Chancellor, members of the Curtin Family, graduates and colleagues from Curtin University, and all your special friends here tonight: I am very pleased and honoured to accept the award of Curtin Fellow which was just conferred on me and to be able to address you this evening. My connection to Curtin University of Technology spans many years. I graduated from the Department of Media and Information at Curtin, then the Western Australian Institute of Technology, in 1976. Curtin therefore provided the foundation for my future.
I returned to Curtin twenty years later, given the exciting task of developing Australia’s first prime ministerial library for the man after whom this University is named. John Curtin was an inspirational leader, a man of vision whose government instigated policies which allowed Australia to participate in the global economy. Yet he also believed in social welfare and was recognized for his devoted service to the community.
I could not have accomplished the task of establishing the John Curtin Prime Ministerial Library without support from a team of dedicated, enthusiastic and talented people, along with the nurturing environment of Curtin . At this moment I also acknowledge the tireless support of The Honourable Dr John Cowdell and John Curtin’s granddaughters Barbara Davidson and Beverley Lane – all of whom are here tonight. I believe the JCPML is not only a legacy of my time at Curtin but a worthy contribution to the University and a genuine benefit to the University community.
It is a community with which this evening’s graduating students are familiar. During your time at Curtin you have learnt how to learn. You have developed a capacity for critical thinking, for adapting what you’ve learnt to new situations and judging how best to present the results of your thought and analysis. But your time at Curtin has been about more than completing an academic degree. Many of you will already have participated in the programs and initiatives supported by the University to contribute to the wider community. The University encourages students to develop skills and confidence by active contribution as individuals. It provides the opportunity to give something back to the community and for you to make a difference both individually and collectively.
In terms of your professional career there are a few matters you might like to give thought to as you move into a new phase of your life. From my experience it is important to:
Hold firm at all times to professional principles, but at the same time be practical, flexible, pragmatic and creative about how they are applied. In an age when managerialism rules, professional rigor and knowledge are not always valued. This can lead to tension between the professional and the corporate culture of which you are a part. How you deal with that is your own individual challenge.
Find a mentor, either formally or informally. It is crucial to have access to an experienced person you trust, to toss ideas around with and seek advice from. Make a difference by being an active contributor. If you have taken advantage of all Curtin has to offer then it is possible to make a real difference – whether that is within your circle of family and friends, within the broader community and in your career.
Strive for excellence in whatever you undertake. Often this involves making choices because you can’t be excellent at everything you undertake. What you can do though, is consider the options available to you at a given moment, and determine the best ones to take you forward at that particular time.
Be passionate. Some of you will already have found what it will be in your future career that ignites the passion in you. If you haven’t, don’t give up the search! There are so many opportunities to explore to find it. Passion naturally comes from a full engagement with the task at hand.
Teamwork is essential. It is important to regularly consider where you would be without the various teams you are a part of. Teams in the workplace are vital to success, because no one person can solve all the problems or have all the complex skills required to conduct every aspect of business. Your value to each team comes from determining the particular skills and expertise you have to effectively work and communicate within a team. Your contribution will change with each team as you recognise the skills of others in the group, and you identify your particular niche.
Earn the confidence and respect of your colleagues. Then, when you present an idea it will be valued and you will be given the opportunity to develop and implement it. One of the things that I loved about my work at the JCPML was the emphasis on identifying and working on projects, and achieving an outcome through collaboration, cooperation and openness with others.
In conclusion, I would like to congratulate all the new graduates assembled here. Today is the formal recognition of your achievement after several years of hard work, often involving sacrifices by you and your families. I wish you the very best for a future filled with bright ideas, a lifetime of achievement and I encourage you to continue your relationship with this University. Curtin values its relationships with alumni. Taking an active interest in the University’s development will be of mutual benefit. Remember that, to an extent, your professional reputation will be judged initially by the quality of your qualifications, just as Curtin’s reputation will be influenced by the quality of its graduates as they make their way in the world.
Thank you for inviting me to speak at this graduation ceremony. It has indeed been a privilege to do so.