West Australian born playwright and actor Kate Mulvany has been awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Letters by her alma mater, Curtin University, in recognition of her contribution to performing arts in Australia.
Born and raised in Geraldton, Ms Mulvany graduated from Curtin in 1997 with a Bachelor of Arts with a double major in theatre and scriptwriting, and has gone on to win critical acclaim and a number of awards including the 2017 Helpmann Award for Best Female Actor in a Play, and the 2004 Philip Parsons Young Playwrights award.
The daughter of a Vietnam veteran, Ms Mulvany was diagnosed with a Wilm’s tumour of the kidney at the age of three, caused by her father’s exposure to Agent Orange in the Vietnam War. Her childhood and early schooling were interrupted for several years while she received cancer treatment, and the side effects of radiotherapy have left her with life-long pain.
Curtin University Vice-Chancellor Professor Deborah Terry said Ms Mulvany is a prolific, award-winning playwright and actor whose concerns have extended to social activism and defending the role of arts in society.
“Kate is an inspiration to many of Curtin’s performing arts students and graduates, and we are delighted to recognise her passion and her accomplishments by awarding her with an Honorary Doctorate,” Professor Terry said.
“The personal challenges Kate has faced with acceptance and courage are an inseparable, inspirational part of her professional success.”
Ms Mulvany said she was thrilled to be returning to Curtin to receive an Honorary Doctorate.
“I’ve been a professional actor and writer since I graduated from Curtin University 20 years ago. In those two decades of life and work, there is still not a single day that passes that I don’t take something from my Curtin education. Whether it be Elizabeth Jolley’s astounding insights into literature, or the gentle, generous advice of Barbara Dennis, the camaraderie of my fellow students, or the buzz of the Curtin campus – all of it continues to inspire me onwards,” Ms Mulvany said.
“My four years at Curtin truly set me up for a rich and vibrant career and gave me wonderful, lifelong friends. I am so thrilled to be able to return to the campus that provided me with so much, and meet the thinkers, artists, educators and creatives of tomorrow.”
Drawing on her own family’s experiences, two of Ms Mulvany’s plays, The Seed and The Danger Age, have explored the effects of war on returned soldiers, their families and future generations. The Seed won Best Independent Production at the Sydney Theatre Awards.
Her concerns about the effects of war have extended into her activism in raising awareness of war-related post-traumatic stress and the legacy of Agent Orange from Vietnam.
She is an ambassador for MiVAC (Mine Evacuation and Clearance) and an advocate of Agent Orange Justice, organisations that provide assistance and education on the issues of dioxin and landmines in South East Asia. She is also known for championing the importance of telling Indigenous stories.
She has written over 20 plays, and among her many screen acting roles are appearances on TV in Secret City and the upcoming Fighting Season, and feature films including Baz Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby and Tim Winton’s The Turning. Her adaptation of Euripides’ Medea won five Sydney Theatre Awards and had a sell-out season in London in 2015. That same year she also won the Sydney Theatre Company’s Patrick White Playwright’s Fellowship.
Ms Mulvany is honoured during Curtin’s ‘50 Years of Innovation’, recognising the combined history of the Western Australian Institute of Technology (WAIT), which opened its doors to students in 1967 and Curtin University, which opened in 1987.
Ms Mulvany received her Honorary Doctorate at a ceremony with Faculty of Humanities graduates at Curtin’s Bentley Campus on Sunday 3 September 2017.