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Former University Vice-Chancellor and Professor Emeritus David Penington has been named Victorian of the Year.

Professor Penington was recognised for his significant and valuable contributions to the Victorian community and his work in medical education, research policy and public health.

Acting Lord Mayor of Melbourne Susan Riley and Patron in Chief James Gobbo presented the award yesterday at a Victoria Day ceremony in Swanston Hall.

Professor Penington said the award was surprise and an honour.

Professor Penington began his medical training at the University and attended Oxford on a scholarship in 1950, graduating in 1955.

Following work as a medical specialist, researcher and teacher in London he returned to Australia and the University as Professor of Medicine and Head of the Department of Medicine at St Vincent’s Hospital in 1970.

Professor Penington served as Dean of the Faculty of Medicine from 1978 to 1985 and as was Vice-Chancellor of the University from 1988 to 1995.

He was made a Companion of the Order of Australia in 1988 in recognition of his service to medicine and the community.

During this his time as Dean the Faculty of Medicine improved access for disadvantaged and refugee students.

He was a member of the National Health and Medical Research Council from 1980 to 1985 and chaired the federal body which came to be known as the National AIDS Task Force from 1983 to 1987 and undertook critical work at the early stage of this epidemic.

This included early work on needle and syringe exchange programs, which helped Australia to avoid the rapid spread of HIV among injecting drug users that occurred overseas.

This led to the formation of Association of Needle Exchanges (Anex) which provided the needle exchanges with support, and increasingly became involved in drug research and policy. This expansion of its interests led to led to its redesignation as Penington Institute in April 2014 at a time when ‘Ice’ Methamphetamine is sweeping across regional Victoria.