Michael Abbott graduated the Bachelor of Laws degree from the University of Adelaide in 1965 and in 1966 was admitted to practice as a Barrister and Solicitor of the Supreme Court of South Australia.
He has appeared in the Supreme Courts of all States and Territories of Australia and was appointed as Queens Counsel in South Australia in 1984. He has held position of Chairman (past and present) of the Legal Services Commission, Bar Association, ASER Restructuring Committee and Criminal Law Committee of South Australia and acted as Human Rights Observer to the Law Council of Australia.
Michael was awarded the Centenary Medal in 2000 and in 2002 he received the Indo – Australian Award for Meritorious Service to the Bilateral Relationship.
Michael was subsequently awarded an AO (Officer of the Order Of Australia) for his services to the law, the arts and international relations, particularly international cultural relations. He currently acts as an advisor to a number of national and international Corporations and in his current position of Chairman of the Legal Services Commission he is in the process of creating significant changes to enable the organisation to better serve the public and legal profession.
Michaels other passion is for South East Asian and Indian art which he has been collecting since 1966. He has become a major donor to Art Galleries and Museums throughout Australia over the last 20 years with his donated works worth approximately $5 million dollars. He is a Life Benefactor of the National Gallery of Australia and the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory published a book called “Cerita Dalam Kain” (Speaking with Cloth) that catalogues selected pieces of his gifts to the Gallery. That collection also toured to New South Wales and Victoria.
In recognition of his gifts to the Art Gallery of SA and his nationally acknowledged expertise in Asian Arts, he was appointed Board Member of the Art Gallery of South Australia Foundation. He has held various other positions (past and present) such as Board Member of National Gallery of Victoria Foundation, Museum and Art gallery of the Northern Territory Foundation, American Friends of the Australian National Gallery, Australian Business Art Foundation, Australian Foundation for Culture and Humanities and the Helpmann Academy Foundation. He has been Chairman and Deputy Chairman of the Helpmann Academy and the National Gallery of Australia Foundation and a member of the International Advisory Panel, The Asia Society. Michael has also lectured in Indian South East Asian art in New York.
Michael’s passion for the arts and culture was formally recognised in 2011 - the Art Gallery South Australia's Southeast Asian collection gallery is now known as the Michael Abbott Gallery, reflecting his passion for the genre and his donation of nearly 1000 objects valued at more than $3 million since 1976. He is also the gallery's chairman and was, until 2000, a director of the National Textile Museum.
A selection of exhibitions that which have featured some of his gifts have been:
The Quest for Dhama, Art gallery of South Australia
Vision of Kings, National Gallery of Australia
Woven Magic, Art Gallery of South Australia
Speaking with Cloth, Northern Territory, New South Wales and Victoria
Cultures at Cross Roads, New York
Dancing to the Flute, Art Gallery of New South Wales
Threading the Commonwealth, RMIT Gallery Victoria
Thai Ceramics, Art Gallery of South Australia
Crescent moon – The Islamic Art of South East Asia, Art Gallery of South Australia
Sari to Sarong, National Gallery of Australia
Oriental Trade Ceramics, National Gallery of Victoria
In addition, Michael has donated to the South Australian Museum, the Art Gallery of New South Wales and has made significant donations to the Art gallery of Western Australia. He is currently making further donations to the National Gallery of Victoria, the Art Gallery of South Australia and the South Australian Museum.
Michael is an enthusiastic promoter of increased cultural contacts between Australia, particularly South Australia and India, Asia and South East Asia. Michael believes that increased cultural contact will not only lead to increased trade but will benefit South Australian Society in every way.