The 2019 Raise the Bar Academy Celebration Dinner

Speech by Vice-Chancellor Duncan Maskell,  Thursday 17 January 2019

Welcome to the University of Melbourne and the fifth ‘Raise the Bar Academy’ celebration dinner.

I extend a very warm welcome to the 35 participants in this year’s program – young women and men who represent their communities from across Australia, some of whom have travelled from as far afield as the Northern Cape Peninsula in Queensland to be here this week.

I pay my respects to the elders of every one of the aboriginal nations and communities represented in the room tonight, especially to the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin nations, upon whose land we stand, and to Wurundjeri Elder Uncle Bill Nicholson.

Thank you Uncle Bill for your welcome.

Other friends and partners that I want to welcome are:

Mr Adam Bishop – General Manager – Participation and Community at Athletics Australia,

Professor Ken Hinchcliff - Warden, Trinity College, which does so much to support Indigenous students and build educational pathways to the University,

Ms Rula Paterson – Acting Director of Murrup Barak,

Tim Lee - Director of Melbourne University Sport (and champion for this program)

Australian track and field representatives including tonight’s panellists Kyle Vander Kuyp, Torita Isaac, and Beki Smith.

Raise the Bar Academy is a joint initiative between Athletics Australia and the University of Melbourne.

I’m grateful to Athletics Australia for their continued collaboration in this program, and I’d like to recognise the great efforts from all involved in putting it together.

I also congratulate Athletics Australia for their work developing their first Reconciliation Action Plan.

Great things can be achieved through the sport of Athletics, indeed through every sport, both for individuals and the wider world and I wish you every success on your Reconciliation journey.

For the University, the Raise the Bar Academy plays an important role in realising our vision for Reconciliation, which is one of our highest priorities as a university, and for me personally.

The success of Raise the Bar is demonstrated by four former participants who are now students at the University: Chris Navarette, Lorraine Jaffer, Connor Wright, and Paige James.  And I sincerely hope we see some of this week’s participants return as students at this or other universities.

I have spent a lot of time, probably far too much time in fact, playing many different sports and games, at which I was universally pretty average, and now spectating, at which I think I’m probably a bit too good!

Different sports provide different opportunities and challenges to the participant. But they all help us all understand that there are choices that we can each make, and that in turn we can often take control of the outcome.

We all have different capacities and abilities, and participating in sport helps us understand that no matter what our capacity, we can enjoy the participation and competition, we can strive to improve and we can make the most of what we have got.  Although as I said I was very average at the many sports I used to play, I always gave everything, and wanted to improve and perform as well as I could.

What is true for sport, is also true for education.  We all deserve an excellent education and I suggest we should all take every opportunity to get one.  Different schools, colleges, and universities provide different opportunities, but if you enjoy the program this week and think a university looks like an interesting place to come once you’ve finished school, my message is believe in yourself, and go for it!

There is support for you to make this journey of a lifetime. No-one in my family had been to university before me, but I got there, and it turned out ok! You’ll learn about some of possibilities to support you on your higher education journey, this week at Melbourne – things like practical support for everything from finding accommodation to finding friends and a sense of community in a new city.

You will find other Australian universities also offer this kind of support too. Basically the message is simple. If you are interested in going to university, go for it. And we’d love to see you here at the University of Melbourne.

One further point to remember. One thing changing dramatically now is that non-Aboriginal people, like me, know we have so much to learn from the cultures and deep knowledge of this land’s first peoples.

So, if you do decide to attend university, please always remember that universities – and all places of learning – are also places that can learn from you.

Once more, on behalf of the University of Melbourne, welcome to everyone here, and please enjoy your evening.