Standing up for Canberra

ANU Reporter: Reflecting on my time in ANU

How do you remember your time at ANU?

I am the first in my family to be university educated, so I was very excited to attend the ANU. 

Growing up in Melbourne and duxing my school, I could have studied at the University of Melbourne, but I chose to study at the ANU because I wanted to:

  • Take a risk, spread my wings and live in another city
  • Experience the college lifestyle
  • Major in Political Science – and the ANU had the best Australian politics department in the country.  


I enrolled to study Economics, with a Major in Political Science, but ended up gaining an Arts degree, with three Majors – Political Science, Sociology and English. Why? It’s a long story!

I loved my two years at Burgmann College, where I developed friendships that have endured to this day.

And I loved the access we had to legendary scholars, such as A D Hope and studying politics and sociology with Pat Weller, Amin Saikal and Eva Etzioni-Halevy.


What ties do you still have with the University?

I still keep in touch with Amin Saikal, who has been a great source of advice over many years and during my career in the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and now as the Member for Canberra. And I’m delighted to be on the advisory board for the Centre for Arab and Islamic Studies, along with a number of my colleagues.

I also seek the advice of Hugh White on strategic and defence issues.

Occasionally I attend events at Burgmann College. I’ve been encouraging the college to diversify its base, to include more students from public schools. When I was at Burgmann, I was a bit of a novelty because I was one of the few students not educated at an expensive private school.


How does ANU contribute to Australia’s smartest and most innovative city?

The ANU has made, and continues to make, a significant contribution to our city, our nation and the world, across every field. It is a leader in anticipating global trends and issues and then creating research and learning centres in response.

One of its great strengths is its expertise in the Asia Pacific, which has been developed and nurtured for more than half a century. A number of my cohort were undertaking Asian Studies when I was studying in the early 80s, nearly a decade before Ross Garnaut wrote about the North East Asian ascendancy and 30 years before the Asian Century.


What role should ANU play in the future of the ACT?

The ANU has a wealth of world class talent and internationally-renowned research, but the rest of Canberra knows so little about the great work that is being done at the university.

I’d like to see the ANU better connect with the broader Canberra community and business at the grass roots level.  

And here I am thinking about the ANU going to the community, rather than the community coming to the campus. I know the university holds countless, fabulous lectures and seminars, but they are all on its grounds. So if Canberrans want to connect with the ANU’s great work, they have to go there.

I would like to see the ANU increase its presence in the community. This could be done by presenting and discussing research topics and issues at primary and secondary schools and colleges, as well as at U3A. And connecting with other groups in the community, through Lions and Rotary clubs, and around the boardrooms of our businesses and peak associations.

That way, the broader Canberra community would have a greater understanding of what the ANU is doing and the significant contribution it is making to our city, nation and the world.