Sculthorpe returned to Australia in 1960 and in 1963 accepted the first appointment in composition at the University of Sydney's Music Department, in which position he mentored the next generation of composers, including Anne Boyd, Ross Edwards, and Barry Conyngham.
Another defining moment came with the first performance of Irkanda IV, written in 1961 following the death of his father. The acclaim this work received established him internationally and in his words "gave him the courage to continue". In 1965, a most successful business relationship was established when the London music publisher, Faber, approached him about joining its list of composers.
Sculthorpe continues to be actively involved in the national and international music scene, attending festivals and performances and teaching at summer schools, as well as composing. His music is widely performed and recorded and he regularly receives commissions from overseas performing groups such as Kronos Quartet, Verdher Trio and Brodsky Quartet, as well as from Australia's major orchestras and chamber music groups.
Sculthorpe has been honoured with many awards and prizes, including an MBE (1970), OBE (1977), and Order of Australia (1990). He is also a Fellow of the Australian Academy of the Humanities and holds four honorary doctorates. His contribution to Australian society was acknowledged in 1998 when, by popular vote, he was elected one of Australia's 100 Living National Treasures. Then in 1999 he was made one of Australia's 45 Icons—"a visionary, an opinion maker, one who is making statements about something the nation needs to think about at this time." Of this award, Sculthorpe wrote to his publisher, "I was happy enough to become one of our 100 Living National Treasures, but this is much more impressive. It means that music has at last found a place in our consciousness." In April 2002, he joined the ranks of A.D. Hope, Sidney Nolan and Christina Stead as the only Australians to be made life members of the American Academy of Arts and Letters. At the same time as his music is local and specific, this international recognition illustrates its universal and global qualities.more