Standing up for Canberra

Dr Tom Calma AO

It is with great pleasure that I rise today to congratulate my friend and former colleague Dr Tom Calma AO, who last week took up his appointment as Chancellor of the University of Canberra. He is the first Indigenous man to hold such a position at any Australian university.

I had the pleasure of working with Tom many years ago at the Australian High Commission in New Delhi. We were both posted to India, where I was cultural attache and he was education counsellor. Since then I have taken great joy in following his impressive career, highlights of which have included serving as the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner, the Race Discrimination Commissioner and last year being recognised as the ACT Australian of the Year.

Tom has always been an advocate for empowerment, for education and for reconciliation. His landmark 2005 report calling for the life expectancy gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people to be closed within a generation laid the groundwork for the bipartisan commitment to the closing the gap targets we have today.

Tom has previously served as the Deputy Chancellor of the University of Canberra. I know he will do a wonderful job as chancellor. I would also like to pay tribute to the outgoing chancellor, Professor John Mackay, who has had a long relationship with the UC and has served as chancellor with energy and commitment since 2011. I wish him well in his retirement.

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