The Hon Robert French AC CitWA
In my short time as Chancellor of The University of Western Australia since 12 December 2017, I have been deeply impressed with the level of commitment of the University's people to maintain and enhance its performance, in all areas of its activities, as a worldclass institution of higher education, research and scholarship. The range and depth of those activities and achievements resulting from them, particularly in research outcomes and research funding, are illustrated in this Annual Report, which includes a faculty-by-faculty overview and highlights for the year 2017.
The University operates in a complex and shifting regulatory and funding environment. It must be adaptable to change in that environment. The incremental reductions of public funding in recent years in particular have required a response. In that respect, 2017 saw the implementation of important restructuring measures designed to enable the University to operate more effectively in its administration and to recruit more high-performing academics to further strengthen its teaching and research. That restructuring has not been without stress for those affected by it but the University is now more sustainable financially and better able to define and pursue its strategic purposes.
The University's strategic purposes are the subject of a comprehensive review initiated by the Vice-Chancellor in 2017. Informed by extensive initial consultation, senior staff are preparing a series of 'Green Papers' for consideration by the Senate in 2018 and further refinement and development thereafter. A review of the numerous University statutes', which are a species of delegated legislation made by the University under the University of Western Australia Act 1911 (WA), has also commenced for the purpose of reducing their numbers and simplifying their language.
The University has been the beneficiary of significant research funding and also of substantial funds raised through its New Century Campaign, which was completed in 2017. The Campaign attracted some major philanthropic donations. An outstanding contribution was made by Andrew and Nicola Forrest through their Minderoo Foundation, enabling the University, in collaboration with other Western Australian universities, to establish the Forrest Research Foundation and Forrest Hall, built on University land on Hackett Drive, which will provide accommodation and support for Forrest Fellows and Scholars funded by the Foundation.
The University has been strongly supported by its Alumni in its fundraising. That support owes much to Convocation, which consists of graduates of the University. Under the Act it is a part of the University and elects two members to the Senate. The University also enjoys a strong relationship with its student body through the Guild of Undergraduates, which has a long history of producing student leaders who have later gone on to important leadership positions in the wider Australian society.
An important legislative change in 2017 was the substantial amendment of the University of Western Australia Act 1911 (WA) and similar amendments to the laws governing other universities in this State. The amendments will lead to a reduction in the size of the University's Senate while continuing to provide for members to be elected by students, staff and Convocation. Through the process of government appointment and co-option for which the Act continues to provide, the Senate is also able to acquire the range of skills and experience necessary to enable it to effectively discharge its functions. In that respect, I express my appreciation for the work done by all members of the Senate in 2017 and also to the members of its committees, including particularly those people who are not on the Senate but who have volunteered their skills and expertise to the service of the University.
The University has a legal purpose which is contained in the University Act 1911 (WA) and embraced by the word 'university' which carries with it a long history and rich tradition. The University can also be thought of as having a social licence which extends well beyond its legally authorised functions. That social licence is reflected in the authority, legitimacy and respect which the University enjoys in the State, and nationally and internationally. Its maintenance requires that the University is and is seen to be committed to providing an enriching and challenging environment for all of its people, and thereby the opportunity to contribute materially to the welfare of the State, the nation and beyond. It also requires that the University ensures its people observe high standards of mutual respect for the human dignity of each other and the rights and freedoms and equality of treatment and opportunity which are its incidents. In that respect, the University has taken strong, positive steps in the past year to respond to concerns about sexual harassment that have been raised nationally in relation to the tertiary sector in Australia.
The University has an Inclusion and Diversity Strategy 2015–2020 with continuing focus on Gender Equity, Cultural and Linguistic Diversity, Disability issues, and Indigenous and LGBTI-inclusion.
I would like to take this opportunity of expressing my deep appreciation for the work that has been done by my predecessor as Chancellor, Dr Michael Chaney AO, in 12 years of service in that office. I look forward to working with the Members of the Senate and with the Vice-Chancellor, Professor Dawn Freshwater, in the year ahead.