Speech at opening of Adelaide of University Health and Medical Sciences Building 

Simon Birmingham: Thank you so much, Chancellor Kevin Scarce, ladies and gentlemen. Can I too acknowledge the Kaurna people, and particularly of course Jack and Vincent for that wonderful welcome to country, and as Australia’s Education Minister, acknowledge that we continue to learn so much more of the traditional knowledge of our Indigenous people, so much more from it, and of course, together we continue to build upon that knowledge and the success of our nation. In addition to acknowledging you, Chancellor, and Liz Scarce, Vice-Chancellor, the Premier, and my federal ministerial counterpart in the Federal Cabinet, Christopher Pyne, of course, Steven Marshall, Minister Snelling, Parliamentary colleagues, ladies and gentlemen, it’s wonderful to see so many people here today celebrating this outstanding occasion. I particularly want to acknowledge Professor Burt, the leadership of the university overall, in what they have accomplished as we stand here today with this marvellous, marvellous new facility.

It seems like only yesterday that I had the honour of joining the Premier and the Vice-Chancellor for the sod turning in August of 2014, and from that moment, of course we’ve seen immense competition on site, as you’ve heard, as these buildings have gone up next to one another, but of course, a real transformation of this part of the West End of Adelaide. 

Hippocrates, widely of course understood to be the author of the Hippocratic Oath, is the Greek scholar we most think of when considering medicine. But today I want to reflect on the words of another Greek scholar, namely the statement by Socrates that wisdom begins in wonder. Today, in this building, particularly having completed the tour of this building, which many of you will get to do, we can only wonder. Wonder at seeing this world-class building rise from a piece of essentially railway yards, a little steep bit of land sold to the University by the Government of South Australia that nobody had previously thought of really putting anything on. We can wonder at and contemplate the type of care and healing that will stem from the world-class training that will occur and learning that will happen within this building. We can wonder at the medical breakthroughs that we will see, that we couldn’t possibly conceive of today that will happen as a result of contributions by researchers working collaboratively, across disciplines, across institutes here in this wonderful new facility, and we can wonder in a week when we’ve acknowledged record levels of international student engagement and commitment to Australian universities at just what a facility like this will do for our international student reputation, and of course for the reputation of the University of Adelaide and its global standing.

There is, as we’ve heard, a 130 year history of collaboration between the Royal Adelaide Hospital, the University, academic institutions, and this is a latest step. And it’s a wonderful step, and of course, it is to the credit of the University Council and administrators that this facility here is open today, on time, ahead of budget, a demonstration of great accomplishment and management on their part.

Professor Beilby, who is here today, in his past life was Executive Dean of the Faculty of Health Sciences, once said that the university was, to quote: designing an environment where health and medical research intersects with students and the community, where researchers, clinicians, and students bump into each other in shared spaces, cafés and facilities, and where the community is drawn in, not shut out by a closed door. Today we can truly see what that vision looks like. The Premier and I had the wonderful honour of seeing beforehand as we toured the facilities – the simulation suites, the lecture theatres, the learning environments, the collaborative spaces – that will make a profound difference to the way in which medical, dentistry, nursing students learn, understand each others’ work, and of course can provide far greater services into the future. 

As the Commonwealth Government, our commitment to institutions like the University of Adelaide is not just through one-off instances such as the celebration of buildings like this, but is year in, year out, day to day. This year we will provide funding and support for the university in excess of $430 million, to support teaching and learning, to support outstanding research. It’s a commitment that goes on in a bipartisan spirit from government to government, investing in the knowledge capability of Australians and of course, in our research capability that creates so many new opportunities for us in many different ways. By working together, a key feature of our Government’s National Innovation and Science Agenda, authored by Christopher when he was the Minister for Innovation, that type of collaboration that this building epitomises is at the heart of what we want to see more of in our universities, because that is what drives breakthroughs in knowledge, translation of that knowledge into new ways of treating patients, new medicines, new opportunities for businesses, and of course from that, better services, new jobs, greater prosperity for all of us. 

I have no doubt this facility, this institution will see a new generation of University of Adelaide alumni like the late Dr Basil Hetzel or Dr Kenneth Collins or Helen Mayo, whose innovations in child and maternal health were driven by a vision of doctors, nurses, and mothers working together to improve the health of mothers and babies. This has particular resonance here today, as we’ve heard, considering the collaboration and team-based work that is being supported through this facility, that focus on child and maternal health, and of course, as the Premier acknowledged, the slightly confrontational aspects of such a real life birthing suite in this facility. The university has such a proud record of Nobel Laureates, Rhodes Scholars, and it won’t be long before we see more emanating from the learnings that take place right here.

While the Prime Minister was unable to be here today, and asked me to send all of you his congratulations and apologies for not being here, I’m sure that everybody is incredibly proud to be part of this opening. I, as a Senator for South Australia, and also the Minister for Education and Training, am deeply honoured to participate in this occasion. Thank you very much, Chancellor and Vice-Chancellor, for the opportunity to do so. It is my pleasure to declare this building open.