The University of Queensland End of Year Senate Dinner
Education Minister, the Honourable Grace Grace MP; Chancellor, Mr Peter Varghese and Mrs Margaret Varghese; Vice-Chancellor, Professor Deborah Terry and Professor Ottmar Lipp; members of the UQ Senate; distinguished guests.
I begin by acknowledging the Traditional Owners and their custodianship of these lands, the Turrbal and Jagera peoples, and pay my respects to their ancestors and descendants.
Graeme and I are delighted to be with you this evening.
This is my second opportunity to join you as Governor and the University’s Official Visitor here at Customs House – Graeme and I were here two weeks ago for the memorable networking evening for the Australian Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology.
I am very pleased to have had both opportunities so early in my term as Governor, to thank the Senate and Senior Management, on behalf of all Queenslanders, for their commitment to this great global institution.
Your leadership and vision are fundamental to good governance.
While only Graeme can claim the status of a UQ alumnus, my appointment as Queensland’s 27th Governor has given me a very close historical connection to the University, dating back to December 1909 when the Bill to Incorporate and Endow the University of Queensland passed into law.
The government of the day needed accommodation for the new institution and identified the perfect candidate — the magnificent sandstone building we now call Old Government House.
The Governor at the time, Sir William MacGregor, had arrived in Brisbane less than a week before the Bill was passed.
We have no record of what he thought of being turfed out of Old Government House, to the top of a hill in Paddington, so early in his term.
But some history enthusiasts have suggested that Fernberg, meaning ‘distant mountain’ in German, was perhaps appropriate, given that it put a significant distance between the government and His Majesty’s representative.
Be that as it may, the connection between the University and Governors of Queensland was to continue because Sir William became the University’s first Chancellor and, as a medical doctor, a determined advocate for the establishment of a medical school, as did the second medical doctor appointed as Governor, Sir John Goodwin, in the 1920s.
At the end of Sir William’s term in 1914, the UQ senate resolved to establish a medical school, and while the Faculty at St Lucia and the School at Herston were not to open until the 1930s, it is very pleasing that the building named after Sir William remains home to the Faculty today.
As the former Chief Health Officer, I am acutely aware of the enormous impact the pandemic has had on this institution over the past two years, particularly on the intake of overseas students.
The rapid change required may have been like turning around a container ship in a storm with its sea anchors down.
But UQ has sailed through many comparable storms in its 112 years, always finding innovative ways to adapt and move forward.
I congratulate you all on this outcome and am confident that the same wisdom and courage will prevail under the watchful eye of the newly elected Senate. Thank you again for your warm welcome and hospitality.