Opening of the Ian Potter Southbank Centre

Remarks by Vice-Chancellor Duncan Maskell, Saturday 1 June 2019

Thank you, Virginia. And may I begin by acknowledging the Traditional custodians of this land, the people of the Kulin Nations of the Narrm region, in particular the Boonwurrung people who have been creating and practicing art in this place for more than a thousand generations. I pay my respects to the Indigenous Elders, past, present and emerging, and to all Indigenous people present here today.

I particularly pay my respects to N’Arweet Carolyn and thank her both for her generous welcome to country today, and for the wider welcome and advice she has given to me as a new Vice-Chancellor, and indeed a new arrival in this country during the past year.

This opening today of the Ian Potter Southbank Centre really is a great occasion, for the city and the University.

The Centre is at the heart of a once-in-a-lifetime transformation – part of a major, two hundred million dollar investment in the University of Melbourne’s Southbank campus.

Its opening today signals, and reinforces the truly international stature of the Faculty of Fine Arts and Music.

This is an arts education institution which is also making a real difference beyond the conventional borders of what we might think is ‘the arts community’.

Last year for example, the Faculty of Fine Arts and Music taught more than eleven thousand students – and more than six thousand of those were students from other faculties.

This University believes in the power of an arts education. We know a fine arts and music education transforms people, boosting a student’s sense of self and giving students the tools to think independently, critically and creatively.

Art challenges how people feel and see the world. As the world we live in becomes increasingly automated, artists and musicians have a real role to play in humanising that world, and challenging what societies and global communities do, in all sorts of thought-provoking ways.

As well as important University and Government support, I also want to highlight the key role philanthropy and supporters of the arts have played in building the Ian Potter Southbank Centre. In particular, I would like to thank:

  • The Ian Potter Foundation
  • The Myer Foundation
  • Martyn Myer AO and Louise Myer
  • The Louise and Martyn Myer Foundation
  • The Louise B.M. Hanson-Dyer and J.B. Hanson Bequest
  • Joanna Baevski
  • Marc Besen AC and Eva Besen AO
  • The Robert Salzer Foundation
  • Kim Williams AM
  • David Penington AC and Sonay Hussein, and
  • The Charles and Cornelia Goode Foundation.

These are exciting times on the Southbank campus, with the opening of the Buxton Contemporary gallery and a stunning new visual arts and performance wing, in the former home of the Victoria Police Stables, last year.

As part of that project, we also saw the launch last year of the Martyn Myer Arena – a Faculty-wide performance and exhibition space.

Through these and many other improvements, staff and students can look forward to new ways of working with, and within this unique eco-system of arts organisations which thrives today in the Melbourne Arts Precinct.

With that big picture in mind, it is my great pleasure to announce today a $1 million, five-year partnership with the internationally celebrated Australian Chamber Orchestra.

After today the University will be recognised as the official University Partner of the ACO, with an investment of two hundred thousand dollars a year for five years, which will support educational opportunities for our students to learn from the Australian Chamber Orchestra’s musicians.

The Southbank campus will also become the new Melbourne development and education home for the ACO.

The new ACO partnership is made possible by The Sidney Myer University Trust.

This support brings with it a really interesting echo of history. It is part of the storied history of Melbourne and the university that Sidney Myer, as well as a great philanthropist, was also a committed musician, a violinist.

As a committed (though maybe not great) musician myself this is something I appreciate and understand. But Sidney Myer’s vision in founding free concerts with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra. for the people of this city, started a great Melbourne tradition that continues today.

Along the way that vision has given us that landmark concert venue, the Sidney Myer Music Bowl. And today, it supports an exciting new partnership that will support great musicianship into the future.

This exciting partnership between the University of Melbourne and the Australian Chamber Orchestra highlights the new opportunities that are likely to come about more often, when you have great education institutions, like those at Southbank, embedded in a great city and precinct, like this one.

So today, I want to say the opening of the Ian Potter Southbank Centre is an extraordinarily significant moment, for the University and this city and its people.

For the University, it helps put us at the absolute cutting-edge of arts and music education and performance, and helps us become even more significant on the global stage.

But beyond the university, this whole place, this city and precinct, is becoming more significant too, because of the people who are already here and the ones who will come, the new partnerships and networks we are building and will build.

Together, we can see this arts precinct growing and developing as one that rivals any comparable district anywhere in the world.

That can and should inspire us all, as we reflect on the past and look to the future.

Together in years to come, we may help to make a place that has been home to the arts for thousands of years to flourish anew.

Thank you.