‘I can’t stop smiling’: ‘Working class man’ Jimmy Barnes overcome with pride to be awarded doctorate

Sep 30, 2022
Jimmy Barnes awarded Honorary Doctorate. Source: University of South Australia/Youtube

Australian rock-star Jimmy Barnes has been overcome with pride and joy after being awarded an Honorary Doctorate for “distinguished service to the community”.

The 66-year-old musical powerhouse never graduated from school, instead opting to leave to follow his dreams and become the lead singer for his band Cold Chisel.

The University of South Australia (UniSA) presented the Working Class Man singer with his Doctorate on Wednesday, September 28.


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A post shared by Jimmy Barnes (@jimmybarnesofficial)

“I am both humbled and proud to be receiving an Honorary Doctorate awarded to me by the @universitysa,” Barnes wrote on Instagram.

“What an honour. The magnitude of this occasion has only just sunk in. You can see I can’t stop smiling.”

UniSA Vice Chancellor Professor David Lloyd said Barnes deserves the Doctorate for being the symbol of determination.

“From working class boy to working class man to working class hero, Jimmy has had to overcome adversity and countless setbacks, bouncing back stronger each time,” Lloyd said.

“If you want a gold standard for the ‘unstoppable career’, then Jimmy Barnes is it.”

The Scottish-born Aussie became emotional during the inspirational speech he gave to the university’s September graduates, dedicating his honour to the working class who didn’t get the chance to have an education.

“So congratulations to each and every one of you guys. The honours you received today recognise what you’re capable of achieving when you refuse to let anyone’s limitations of you stop you,” the music legend said.

“May you continue to strive for that kind of honour in everything you do in the years ahead.

“And finally, thanks to the University of South Australia for granting me this honour. I’m very emotional about it.

“I accept it on behalf of all the auto workers in Elizabeth, the petrol pumpers and the guys that pour molten metal who weren’t lucky enough to escape.

“May their children and their great-grandchildren have the opportunity to enter great institutions like this one, through the front gate and not have to jump the fence. Thank you very much.”

Alongside Barnes, Star-Trek star and activist George Takei was also on the receiving end of the university’s Honorary Doctorate.

Lloyd said he hopes the awards inspire “unstoppable attitudes” in all the university’s graduates.

“In very different ways, each of our newest honorary doctors has dedicated their own personal journey to benefiting the lives of the people around them, whether that is through art, activism or generosity,” Prof Lloyd says.

“We hope that their positive spirit and unwavering determination help our graduates appreciate that there are many different paths to making a positive impact on the world, each of which is powerful and valuable in its own unique way.”

Other Honorary Doctorate recipients included artist Geoff Wilson, and businessman and philanthropist Andrew Pridham.

Watch Barnes’ full acceptance speech here.

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