Address at the Scientia Professor David Cooper AC Symposium

I too acknowledge the Bedegal people upon whose land we meet today. And I welcome you all to the David Cooper Symposium.

There are some people here I would like to particularly acknowledge: Firstly, David’s wife Dorrie, and his daughters Ilana and Bec; Senator the Honourable Lisa Singh, Senator for Tasmania; Dr Kerry Chant, Chief Medical Officer of New South Wales; The Honourable Michael Kirby, Patron of the Kirby Institute and former Justice of the High Court of Australia; The Honourable Dr Neal Blewett, Kirby Institute Life Governor and former Federal Health Minister; The Honourable Jillian Skinner, former New South Wales Health Minister; and Ms Jillian Segal, Deputy Chancellor of UNSW.

Welcome to you all. Yesterday’s memorial service was a fitting tribute to David. A man whose dedication to the treatment of HIV/AIDS has played a pivotal role in controlling a disease which once left patients devoid of all hope. With this wonderful turnout of David’s colleagues and friends here today, this symposium will be just as fitting a tribute.

I mentioned yesterday at the memorial that David was the first academic from UNSW I met when I accepted the role of Vice-Chancellor. He flew to Manchester to welcome me; give the lie of the land; and make sure I knew exactly how important the Kirby Institute was to UNSW, to the global fight against HIV/AIDS and to him, personally, and his colleagues.

I was impressed at our initial meeting and my admiration for David Cooper only continued to grow over the all-too-short time I knew him. I speak for all at UNSW when I say we are incredibly proud to claim him as not only one of our premier researchers but an alumnus.

His body of research over his more than 30-year term as Director of the Kirby Institute is of immeasurable importance. He saw the AIDS epidemic as a global problem and collaboration as key to a global solution. His tenacity, his collegiality and the esteem in which he was held, allowed him to break down silos and forge important links between researchers, governments, the pharmaceutical industry and within philanthropic circles.

His coming together with the late Dr Joep Lange, from the University of Amsterdam, and Dr Praphan Phanuphak, from Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok to form HIVNAT, was a wonderful example of collaboration opening the door to the global fight against the epidemic.

And I know we all look forward to hearing more about HIVNAT from Dr Phanuphak shortly.

In being here today – by striving to overcome the challenges we still face in infectious disease research and upholding the belief that everybody deserves access to treatment and prevention – we honour the tremendous legacy of David Cooper and commit to carrying on his work.

Over many Parliaments, the Parliamentary Liaison Group for HIV/AIDS, Blood Borne Viruses and Sexually Transmitted Infections has been committed to raising awareness about HIV/AIDS and advocating for bipartisan, scientific approaches to treatment and support.

So it gives me great pleasure to introduce Parliamentary Liaison Group Deputy Chair, Senator the Honourable Lisa Singh. Senator Singh has been a life-long supporter of human rights…as a community leader, women’s and peace activist, Minister in the Tasmanian Parliament and, since 2010, as member of the Australian Senate.

Senator Singh got to know David Cooper in 2016 through her role in the Parliamentary Liaison Group, and saw first-hand the innovative work the Kirby Centre produced, and the passion with which they pursued it.

Senator Singh and her parliamentary colleagues continue to advocate strongly for “a renewal of efforts to end the transmission of HIV/AIDS, and the discrimination that diagnosis can still bring.”

Please join me in welcoming, Senator the Honourable Lisa Singh.

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You can read Senator the Honourable Lisa Singh's address here.