UniSA Deputy Vice Chancellor: Research and Enterprise, Professor Marnie Hughes-Warrington AO

2022 Alumni Awards Address

Deputy Vice Chancellor: Research and Enterprise
Professor Marnie Hughes-Warrington AO

Naa Marni everyone, my name is Marnie Hughes-Warrington, and I am the DVC Research and Enterprise—the chief inventor and dreamer—here at the University of South Australia. I am also a proud donor to this University.

As Senior Elder Uncle Lewis has patiently taught me, when you ask naa marni, you ask a person not just how they are, but how they are getting to where they want to go. It epitomises the spirit of why we are together tonight, recognising the journey of individual alumni award winners, but also the journey of all of you, our community.

The journey that universities invite us all on through research and education is the one thing that makes the biggest difference to the health, economic prosperity, and happiness of individuals and communities. Given the fragile nature of our world at present, I could not be prouder of the University of South Australia journey, and our community.

We have had an outstanding year. UniSA is the leader of a new $149m mission to combat antimicrobial resistance in food, and part of a $180m initiative to accelerate Australia’s space industry.

We opened our new Bachelor of Digital Business degree in partnership with Accenture, who have over 720,000 employees and an annual turnover of around 60 billion USD, and launched our new Executive MBA defence and space, which will be taught on three continents.

Many of you joined me as we acknowledged the generosity that makes it possible for outstanding students to achieve their dreams, and timetravelled into the future with us to support innovations that are so cutting edge that we were able to lead other funders to back us too.

You have inspired me to donate to our student hardship fund—which has helped to address the profound challenges students have faced during the last three years, and our visiting research fellowships, which celebrate everything from the power of Aboriginal art through to empowering every child to see themself in this place and as helping to make a better world. I want to thank all of our students, professional and academic staff, who make it so easy for me to say that I am proud of the University and its journey.

It is also important to recognise those who have opened up the paths we journey on, and who journey on globally inspiring paths with us. This year in honorary doctorate ceremonies we recognised Andrew Pridham AO for the generosity captured in this beautiful building, and the work that Ronni Kahn AO does to ensure that no food goes to waste in a world in which people go hungry.

We also recognised George Takei and Jimmy Barnes AO. George, best known for his role as Mr Sulu in the original Star Trek series, told us how at the age of 5 he recited the US pledge of allegiance behind the barbed wire of a Japanese internment camp. I have come to understand, he told us, that democracy is as fragile as the humans who make it. For democracy to be strong, we have to participate.

George reinforced that message as he helped to dedicate our new Enterprise Hub, our front door and welcome to over 6500 partners, and a national and international model for partnership. Our view is that you should not need to know the interior structure of a university to make a stronger community and economy together.

We enable that participation and welcome, Jimmy Barnes AO acknowledged in his acceptance speech, through the doors that we open. Jimmy Barnes, who was raised in Elizabeth and who did not finish school, told us about the time he and his mates jumped over the back fence of a university to see a band play. What he saw there seemed unattainable to him. In accepting his doctorate from UniSA, he thanked us for welcoming him through the front door. This captures who we are and why what we do matters.

Together, we help to change the lives of other young people, not only welcoming them through the front door, but also lowering to the ground the fences and walls that can get in the way of a stronger society and economy. In travelling this journey, we acknowledge those who pave the way for us, and who walk with us.

This year Jason Clare, the Australian Government’s Minister for Education—who like me was the first person to get a degree in his family— pointed out that where you live, what your parents earn, and whether you are Indigenous, are still major factors in determining whether you will be the beneficiary of a university degree. Two weeks ago, Minister Clare acknowledged Denise Bradley AC—for whom our world class health and medical building on North Terrace is named—in announcing the University Accord, a process for reviewing opportunities for participation, attainment, and innovation in higher education across the Country. Denise was the rightful choice to lead the last review of Australian higher education, and her belief that ‘you only have one life to live’ is seen in the legacy of hundreds of thousands of first in family graduates across the country.

And finally, I want to acknowledge the wise person who taught me the phrase naa marni, Senior Kaurna Elder Uncle Lewis. This year, he generously gifted his name to our law building, which will be the future home of our Aboriginal knowledges centre. I want to thank him, and the Elders for welcoming us to this place, every day. It is through welcome, generosity, that paths open up and journeys become possible.

Very few of these journeys are easy, and change is a key feature of a fragile world. But I know that we take that journey with so many who inspire us, you.

I want to echo the Chancellor’s thoughts in closing. Whatever we are called to do in the future, how we are invited to change, and whatever the shape of higher education in Australia and South Australia, the values of access, opportunity and innovation – personified by the stories of those I have named - remain our touchstones. That is our accord with this community. Thank you.

< 2022 Alumni Awards