Thank you. Thank you very much Marnie for that welcome. I hope not to be a frustrated supporter of the Adelaide Crows this year, but a well motivated one who enjoys many wins. If Ben is here playing the role of Barack Obama and Chris is here as Hillary Clinton, I come to the stage certainly hoping that doesn’t leave me having to play the role of Donald Trump.

I too want to connect by acknowledging the Ngunnawal people and all of Australia’s traditional owners, our Indigenous people, whose knowledge and education and awareness we’ll continue to learn, learn about, learn from and proudly build upon as our modern nation. I acknowledge the Vice-Chancellor, the new Vice-Chancellor, welcome Nobel Laureate Professor Brian Schmidt to that role, congratulations Brian on taking that on. In particular, I welcome you: the students, the new students, the continuing students, who are here today. Education at its core is about transformation, the transformation of the lives of individuals, each of you; the enhanced knowledge that you gain from education, the changing awareness and outlook that you derive. The opportunities that it will create for you, your families and loved ones, in the future. But it doesn’t just transform your lives. It transforms our society, our nation, our world, because that knowledge, that awareness that each of you derive from your education becomes knowledge and awareness and capability that you are able to bring through our continued development as a society, as a country, as a world. That ability to overcome any challenges; that ability to create new opportunities and better lives for other people. It is that transformation that is so very very critical that we derive from education, and it’s our opportunity to transform not just your lives and those of those around you, but of our world and our country that you should seek to strive for and take from the wonderful education opportunities that are before you all as students of the Australian National University.

One of the funny things about being the federal Minister for Education is that I have an awful lot of responsibility for quality settings and budgetary decisions, but I don’t run a single childcare centre or preschool in Australia; I don’t employ a single teacher in a school or operating a school in Australia; I don’t run any TAFE or own any TAFE institutions in Australia. But I am responsible for one university in Australia, and that is the Australian National University. It is our one university that is established by act of the Commonwealth Government. It is the nation’s university, proudly located here in the nation’s capital, but not Canberra’s university, not established by any particular state or territory. It is the nation’s university, proudly established by the Commonwealth Parliament, with a very rich history, as demonstrated by those on stage behind me whom I’m delighted to share this opportunity with today.

Two Australians of the Year in Professor Mick Dodson and our current Australian of the Year Defence General David Morrison; outstanding individuals who have given so much to their nation who are alumni of this institution. It is has produced more Nobel Laureates than any other Australian university, besides the great accomplishments of this institution, and therefore the great opportunities for each of you who are standing here. Established 70 years ago, the ANU sought to build deeper understanding in particular of our region. It is world-renowned for its scholarships and linkages with the Asia-Pacific. Late last year I was delighted to be here in one of my earliest responsibilities and roles as the Minister for Education to open the new building, the Australian Centre on China in the World, a demonstration that the ANU’s commitment to enhancing and building our links with the region remains as strong as ever.

This is a research-rich institution. A new- many of you of course are commencing as undergraduate students. But we benefit from that research-rich environment, which ensures we have some of the brightest minds, and some of the most inquisitive minds available to help you in your studies. It is because of that excellence and the accomplishments of the students, and the accomplishments of the researchers, that the ANU is recognised as one of the top-ranked universities in the world, and the top-ranked world university here in Australia. 

It is also recognised as one of the most international universities in the world, and we’ve seen today a show of hands for all those born in Northern Territory, or Tasmania, or South Australia, but how about those born overseas? How many were born overseas? That outnumbers all of the other categories that I’ve seen so far, and in demonstration once again of the richness and the diversity of the student experience that each of you will have. Because by studying with others from overseas, through [indistinct] and nationalisation of our universities, not just here at ANU but our universities right around Australia, we are providing a much richer experience for Australian students who don’t just get that knowledge from their lecturers and their studies, but also get a far richer cultural understanding as a result of those experiences.

Commencements denote change. This is a new academic year; new students undertaking new pathways, a new Vice-Chancellor, and new opportunities. And it’s new opportunities that the Turnbull Government is focused very much upon. We want to make sure that Australia transitions to be a more creative, innovative, and adaptable country and economy. It will be you, the students, who will ultimately be the innovators, the entrepreneurs, the collaborators who drive those opportunities in the future. Many of you are already well accustomed to the disruptive forces that have influenced your lives, that influence our economy, and change the way you study. Beer might be a little bit more expensive than it used to be, as you heard from Mick Dodson, but also the opportunities and the way in which you will engage with your lecturers, through your tutorials, are vastly different than they were when I was at university, or when Mick was an undergraduate, because of course you will use many different forms of media and technology to undertake those studies. Those innovative ways of learning that allow you to accommodate and balance work and study and other obligations, to access information from the other side of the world, and the best lecturers and knowledge from other institutions. 

I want to see a higher education sector in Australia that makes the most of that disruption and transformation that is occurring in the way in which people learn, the way in which they access their universities, that ensures we continue as a nation to be a destination of choice for international students, and the destination of choice for our domestic students, who will continue to now have greater and more opportunities afforded to them. We as a government want to see the nation build its innovative capabilities, which is why through our National Science and Innovation Agenda we’re seeking to foster stronger collaboration between universities, industry, business, non-government organisations, areas where we can ensure that the knowledge generated in places like this university is transformed into outcomes that enhance the lives of people, and create new job opportunities in the future. The innovation agenda we released last year provides the greatest degree of certainty in funding to our research infrastructure that the nation has seen in a long, long time. It enhances investment, particularly in areas of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, the STEM subjects, right down into the earliest years of learning at our preschools, to try to lift that motivational students to drive their involvement in those areas that are so very important to our advancement as a country.

Education opens both doors and minds. And I know and am confident you will have an experience here that is a rich one, but I want to ensure that for all Australians who have that desire, who have that ability, the opportunity is there for them to pursue their higher education ambitions in the future. I wish each of you success in your studies, a wonderful year here in the ANU, whether it is your first, your last, or just part of the journey that you are on. Good luck, every success, and may your contribution not just to ANU but to Australia be one that builds upon a wonderful legacy of success at this institution. Thank you very much.