Victorian Magistrate John Doherty was awarded an honorary degree by Victoria University on Thursday 4 June 2009. He was admitted to the degree of Doctor of the University honoris causa, in recognition of his efforts to engender a spirit of connectedness through sport, the arts and education, and for providing means and incentive for disadvantaged youth to put order back into their lives.
At the ceremony VU's Vice Chancellor Professor Elizabeth Harman said that the University was proud to recognise Mr John Doherty for his service to Melbourne's west principally through his work in the justice system and his work with young offenders.
John Doherty has been a Victorian Magistrate for almost 20 years. For six years he was the Magistrate in charge of the western suburbs based at Sunshine. During this time he was responsible for many new initiatives designed to assist young offenders to start afresh and avoid a potentially life-long involvement with the judicial system.
Acknowledging the transformative potential of education, John has been particularly keen to encourage young offenders to return to education. Through this work John has been acknowledged as a leading advocate of diversionary justice in Australia. He believes that courts, working in partnership with community organisations, can help promote a sense of support and empowerment within the community.
As a living demonstration of this philosophy, John Doherty established the Visy Cares Hub in Sunshine, which offers various support services for young people in Melbourne's west, such as housing, employment, legal and health services.
He has also used his expertise and positive influence beyond the purview of the law. Active in a wide range of community activities, he has demonstrated a solid commitment to the development of football, particularly among junior clubs.
John Doherty believes that helping young people engage with the community can help them to feel part of it. That community is a place where people can feel connected and supported, and that sport is an important conduit through which young people can find that engagement.
He is involved in a number of programs which promote community engagement through sport. John Doherty is co-founder of Kick Start, an initiative between the Collingwood football club, the court, and Victoria Police, which has enabled some 5000 disadvantaged children to attend a football game and exercise an interest in the sport.
He is also involved with RecWest and RecLink, organisations that provide sport and recreation opportunities for children and youth in Melbourne's west and beyond. John is a member of the AFL Advisory Board, and incoming Chair of the Western Region Football League Appeals Tribunal.
Reflecting the breadth of his commitment to the community, he is also a member of the Horn of Africa Advisory Committee, which supports the education, training and employment needs of newly-arrived refugees and migrants from the Horn of Africa who are settling in the city's west.
Dr Doherty's Honorary Degree recognises his efforts to engender a spirit of connectedness through sport, the arts and education; for demonstrating what can be achieved when people band together in struggling communities; and for providing means and incentive for disadvantaged youth to put order back into their lives.
Photos of Dr John Doherty are available on request
Andy Gash, A/Media Manager
Marketing and Communications Department, Victoria University
Ph: (03) 9919 4950; mobile: 0411 255 900