This year, 2019, we celebrate 30 years as Charles Sturt University.
For us, it’s an opportunity to reflect – on who we are, the contribution we’ve made to our communities and the way we’ve changed over the years.
It’s also timely to think about what we want to be in the future.
Arriving in Australia from England in 1996, I was struck by the opportunities in our wonderful country, and fell in love with regional communities. I’ve been incredibly lucky to be part of the Charles Sturt University family for almost eight years. Since then I’ve seen how much our regions have grown and in so many ways, from the use of technology in agriculture, to the growing capacity in health provision in the Central West and the co-creation of our courses working closely with industry in areas like engineering. The wonderful thing about working for Charles Sturt University is that although we have challenges in our regions, there is always a new opportunity to meet those challenges through our research and our education.
The reputation of Charles Sturt University has been built on the work of our staff and students and I acknowledge each of you for your part in the University’s success.
I also acknowledge the leadership that came before me, the inaugural Chancellor, David Asimus AO, and inaugural Vice-Chancellor, Professor Clifford Blake AO; in 2001, Emeritus Professor Ian Goulter AM was appointed to the role of Vice-Chancellor, closely followed by the appointment of Dr Lawrie Willett AO as Chancellor in 2002. As the current Vice-Chancellor, I can say that these leaders and their teams paved the way for today’s generation. They brought academic brilliance and a care for the regions and our students that has shaped our communities and professions. Their impact is, and will be, lasting.
In that spirit, over the last two years, Charles Sturt University has embarked upon an ambitious strategy of transformation – a strategy that has another four years to run to take us to the end of 2022. To remain as Australia’s leading regionally-based university, we know we must embrace change; we must adapt to the needs of our students and the Australian employment market. We are strongly focused on transforming our service and delivery. We are changing our courses and launching new schools that the regions need, we are improving our online study options, we’re trialling new and flexible ways of learning. We’re providing more services to students. We’re investing in more partnerships with our communities.
We are determined to meet the challenges that we know are heading our way. We are here to create a world worth living in. This goes to the heart of what we do, every day. And we must – the world is facing challenges that require creative, collaborative solutions and as a University, we must be ready to deliver those.
Every day, climate change is demanding answers of us. We must invest in sustainable measures, we must ensure the protection of our environment and the appropriate use of our agricultural lands and water supply. As Australia’s first Federally certified carbon neutral university we have led the way on this.
Reconciliation with Australia’s Indigenous people is critical not only for us as a university, but for Australia. We have learned so much from working with the Wiradjuri people. Not least, how to engage respectfully in reconciliation and move forward together. This year, our Graduate Certificate in Wiradjuri Language, Culture and Heritage was recognised with a Global Citizenship award by the Talloires Network and McJannet Foundation.
This course was created to help the Wiradjuri nation recover language and culture. The vision came from Wiradjuri elders and I am proud of our academics and staff who helped that vision become a reality. Over the next 30 years my hope for Charles Sturt is that as a community we continue to listen, learn and act in collaboration with the Wiradjuri peoples.
Universities play a huge role in the future of our country’s economic development. We need to find those future industries that will take us forward – and create educational opportunities for people to participate in them.
At Charles Sturt we have always taught those key courses that are critical to ongoing development: agriculture, communication, health, information technology and education. As we move to the 21st century, adapting these industries to the new demands will be crucial.
We have been a strong voice in our communities, and we must continue to be. To do so, we must be deeply connected with our communities, their needs and the ways in which we can meet those needs through our work. Our students and our alumni – near and far – are working across the nation and across the world, making a positive difference through their working lives. I thank them for being part of Charles Sturt University and I look forward to working together with our community as we strive to meet the challenges – and the opportunities - ahead.