's first university to be certified as a social enterprise.

"One of the things that I'm excited about in this role is that' as far as my research can determine' I'm the first person who identifies as a person of disability to become chancellor of a university in Australia'" Mr Innes said.

"I firmly believe CQUniversity can establish a global reputation as a true leader when it comes to driving social change through the delivery of future-focused' innovative' and accessible education' and through delivering research that creates tangible impact in the regions and beyond."

In a career spanning nearly 50 years' Mr Innes is perhaps best known for his nine-year tenure as a commissioner at the Australian Human Rights Commission' holding responsibility for issues relating to disability' race and human rights.

He is recognised for leading the merger of four agencies to form Vision Australia and becoming the first person to chair the board of that agency.

Mr Innes is also the former chair and current deputy chair of the Attitude Foundation' a not-for-profit aimed at using media to change attitudes towards Australians with disabilities.

Having been born blind' Mr Innes is a champion of rights and access for people living with disability and was recognised as a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) for his work on the development of the Disability Discrimination Act. He was a finalist for Australian of the Year in 2003.

On an international level' Mr Innes was part of the Australian delegation that participated in negotiating the UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities.

CQUniversity's Vice-Chancellor and President' Professor Nick Klomp congratulated Mr Innes on his appointment and said that he was looking forward to working with him.

"On behalf of everyone at CQUniversity' I would like to congratulate Graeme on his appointment to the role of Chancellor.

"His professional history and experience will add enormous value to CQUniversity's operations' especially as we continue to rebuild following the disruption of the pandemic and as we enter the development phase of our new strategic plan.

"I am certain Graeme will provide astute leadership and guidance when it comes to our social innovation agenda and accessibility strategy.

"Having someone of Graeme's calibre as our next Chancellor will be a wonderful thing for the University and I am sure he will make a tremendous impact in the coming years'" said Professor Klomp.

CQUniversity offers Student Accessibility and Equity services across its student cohort' with 750 students with a disability currently registered for support in Term 2.

In May this year' CQU launched a Disability Awareness Training initiative for staff' which features Mr Innes and other people with disabilities sharing their lived experience and insight.

Mr Innes holds several legal qualifications and professional memberships and has also been recognised with honorary awards from the University of Canberra' RMIT' UNSW and Edith Cowan University.

His autobiography' Finding a Way' was released in 2016 and shares memories of love and support' of challenges and failures' and of overcoming the discrimination faced by so many people with disabilities.

Mr Innes will be officially installed as Chancellor of CQUniversity as part of the University's Rockhampton graduation ceremony on 6 December 2022' while current Chancellor John Abbott will be officially farewelled at the Gladstone graduation on 9 December.

Watch Mr Innes on ABC The Drum on Monday 29 August 2022: