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Screen's toughest tough guy mans up for honorary doctorate

ScreenHub

Bryan Neathaway Brown, producer and actor, stalwart of Aust, has been given an honorary doctorate. His speech is pretty wonderful.
Screen's toughest tough guy mans up for honorary doctorate

Actor, lover, father and Westie Bryan Brown received an honorary doctorate from the University of Western Sydney. He used the platform to talk about the students getting degrees, their families and their futures. He honoured the West and honoured himself by doing it. 

Here it is: 

Thank you Chancellor for your kind welcome on this very special day.  Academic staff, guests, graduates, family and friends.

My life has served me up some interesting moments: 

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I turned 40 on the top of a mountain in Africa in a country call Rwanda, surrounded by some 40 mountain gorillas.  

I threw bottles behind a bar in New York with Tom Cruise.

I visited the White House in Washington and met with the then Vice President George Bush Senior. 

I danced with Yothu Yindi in Parliament House at a party celebrating Paul Keating’s election. 

I have sung 'Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah' with Paul McCartney in the loo at the BBC studios.

I was swept down rapids in Canada and nearly drowned.

I’ve been shot and killed many times and I have shot and killed others many times.  I’d guess you’d call that a day in the life of an actor.  A very lucky actor. 

But this is the first time I have been in a room with a graduating class of University students having to give an address and this time speaking from my own script.

Thank you for the opportunity and congratulations on your achievements.  You should be very proud of yourselves.

I never went to University.  In fact growing up I never knew anyone who had been to University or had a degree.  There was a bloke who lived at the top of my street in Panania when I was at school and it was whispered he was a University student.  He wore a corduroy jacket, carried a briefcase and smoked a pipe.  I thought he was kind of cool.  But that’s as close as I ever came to University in my early years.  My sister went to University and has a degree, my wife has a Post Graduate degree and each of my three children have completed tertiary education and I’m proud of them, as your parents are today so proud of you.

Today however is not the end of a journey but the beginning of one.  With your Degree you have the right, and I hope the confidence, to determine the direction your life will now take.

You have proved you have intelligence, heart and guts.  You cannot complete a degree without knowing that of yourselves.  Many people give up on their struggle and no doubt during your years of study you too asked yourself the question ‘why am I doing this to myself’.  But you dug deep and here you are, a University Graduate.

It’s a fun world out there.  There are highs and there are lows, there are successes to be had and failures to handle, struggles to go through and achievements to be had.  But the key to a good life, I believe, is to embrace it all.  None of us should have expectations but all of us should have hopes and dreams. 

You didn’t get here today just by yourselves.  You had support.  I would think many of you don’t have parents with Degrees.   You may be the first in your family to have done so.  But your family travelled this journey with you and they gave a lot to get you here.  Remember that.  How you have been supported.   And look to support others as you work your way through your chosen professions.  It will serve you well.  Give credit where it’s due and praise where appropriate.

So where will you end up on this life journey? 

At school I loved Maths and hated English.  I didn’t get it.  It was alien to me.  The books I was forced to read, they were dry and uninteresting.  I couldn’t connect and Poetry was weird.

But for the past 45 years my life has been in literature, through novels, plays and screenplays.  I’m in the world of storytelling and I love it!  It makes sense now.  I connect now.

So don’t be scared to change direction.  Hone and trust your instincts.  Who knows?  You also may end up turning 40 on top of a mountain in Africa surrounded by gorillas.

It is more than an honour today to receive this Doctorate from the University of Western Sydney.  I feel it’s a coming home, an acknowledgement of the part the Western Suburbs of Sydney played in shaping me and making me the ‘game bastard’ I was in setting out to be an actor.

Where we come from plays an enormous part in who we are.  Sometimes for some of us, hard to see the positive, but it’s there.  Take ownership of your background, always give it worth and for those of you who are now Graduates of the University of Western Sydney, be proud to belong to the tribe known as ‘Westies’.

I envy what you’ve achieved, I envy your knowledge - good luck with it!

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Here he is, in Sweet Country. Older than the earth beneath, deeper than the waters under the world. You'd call that a performance. 

About the author

ScreenHub​ is the online home for emerging and experienced Australian screen professionals.

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