Speech at construction commencement for Australian Institute of Tropical Health and Medicine facility at James Cook University
6 September 2016

Thank you very much Leanne Harvey the acting chief executive officer of the Australian Research Council for your welcome and ladies and gentlemen, thank you all for coming along today for this very important event, noting the commencement of building of the works here at the Cairns campus of the James Cook University for the new Australian Institute of Tropical Health and Medicine Facility. Can I also acknowledge Professor Sandra Harding, the Vice Chancellor of James Cook University, my good friend and Federal Parliamentary colleague, the Local Federal MP Warren Entsch, State MP Rob Pyne, ladies and gentlemen all, thank you so much for joining us.

In particular, can I thank Aunty Jeanette for your welcome to country and acknowledge all of the Yirrganydji peoples, ancestors, as I often do acknowledge that we as a nation continue to learn much from and about Indigenous knowledge and traditional Indigenous culture and knowledge and continue to build upon that and perhaps that is no more important than, in launching this facility here, we recognise [inaudible] areas of traditional health and traditional medicines especially in the tropical areas, that we continue to learn much about, from and build upon some of those traditional knowledge and customs that can advance our awareness in traditional and in application in the modern era of advanced tropical health and medicine.

This is an exciting opportunity because it is about really bringing together the opportunities for Australia, of phenomenal growth happening in the tropical regions of the world. With our capacity as a nation for advanced research, development of that research and ultimately the application of that research into innovation and outcomes that can help benefit people around the globe. Australia is a leading country when it comes to research outcome and research applications. We can be proud of the fact that our researchers have some of the best results in the world for the publication of their findings and we are striving, as part of our National Innovation and Science Agenda, to ensure that more of those publications and findings are translated into benefits through innovation that can be delivered as benefits to social, health, economic, business, nature, through to Australians and right around the world.

We can equally, of course, recognise that sitting as we are, uniquely positioned in the world as an island continent, nudging into the tropics as we do through Northern Queensland and the other Northern parts of Australia, we are in a fortunate position, as an advanced nation, with that strong research culture, with outstanding universities like James Cook University, to be able to use that knowledge and those competencies to help and to seize the opportunities that come from the growth in tropical regions.

We know that by 2050, around half of the world’s population is expected to reside in the tropical zone, including around 60 per cent of the world’s children. Tropical zone has its own unique health and medical challenges. Of course, known widely, are challenges presented by diseases such as malaria. In 2015, there were still roughly 214 million cases of malaria worldwide but particularly around 438,000 deaths from malaria. Research in this and other significant disease and health issues are matters that we know we can contribute more to the prevention of, cure of where possible, and to ensure that in doing so, we give better lifestyle as well as better economic opportunities to people not just across Northern Australia but right throughout the world’s tropics.

This is a project that I am proud to be launching today but particularly proud of the fact that it has been championed for so long by local representatives of Far North Queensland. People like Warren Entsch and Senator Ian Macdonald, who’s unable to be with us today, worked very hard to bring about Federal Government commitment, funding for this project, dating back to 2013. $42 million coming from the Australian Research Council’s special Research Initiative Scheme committed by the Coalition Government which has seen the facility established in Townsville which will be opened later this year, Research(*) [indistinct] on Thursday Island and now what will be a world class facility here in Cairns.

Around $18 million of federal funding will support the construction of this facility, complemented by around $6.5 million of state government funding committed by the Newman Government pleasingly being delivered to help ensure that Cairns has a significant, central role in this new institute and its undertakings. I want to pay tribute to the Advisory Board led by Dr Michael Wooldridge and the team who are helping to give oversight to the work of the institute and helping to bring to reality the vision of seizing Australia’s place in the world as one that can provide leadership in these important fields of tropical medicine.

This is short term investment in terms of the construction of a building but a long term investment in terms of the opportunities it will provide to James Cook University, to Northern Queensland, to Northern Australia and to people right throughout the Tropics in terms of the benefits it will provide. My warm congratulations to all who have been involved, to those who have made it happen to date and I look forward, as I’m sure everyone here does, to seeing many of the benefits that will stem from this institute flow through, not just in the years ahead, but in the decades ahead. Congratulations.