Fellows of Senate

Her Excellency Professor Marie Bashir AC CVO

Her Excellency Professor Marie Bashir AC CVO, Chancellor of the University of Sydney, spoke at the Macleay Museum on 7 November 2007 to launch the book Museum: The Macleays, their Collections and the Search for Order which was co-authored by Ms Robyn Stacey and Ms Ashley Hay.

About the Macleay Museum

About the Macleay family


Her Excellency Professor Marie Bashir AC CVO
Her Excellency Professor Marie Bashir AC CVO

Professor Don Nutbeam, Acting Vice-Chancellor
Professor Andrew Coats, Deputy Vice Chancellor Community
Dr Jude Philp, Director and Curator, The Macleay Museum
Ms Robyn Stacey and Ms Ashley Hay, co-authors of Museum: The Macleays, their Collections and the Search for Order
Mr Andrew Ford, Cambridge University Press
DISTINGUISHED GUESTS, Ladies and Gentlemen

It is a great pleasure to join you this evening to celebrate the opening of a spectacular and unique exhibition, and to launch a quite magnificent book.

There is no doubt that the exquisite photography and the meticulously researched and eloquently written text illuminate in a peerless way, some aspects of the Macleays’ priceless collection.

Both the Exhibition and the book remind us again of the extraordinary Macleay family - father and son and younger nephew (Alexander John) - of their unquenchable passion for collecting, and their determination, no matter the cost, to acquire the objects of their desire. This University is indeed fortunate beyond any words I can offer, to be the beneficiary of their diligence and generosity.

First may I pay my respects to the traditional owners of this land upon which we gather, their ancestors and descendants, indeed all Australia’s indigenous people including and especially those whose spirits rest within this precinct.

We are indeed indebted to Robyn Stacey for what have been justifiably described as “exquisite images”, thereby bringing to a wide-ranging community a curiosity about this collection, as well as an awareness of treasures that have become extinct. Directly or indirectly this provides a clarion call, as it were, to become even more sensitised to the vulnerability today of much that is endangered in the biological world.

Robyn comes to us from the School of Communication Arts at the University of Western Sydney, a university I am proud to acknowledge as a highly energetic and excellent sibling. From her work in this book and other areas, it is no wonder that she is acclaimed as one of Australia’s finest photographers.

Ashley Hay has provided us with an absorbing account of the Macleays and has authored two other fine books of narrative non-fiction: The Secret: about Lord Byron’s marriage to Annabella Millbank and, closer to home, GUM: The Story of Eucalypts and Their Champions, as well as contributing to various journals.

The combination of exquisite taste, artistic and photographic excellence and wonderful language has ensured that this book reflects the highest standards to which our Alma Mater aspires.

Their previous collaboration on another very important Australian collection was “Herbarium” on materials of the Royal Botanic Gardens Sydney – a publication of Cambridge Press. Tonight’s Exhibition is Robyn’s second at the Macleay and represents an extraordinary labour of love in terms of hours given. This Macleay collection totals more than 20,000 animal specimens and more than half a million insects, 5,000 ethnographic objects – and more.

It is interesting to note also that this museum is living and dynamic, in looking to the future, as did the Macleays. The collections in the past 20 years have expanded to include significant instruments and photography, especially in relation to the history of this University.

As well as thanking our exceptional co-authors it is most fitting that on all your behalves I acknowledge and thank the extraordinary Macleays:

  • firstly Alexander – wine merchant, Fellow of the Royal Society, Secretary of the Linnean Society of London and especially Colonial Secretary of New South Wales in the early 19th century, first occupant of Elizabeth Bay House
  • William, his son, naturalist, scholar and diplomat and also a worker for the abolition of slavery in Havana
  • Fanny, sister, botanist and illustrator
  • George, successful pastoralist and part-time explorer who accompanied Charles Sturt, elected member for Murrumbidgee, and especially
  • William John Macleay, magistrate from Wagga Wagga, pastoralist, author and our great benefactor.

Her Excellency Professor Marie Bashir AC CVO
The University of Sydney
7 November 2007