I would like to begin by acknowledging the traditional owners of the land on which we are gathered today and pay my respects to their Elders past and present.
First, thank you Matt [Thistlethwaite] for your wonderful remarks. As you were speaking, I thought maybe you might want to set your electorate office up at the university.
I know there are lots of members of Parliament who are deeply close to their local university, but you demonstrated that with your remarks and the breadth of work you that you do with the team at UNSW.
It makes us better as Members of Parliament to do that work with our local universities. It also helps our universities to become closer to their community.
It’s not just about your collaboration with the university but you demonstrated also that this is a university that’s close to the local community. That makes our universities better.
Thank you Professor Atilla Brungs [UNSW Vice Chancellor and President]. Your passion and purpose are palpable. You can sense it when you were here at the microphone. I suspect that those who have the privilege to work with you have it rub off on them.
It’s a privilege and a pleasure to work with you as Minister and Vice Chancellor. But also in helping to think about a better future. How we rebuild and reimagine higher education in Australia. I really enjoy the interactions we have.
By the way, if you’re ever thinking of setting up a campus next to Barney’s in Bankstown, let me know. Or Cabramatta, even better.
When I saw that that UNSW was setting up a showcase here it reminded me of the other showcases that happen here in this building.
When the wine industry comes to town, there’s lots of wine. When the beef industry comes around, there’s a BBQ. What does a university do when it has a showcase? It showcases brains. And there’s big brains here.
Professor Michelle Simmons, people have lauded your achievements and your accomplishments to our nation and the world. I add to those remarks and congratulate you on the Prime Minister’s Prize for Science this week.
Professor Martin Green has also been mentioned and the work he’s done with solar cell technology and Rinata as well. I underline the enormity of that work and the impact it is having on the world.
Professor Veena Sahajwalla, your work in green manufacturing turning toxic waste into something good. That’s what we try to do in this building.
Professor Toby Walsh, the ‘Rockstar of AI’, Professor Peter Poulet and Associate Professor Phillip Oldfield in the area of building the cities of the future and housing affordability.
This is a great university. Great universities are universities that change the world. And this university is helping to do that.
It’s not just in quantum, or in solar, or in AI, you can see it in the development of hydrogen batteries, in the work that’s been done to develop lifesaving HIV drugs.
This university is quite literally remaking the country and the world that we live in today. And reimagining the future. And for that, I thank you.
As I said at the Times Higher Education event the other day, a great university is not just about rankings, it’s about students. It’s about people like Emily, who we will hear from in a moment. I’m glad you’re speaking after me, because I think we’re in for something special.
And a great university is not a place of privilege. It’s a place of opportunity. And this university gave me an opportunity.
I’ve often said I was the first person in my family to go to university. I’m the first person in my family to finish year 10.
And this university helped to change my life.
But I was very conscious when I was at uni, that I felt a little bit like the odd one out.
I was a kid from the Western suburbs, going to a uni in the Eastern suburbs.
And there weren’t a lot of other kids from the Western suburbs there.
Not a lot of young people that I went to school with ever made it to university.
I know for them, university felt a long way away. A place that was somewhere else, for someone else.
There was an invisible brick wall that stopped them from getting the opportunity that I had.
And it was a bit of a hike. Bus trip from Cabramatta to the City, and then a bus trip from Eddy Avenue out to the university and back again.
I want to try and break down that brick wall. And I know you do too Atilla. You don’t just say it, you’re doing it.
Those targets to see 25 per cent of young people from disadvantaged backgrounds, low-SES backgrounds, by 2027 is evidence of that.
And so is the work you talked about getting more young Indigenous people into university. And not just into university, through university. Succeeding.
That’s the true measure of success – their success.
What you’re trying to do at this university is in sync with what I want to do, what the Accord Team wants to do.
And that is, making sure that more young people get a crack at going to university. And succeeding.
Helping to make sure we create more Michelle Simmons.
And helping to create a country where your chances in life don’t depend on who your mum and dad are, or where you live, or the colour of your skin.