I start by acknowledging the traditional custodians of the land on which we stand – the Darug and Eora People –and pay my respects to elders past, present and emerging.
And commit the government, that I am so proud to be a part of, to the implementation of the Uluru Statement from the Heart - in full.
Can I particularly recognise:
- Professor Peter Shergold AC, Chancellor of Western Sydney University,
- Jennifer Westacott AO, who will take over as Chancellor in 2023,
- Professor Barney Glover AO, Vice-Chancellor and President of Western Sydney University, and a member of the Universities Accord Panel
- Lang Walker AO, Walker Corporation Founder and Executive Chairman, and
- Councillor Khal Asfour, Mayor of Canterbury-Bankstown City Council.
This used to be a council car park.
For as long as I can remember it was a car park.
About 40 or 50 spots.
Now it will be home for 10,000 students.
From a car park to a campus
This is the sort of change I have been desperate to see in western Sydney.
As a kid I remember seeing lots of Westfield logos and McDonald’s golden arches, but not many university crests.
They were somewhere else. Something in the city. Something seemingly a long way away.
No-one in my family had ever been to university.
No-one could tell me what it was like. Or why I should go.
Everything I knew I think I learnt from the Hollywood movies we hired from the local video store.
And it turns out Revenge of the Nerds and Animal House weren’t documentaries. I don’t think.
I made it to university, but I often think of many of my friends who didn’t. For whom it just seemed too far away.
That’s a lost opportunity. Not just for them. For our whole country.
That’s why this is important. It brings the buildings to where the brains are.
Just like you’re doing in Parramatta and Liverpool and hopefully in the future Blacktown, you are creating a beacon for hundreds of thousands of young people who live here.
That we belong in university.
That you want us.
And that you are just around the corner.
That beacon is now the tallest building in Bankstown.
86 metres tall. 19 storeys.
With, Barney tells me, a logo that is 15 per cent bigger than any other logo on any other Western Sydney University building.
And that’s important too.
The more young people who see it, the more who will want to come here.
I think I have made it pretty clear in my first few months what I want to see.
Universities teeming with more people from poorer backgrounds.
Doing that would make our whole country not just fairer, but richer too.
And this campus is a desperately needed down payment on that.
It will do more than just transform our town.
It will encourage kids like the child I was to look to the skies.
And that can lead to anything.