Human rights and international law expert Professor Hilary Charlesworth, says that Australia's appointment to the UN Human Rights Council gives the country an opportunity to examine its own human rights record.
It is aimed at making a significant contribution to teaching, research and engagement in the field.
The Fellowship sits within the Faculty of Arts and the Dean, Professor Mark Considine, said Dr Vaughan’s leadership would contribute to the new Australian Institute of Art History’s role in research and advancement activities.
"The creation of this new post and the appointment of Professor Vaughan are exciting developments for the faculty and the University. His experience as a researcher, teacher and arts leader will be of enormous value to the study of art and cultural history at Melbourne," Professor Considine said.
Dr Vaughan, a Melbourne alumnus, will leave the NGV in July after 13 years at the helm.
After completing his Master’s thesis on French post-impressionism, Dr Vaughan taught art history at Melbourne before undertaking doctoral research at Oxford University. He held several positions there before becoming Director of the British Museum Development Trust.
As the NGV Director, he has been responsible for a redevelopment program involving the Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia at Federation Square and NGV International in St Kilda Road, an ambitious exhibitions program, and has a highly successful fundraising track record.
Dr Vaughan said he was delighted to take up the post.
"I look forward to returning to teaching and research, and this will provide me with a great opportunity to pursue projects in areas of art history to which I am committed. In particular, I will be undertaking a major project to research and document the history of private art collecting, taste and patronage in Australia, and its dovetail with institutional collecting,” he said.
Professor Jaynie Anderson, Herald Professor of Fine Arts and head of the new Institute, welcomed Dr Vaughan’s appointment: “Gerard will be returning to the University and Department where he undertook his first studies in art history, and will make a strong contribution to both research and teaching.
"I am delighted that he will be initiating major new research on private taste and collecting, which will support our existing project on the history of the art market in Australia,” she said.
The Gerry Higgins Professorial Fellowship in Art History has been created through the support of Mr Allan Myers AO QC, a generous donor to and alumnus of the University of Melbourne.
Melbourne Vice-Chancellor Professor Glyn Davis said the new post would be a major boost to the University, enabling a deepening of its curriculum and enhancing the students’ learning through their exposure to a teacher of Dr Vaughan’s background and calibre.
“Gifts of this type are transformational – they enable us to offer a broader and deeper student experience,” he said.
The Fellowship is the fourth academic position at the University named to honour Gerry Higgins, who emigrated from Kiltimagh, County Mayo, Ireland in 1949 and established Higgins Coatings, a successful commercial painting business, in Melbourne.
University scholarships and academic posts in philosophy, medieval art history and Irish studies also honour Mr Higgins. These have been made possible thanks to the generous philanthropic support of Mr Allan Myers AO QC, Mrs Maria J Myers AO and Mr John C Higgins, son of Mr Gerry Higgins.