Simon Birmingham: Thank you- thank you very much Professor Jane den Hollander, vice-Chancellor of Deakin University and to David Morgan, the Chancellor for leadership at Deakin University. Ladies and gentlemen it’s wonderful to be with you all, can I acknowledge also [indistinct] to thank you for your welcome to country on behalf of the Wathaurung nation of peoples. It is, I think, unfortunate that Australia took perhaps a little too long to acknowledge and recognise the knowledge and capacity and lessons that the traditional owners of our land had that could be shared with us. But nowadays I think we do acknowledge that and educational institutions like this one and right around the country, we seek to learn from that knowledge and to build upon it in our management of flags and our use of country and our protection of this wonderful country that we share today. So thank you for your welcome. To my parliamentary colleagues, to Sarah Henderson, the Member for Corangamite, my good friend whose electorate this campus sits within and to Richard Marles, the Member for Corio who hosts [indistinct] on the main campus of Deakin University, thank you both for being here to share this very special occasion.

The advancement of knowledge enables many things and we heard from [indistinct] from the Vice-Chancellor before about the tragedies that occurred over the weekend. It’s important to acknowledge that the advancement of knowledge and sharing of knowledge and learning that occurs does enable a greater understanding of one another around the world as well. And in the days following the terrible occurrences in Paris, it’s right that we and institutions like this re-commit ourselves to supporting that advancement of knowledge, to sharing it both within our nations and throughout the world because doing so can only help in the years that come to help foster a greater appreciation of one another and hopefully to prevent the type of isolation and extremism that leads to activities that we saw in Paris. And I, too, add my sincere condolences to the people of France and especially to all those directly affected as we as a government and I think all Australians commit ourselves to support the French people but to support and re-commit ourselves to the advancement of freedom and knowledge and of course there’s perhaps no greater setting than Paris, to think back to as a city and a nation that has built and done so much to advance freedom and knowledge over the years.

But this is a great occasion today and a great opportunity in which we can celebrate our continued investment in knowledge. As I walked around this magnificent building before, I have to say I’ve never felt less like I was on a university campus than I did as I walked around this building and that is an absolute credit to Jane and to all of your team, who have worked to develop this amazing, incredible facility where you could feel that you are in an industrial facility. You could feel you are in a design facility. You could feel that you are at the centre of a modern and innovative industry and of course we are, we are in all of those different things but we are in them within this building within Deakin University and that is a credit to those who have thought about the needs of our economy, the changes that are occurring not just within Australia but around the world in terms of the nature of employment and in terms of how we best equip today’s students for tomorrow’s jobs and the type of adaptation that they need to pursue.

And so it’s a real pleasure to see a university that is not just investing in the future, but has shown such capacity to do so in such a thoughtful and innovative way as has occurred. For those who have not had the chance to move through and to see the  3D imaging facilities, the capacity that the university has developed in terms of electricity generation, the rather astounding and remarkable show that is the high voltage room where if you’re keen for an early morning dance club experience, I suggest the high voltage room is a great place to be.

It’s also incredibly important that this is a facility in which it is not just about providing opportunities to students of today, to those university enrolees, but also of course to many, many others. And I was delighted, on moving around, to see students from Grovedale Secondary School here enjoying a week of opportunity to expand their knowledge and horizons in relation to science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, to the STEM subjects. And as a government we’re very committed through our STEM strategy to try to encourage more school students to continue their studies in the STEM fields throughout their schooling and into post-school opportunities, into their tertiary education pathways. And this university is clearly not just walking the walk- sorry, talking the talk, but walking the walk in terms of actually helping local schools access world-class facilities, and in doing so hopefully inspire a new generation of students to come through. 

Equally important to engaging at that student end, it is a credit to the university to hear of the industry partnerships that are at work here. And I pay tribute to Ausnet and their work, as well as to all of the local businesses and those who help, the local Chamber, through the committee for Geelong, Mayor Darryn and the council and others, I know, to foster that sense of industry and business engagement with public institutions like Deakin University. And it’s very important that our universities, if they are to be at the cutting edge, have that commercial input, that input from those who rely upon innovation and design to help drive their business success, for the very existence of their businesses in many instances, to help our universities to equally be at the edge of innovation and design and at the edge of commercialisation of those products. So, it’s a great spectrum that we’ve seen, not just in the range of technology and engineering solutions applied today, but also of course in terms of the way the university has brought together all of the aspects of its work in terms of teaching and learning directly at the students, in terms of input into research, and in terms of support for the community from school through industry.

I thought that video before in relation to engineering had a great line in it, which was that engineering is both a disruptor of industry and a saviour of industry. As a government, and under our new Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, we are very much aware of the disruptive influences that are occurring, but of the potential, through innovation, through investment in engineering and great resources like this one, that Australia should be optimistic about the future, and about our capacity to be able to adapt to the destruction of some jobs by supporting the creation of new jobs. And that is the challenge that lies before us, it’s why by the end of this year we’ll release a new innovation statement that will seek to support institutions like this one in their work, partnering with business and industry in the type of research that is necessary. And to encourage those businesses and industries to do more in terms of their support and their partnerships with institutions like this one, because we recognise very much that it is a two-way street that’s required.

So thank you again and congratulations on an outstanding investment in the future of – for all the Geelong community, in the future of Deakin University and the State of Victoria, and indeed our nation, by supporting our innovative capacity by supporting the next generation of students who will go forth into a workforce well-equipped to be able to adapt to the changes that they face. It’s a real credit to the university to have undertaken a $55 million investment – a demonstration that the university is willing to put its funding on the line and back specialist capabilities in these incredibly important design areas. 

So again, thank you very much, congratulations. I have no doubt that we will see many great things achieved here in the years to come, and it’s been very special for me, still relatively early in the job, to be able to be here with you today to share in this occasion, and to see the enormous commitment Deakin University has to the future of Australia through investment in these types of STEM fields. Thank you once again.

Senator Birmingham’s media contact: James Murphy 0447 644 957
Department Media: media@education.gov.au