Fellows of Senate
Her Excellency Professor Marie Bashir AC CVO
The University of Sydney welcomes its new Chancellor
Her Excellency Professor Marie Bashir AC CVO was officially welcomed as the University's seventeenth Chancellor at a ceremony in the Great Hall on Monday 2 July 2007.
View information about Professor Bashir as Chancellor
Professor Marie Bashir was officially welcomed as the University's seventeenth Chancellor at a ceremony in the Great Hall on the evening of Monday 2 July 2007, and used her first speech in her new role to make a strong commitment to defending the autonomy of the University.
Professor Bashir, the Governor of New South Wales, entered the Hall at the rear of a procession of more than 40 dignitaries, one of the largest academic processions in the University's history.
In a wide ranging and emotional speech, she said it was a "singular privilege" to be called on to serve the University with which she has an association stretching back more than 50 years as a student and academic.
After acknowledging that Australian universities were operating in a competitive environment, Professor Bashir said: "I will do my utmost to be vigilant in defending as far as possible the genuine autonomy of the University." She said she wanted to foster an environment in which courageous debate would flourish.
The Vice-Chancellor, Professor Gavin Brown, said she was "an academic with a profound commitment to teaching and research, the core goals of any university".
Professor Bashir succeeded the Hon Justice Kim Santow as Chancellor in June and will serve for a period of four years. A graduate in medicine and surgery, she was a clinical professor of psychiatry in the Faculty of Medicine between 1993 and 2001.
by Richard North, Publications Editor
The following photographs are courtesy of Ted Sealey, and enlargements can be viewed by clicking on each image.
I am delighted to have this opportunity on behalf of Senate formally to welcome Professor Marie Bashir, Governor of NSW as Chancellor. When the committee to make recommendations on our new Chancellor was reviewing possible names, university staff, students and alumni all had opportunities to make suggestions. They did so, in almost overwhelming numbers. It will not surprise all of you here that the name most consistently put forward from very diverse groups was that of Professor Bashir. We are therefore delighted this evening to welcome her formally as our new Chancellor.
It is a particular pleasure for me to offer my welcome, as we were both students in the Medical Faculty. I have happy memories of her particular support when I was elected to the SRC and thus became a member of a large Medical Society Council. There were few other women members, and Marie as my mentor, gently inducted me into the Society’s traditions and processes.
As is well known, Professor Bashir practised as a psychiatrist, supporting some of the most disadvantaged in our society, in urban and rural settings and in indigenous communities. She is widely known across the state and is much loved as Governor of NSW. She also contributes regularly to outreach activities in the Asia-Pacific region including in Vietnam through the University’s Hoc Mai Centre.
For Senate and the University, many challenges lie ahead. Governments regularly attempt to control higher education; in particular, its governance and the regulation of its activities. Increasingly we at Sydney seek to be measured not in local, but in international terms. Nevertheless, funding for higher education and research by international standards lags behind some of our near neighbours as well as UK, Europe and USA. The introduction of Voluntary Student Unionism has threatened the broad student experience for which we have been the acknowledged national leader. Staff face mounting workloads with increasing regulation and reporting. Students are under mounting stress as they juggle study, families, paid work and other interests.
Nevertheless, we intend this university to remain not only Australia’s first, but also its finest.
Professor Bashir, you have our trust as our Chancellor as we enter the future. The University community, and in particular the Senate, very much look forward to working with you. We are here this evening to celebrate your accession as Chancellor, and formally to welcome you back in your new role.
It is now my very great pleasure to invite you to address us.
Vice-Chancellor, Deputy Chancellor, members of the Senate of the University of Sydney, academic colleagues, distinguished guests, friends and family.
Thank you Vice-Chancellor and Deputy Chancellor for the warmth and generosity of your words of welcome. Indeed I thank each one of you in this Great Hall who have honoured me by your presence here tonight.
It is indeed a most singular privilege to be called upon to serve this renowned institution which has been integral to my very being since childhood, so richly contributory to my intellectual and emotional development across a lifetime.
As I noted at the ceremony which conferred upon me in 2002, an Honorary Doctorate of Medicine, “There is no occasion when one enters this Great Hall as a former student or academic, that an awesome sense of history is not evoked. But also an overwhelming sense of gratitude for the culture of learning and reflection, for the pathway to intellectual riches, - and the inspiration towards enlightenment abounding”, which it symbolises.
One recalls the vision and courage of our early founders, including William Charles Wentworth, whose statue greets us as we enter this Hall.
Wentworth, appointed by my great predecessor the fifth Governor of New South Wales, Lachlan Macquarie, to the position of Acting Provost Marshall in the colony at the age of twenty-one, set the direction which the future University would take.
And as our University history records, it would espouse “an unfettered means to higher learning, open to all classes and to all denominations and under the auspices of the state”.
Across 157 years of achievement, this philosophy, - this model of equity and idealism - has served our nation well.
As a graduate in Medicine, I am grateful also for the considerable legacy of excellence which has followed the establishment of that Faculty from 1856 and which has continued to this day. Nevertheless, despite the rich and abundant gifts of the past, there are contemporary - and future - serious challenges which must now be foremost in my mind.
I have no illusions regarding their complexity, nor can I deny the confronting and conflicting elements which can arise in the highly competitive environment which face Australian universities today.
But you have my assurance that I shall do my utmost to contribute to the continuing advancement of this University, and to its ever increasing value to the wider community and to the nation.
I wish to be vigilant in defending as far as possible, the genuine autonomy of the University of Sydney, to ensure the continuation of an environment in which independent, innovative and courageous debate and endeavour will flourish.
Indeed, an academic colleague has alerted me to a highly charged comment of the current Chancellor of Oxford University (a former Minister for Education) who declared “a university is not a branch office of a Ministry of Education. Universities are extremely important parts of a plural society. Their independence is crucial” (1).
I want to remain empathic to the wellbeing of our students from wherever they hale, and to share the aspirations and strivings for excellence of the academic staff - indeed of the whole University community.
I look forward to contributing my enthusiastic support to the Vice-Chancellor and his team in attracting and nurturing our international students, who will go on to serve their respective nations, and indeed the world, with distinction and humanity, - and forever remain proud of their connection with their Australian alma mater.
It will be important also to build on the positive relationship which this senior University has always valued with the wider community, so that the community has a sense of connectedness with our institution, from the corporate and business world to the very young children just beyond this campus of the Darlington Public School and Chippendale, who use our grounds.
There is much cause for pride in the progress which our University has made in establishing vigorous and prestigious programs which reach out to our indigenous students.
It is my wish - and belief - that these will go from strength to strength.
We are blessed indeed that this University since its inception has been sensitive to the value of cultural activities beyond the lecture theatre and even our very eminent research foundations.
It has been fortunate not only in its outstanding sporting tradition - the first rugby club in Australia, after all - but in its extraordinarily rich tradition within its museums, and in drama and music.
All of these have enriched the lives of graduates, undergraduates and alumni. They will have my continuing gratitude and support.
I am proud to follow in the footsteps of my esteemed predecessor the Honourable Kim Santow, and I am deeply appreciative of his contribution to this University and indeed, in his confidence in me.
I am also very much aware of the important advantages, and the pleasure which I shall have, in working with our outstanding Vice-Chancellor and his academic team, with the Registrar, the highly committed Senate, and our exceptional academic community.
And finally, may I thank my family - those who directed me in my formative years, - and those today, for their endless patience and generosity, and the loyal friends who inspire me in all my endeavours.
(1) “The Governor’s New View”, Sydney Morning Herald, April 2004, by Robin Fitzsimons