Archbishop Denis Hart was born at East Melbourne on 16 May 1941, the eldest of three children of Kevin James Hart and Annie Eileen Larkan. His primary education was at St John's Marist Brothers, Hawthorn 1946-53 and Xavier College, Kew 1954-59. He studied for the priesthood at Corpus Christi College, Werribee 1960-63 and Corpus Christi College, Glen Waverley 1963-67. He was ordained to the priesthood at St Patrick's Cathedral, Melbourne on 22 July 1967 by Most Reverend A F Fox DD, the then Auxiliary Bishop.
He was appointed Chaplain at the Repatriation Hospital, Heidelberg from 20 December 1967 to 20 January 1968; then Assistant Priest, North Balwyn (1968), Assistant Priest and Master of Ceremonies at St Patrick's Cathedral (1969-74), on 25 March 1970 he was appointed Prefect of Ceremonies for the Archdiocese of Melbourne (this appointment continued until 17 August 1996). On 25 January 1975 he was appointed Advocate and Notary of the Regional Matrimonial Tribunal, residing in North Richmond Parish (this appointment continued until 1 October 1985). He was Executive Secretary of the National Liturgical Commission of the Australian Catholic Bishops' Conference from 1 July 1975 until 1 July 1990. He was responsible for the preparation of official editions of books for worship - the three volume Lectionary for Mass, the rites of Anointing, Marriage, Funerals, Initiation of Adults, and, in co-operation with publishers, of people's books for worship. He was Liturgy Director and Assistant Master of Ceremonies for the whole of the Australian Papal Visit in November 1986.
On 28 January 1987 he was appointed Parish Priest of St Joseph's, West Brunswick. On 1 September 1996 he became Vicar General and Moderator of the Curia and subsequently Diocesan Consultor; Chairman of the Diocesan Liturgical Commission; Deputy Chairman of the Diocesan Extension and Maintenance Fund; Deputy Chairman of the Diocesan Finance Council; Secretary of the Roman Catholic Trust Corporation for the Diocese of Melbourne; Ex-officio member of the Archbishop's Personnel Advisory Board; of the Archbishop's Committee for New Areas in the Archdiocese; a nominee of the Archbishop of Melbourne on the Committee of Catholic Capital Grants.
On 10 November 1997 he was named Titular Bishop of Vagada and Auxiliary Bishop to the Archdiocese of Melbourne and was consecrated on 9 December 1997. As a Bishop he has retained all of the above offices and in addition to Diocesan ministries has worked in the Southern Region of the Archdiocese. He was Secretary of the Bishops of the Province of Melbourne and a member of the Australian Catholic University.
On 22 June 2001 he was appointed Archbishop of Melbourne. On 29 June 2001 he received the Pallium in St Peter's Square, Rome with the other newly appointed Archbishops at the hands of Pope John Paul II. On 1 August 2001 Archbishop Hart took possession of the See of Melbourne.
In the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference he has been a member of the Permanent Committee since 2002, and was chairman of the Bishops' Commission for Administration and Information (2002-2012),and a member of the Bishops' Commission for Liturgy(1998-2012), and Vice President of the Conference (2010-2012). He has been Chair of the Ad Hoc Committee for the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of the Southern Cross since 2010.
In May 2012 he was elected President of the Australian Bishops' Conference for two years. In 2014 he was reappointed as the President for a further two years.
He took part in the Oceania Synod and Ad Limina visit in 1998, and in Ad Limina Visits in 2004 and 2011.
On 19 February 2014 he was appointed a member of the Congregation for the Eastern Churches.
The Pallium is a circular band, about 2 inches wide made of white wool and worn over the chasuble (the Archbishop's outer vestment) about the neck, breast and shoulders. It has two pendants - one hanging down in front, the other at the back. It is set with six black crosses of silk - one each on the breast and back, one each on each shoulder and one on each of the pendants.
The Pallium is made from the wool of two lambs, suggesting Christ, the Lamb of God and the Good Shepherd, blessed each year in Rome on January 21st, the Feast of St Agnes. They are subsequently blessed by the Pope and presented to the new Archbishops on 29 June.
The Pallium is a symbol that an Archbishop is the Metropolitan of a Province (a number of Dioceses) and it is a symbol of unity with the Apostolic See, a bond of love for the Church and for the Pope and an incentive to courage in preaching and teaching. The Pallium is buried in the casket with an Archbishop who has received it.