ANU awards Honorary Doctorate to Martine Letts

Martine Letts and ANU Vice-Chancellor Prof Brian Schmidt (Photo by Andrea Morris)

Martine Letts (BA Hons ’82) has been awarded an Honorary Doctor of Laws (HonLLD) by The Australian National University, in recognition of her exceptional contributions to public service and law nationally and internationally.

Martine’s storied career includes 17 years with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, during which she serves as Ambassador to Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay, as Deputy Head of Mission in Vienna, as Australian Deputy Permanent Representative to the International Atomic Energy Agency, and as an advisor to then Foreign Minister and former ANU Chancellor Gareth Evans in the early 90s.

Martine also served on the Advisory Board of the International Commission on Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament which published its report in late 2009.

For four years, she led the Australian Red Cross as Secretary-General, working on transformational strategies to help the organisation better deliver community and humanitarian services in Australia and beyond. 

Since graduating, Martine has maintained a close and productive relationship with ANU, believing strongly in the strength of the institution and choices it offers students.

“ANU did, and still does, offer an amazing series of choices: the classes you can take, the activities you can be involved in, the social and academic communities.  There are always fascinating events and programs happening.   I received an incredible and very well-rounded education in this lovely ANU environment in one of the most glorious campuses in the world.   I had a terrific sense of freedom during my time at the ANU, with so many study choices and people from all backgrounds to meet.  It is my great aspiration that others from around the country and especially from the rest of the world come to ANU and find this out for themselves.”

Martine served on the University Council for a decade and on the Advisory Board of the Australian National Centre for Latin American Studies within the Research School of Social Sciences.

Interviewed in July 2022 she warmly reflected on her time at ANU and the enduring value of her studies in the Arts and Social Sciences throughout her career.

“I majored in Political Science and German language and literature. The degree was highly useful for encouraging critical and original thinking as well as building research and analytical skills,” says Martine. “Political Science, and especially Ancient and Medieval Political Thought were avenues into understanding the foundations of our modern political structures – and tensions – as they are today.”

In March 2022 Martine concluded a six year tenure as Chief Executive Officer of the Committee for Melbourne to take up the leadership of Asialink, a centre based at the University of Melbourne that for more than 30 years has built much needed Australian capability and connections for Asia and the Pacific.  As Australia’s leading centre for facilitating relationships and understanding across arts, business, diplomacy and education in our region, Asialink has worked since 1990 towards building a stronger, shared future for all by working with diverse communities throughout Australia, Asia and the Pacific.

“Thanks to my education at ANU, I was flexible enough to adapt to roles within government as well as the not-for-profit sector, at DFAT, the Australian Red Cross, the Lowy Institute for International Policy, the Australia China Business Council,  the Committee for Melbourne, and now, Asialink,” she says.