Asialink: the Sir Edward ‘Weary’ Dunlop Lecture and Medal presentation

The Asialink Sir Edward ‘Weary’ Dunlop Lecture and Medal presentation dinner, Victorian Arts Centre

Welcome remarks by Vice-Chancellor Duncan Maskell, delivered 5 February 2021

Thank you, David.

Your Excellency, the Honourable, Linda Dessau, the Governor of Victoria and Mr Anthony Howard

Ambassadors & members of the Diplomatic Corps

The Hon. Danny Pearson, Assistant Treasurer, Minister for Regulatory Reform, Minister for Government Services, Minister for Creative Industries for the Victorian Government

Ms Frances Adamson, Secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade

Representatives of the Myer Foundation and distinguished members of the Myer Family

Mr Mike O’Meara, the Chairman of the Weary Dunlop Foundation

Ms Claire Spencer, the CEO of the Arts Centre Melbourne

Mr Peter Varghese, the newly appointed Chair of the Asialink Council, and other members of the Council here this evening

Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen:-

First may I acknowledge and thank Dr Lois Peeler for her generous words of welcome.

And I would like to add my own acknowledgement of the traditional custodians of the lands on which the University stands – the Wurundjeri and the Boonwurrung, the Dja Dja Warrung and the Yorta Yorta peoples. And I pay my respects to the Indigenous Elders of Australia, past, present and emerging.

Well, it’s fantastic to be here with everyone, face to face, after so long! What a difficult year we have just been through, more than usually isolated from each other, because of the demands imposed by Covid-19.

But even more, as communities, nations and institutions, the last 12 months have thrown up enormous challenges in terms of rising nationalism, political ferment, and sadly, the continuing scourge of racism.

But against the background of these challenges, here we are as friends, and strong supporters of international collaboration between Australia and Asia, gathered at this magnificent Arts Centre, and ready to celebrate the future, as well as a great milestone in the life of a truly important organisation.

Since I came to this University as Vice-Chancellor more than two years ago, I have been delighted in what a strong community the University of Melbourne has.

I think that a great university should above all be a community – a distinctive one built around scholarship, and fired with passion for education and research, and for being outward-looking, to and for the world.

These are all hallmarks of this fine University community.

At Melbourne, we are fortunate to have a further unique and important dimension to our community, and that is the work of Asialink.

I pay particular tribute to two leaders here tonight who each served many years as Chairman of Asialink, Carillo Gantner and Sid Myer. And, I must also thank the many former board members with us tonight.

I also want to take this chance to acknowledge the great leadership of Asialink’s founding CEO Jenny McGregor, and of her successor, Penny Burtt.

With these many outstanding people at the helm, Asialink has been a vital part of the University’s work as we have engaged more closely with Asia, and as we have reached into the broader community.

And it remains a crucial element as the University embarks on its new strategy, Advancing Melbourne, which commits the University to playing a thought leadership role in the Asia-Pacific.

Over 30 years Asialink has delivered an amazing array of great work in education, in arts and culture, in building crucial business links, and in diplomacy, advocacy and thought leadership, with our friends and partners and alumni and others across the Asian region.

The Myer Foundation’s early vision in seeing Australia’s need for ‘Asia-skilling’, and backing a concrete solution to do something about it, has paid off, in a big way.

The work by Asialink has never been more impressive than during this past year, when new ways have been found by Asialink people to get online and continue delivering important work in education, public health, and artistic and cultural collaboration.

Nationally, in Australia, we come to a difficult time now, as national leaders are themselves challenged in their understanding of how important it is for all Australians to remain connected and deeply engaged with people and nations beyond our borders.

This is about more than just having international students in Australia – though personally, I feel a great sense of loss to Australia from the decline of international student numbers during the past year.

As a group, I admire international students hugely for their courage, commitment and belief in higher education, and look forward to seeing many more of them return here in future.

But Australia can engage deeply with other countries in many other ways, and on this front, showing the way to the rest of Australia, Asialink succeeds as simply no other institution does.

During the past year alone, Asialink has shown it has a vital future, for the University of Melbourne, and for this nation.

This evening’s celebration of 30 years of great work by Asialink will include the Sir Edward ‘Weary’ Dunlop Lecture, to be delivered in a few moments by our Governor, who joins a list of distinguished Australians who have shared their vision for Australia-Asia engagement in past lectures.

We will also witness the presentation of the Sir Edward ‘Weary’ Dunlop Medals. These commemorations are a reminder of the value in remembering the contributions of individuals, because it is through the unstinting efforts of individuals – those present and those past – that great works of history get done.

In commemorating Weary Dunlop as we have done through several decades, and continue to do tonight, Asialink and its supporters have added new layers to the story of Australia’s engagement with its region.

It is a privilege to be part of this continuing, inspiring story.

To continue that story, it is now my great pleasure to formally introduce the Governor of Victoria.

The Honourable Linda Dessau became Victoria’s first female Governor in 2015. The Governor has served as a barrister at the Victorian Bar, Senior Crown Counsel in Hong Kong, and judge in the Family Court of Australia, among many other distinguished roles.

We are delighted to have her with us this evening for the Sir Edward ‘Weary’ Dunlop Asia Lecture.

Please join me in welcoming the Honourable, Linda Dessau, the Governor of Victoria.