Introducing Gonski Institute for Education Launch

I thank Aunty Maxine Ryan for your always poignant Welcome to Country and I too would like to acknowledge the Bedegal people, the traditional custodians of this land. I also pay my respects to their Elders past and present, and extend that respect to any Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders here today.

I also acknowledge: UNSW Chancellor; David Gonski, DVC Diversity and Inclusion; Professor Eileen Baldry, Chair of the GIE Advisory Board; Mr Ian Narev, Professors Adrian Piccoli, Pasi Sahlberg and Chris Davison from the Gonski Institute, Foundation Board members, Council members, distinguished guests.

 I am really delighted to be with you today to launch the Gonski Institute for Education.

It is fitting that the institute is named in honour of our Chancellor, Mr David Gonski – a name not only synonymous with education reform but which has the rare honour of becoming a noun courtesy of the ‘I give a Gonski’ campaign by the Teachers’ Union.

I think it is safe to say, Chancellor, that UNSW does indeed give a Gonski about the future of education in Australia.  

Today, we see that materialise with this Institute we launch today – which we believe will make a meaningful difference in the lives of Australians who live with disadvantage.

That confidence is well placed given it will be guided by such a passionate champion of education, Institute Director, Professor Adrian Piccoli, and his fabulous colleagues.

It was through the process of bringing together the Gonski Review in 2011 that our Chancellor and his taskforce were convinced, beyond doubt, that low levels of educational achievement had a direct correlation with educational disadvantage, particularly among students from low socioeconomic, regional, remote and Indigenous backgrounds.

At its core, the Gonski Institute model recognises that the challenges education faces today are intricate, multi-layered and spanning areas as diverse as teaching, technology, the built environment, public health and social policy.

If we are to tackle the complex problems which conspire to exclude some Australians from our education system, we must harness the best minds, across disciplines.

The Gonski Institute is a reflection of the new path of collaboration we are forging through UNSW’s 2025 Strategy – making connections, in particular, across the Strategy pillars of Academic Excellence, Social Engagement and Global Impact.

 At this Institute’s very heart is the belief that a system that is fairer for all, will elevate us all.

Indian economist Surjit Bhalla argues that in the modern world, the true key to prosperity is education – which he calls ‘the new wealth of nations’.

As Bhalla notes in his book of that name, ‘The New Wealth of Nations’, ‘The industrial revolution transformed lives - primarily in the western world. But the education revolution has transformed lives all over the world.”

The Gonski Institute for Education aims to transform lives.

But it also aims to transform the way we approach education through ‘evidence-based practice and practice-based evidence’.

The research carried out here carries the caveat that it must be of value to school and system leaders and support sensible implementation, community consultation, and buy-in from teachers, parents and students.

It will bring together stakeholders across all aspects of education and government, and our wider community.

It will focus on capacity building for the leaders of tomorrow and inform advocacy at the system and government level, to drive meaningful policy change.

And it will strive to bridge the gap in equality of educational opportunity and outcomes for Australian children; to create a more equitable system where a child’s chance to lead a productive, wonderful, fulfilling life is not determined by wealth, power, possessions, or family background.

In Paul Keating’s famous 1992 Redfern speech on the need for reform in Indigenous Australia, he said that: “It seems to me that if we can imagine the injustice, we can imagine its opposite.”

The Gonski Institute for Education will name and describe the inequities of our current system to help us imagine the opposite.

Today is certainly a great day for UNSW as we launch this Gonski Institute for Education.

I wish all who work here – all who bring with them a passion for education, for excellence, for engagement and for equity – the very best as you embark on UNSW’s next step in fulfilling our ambition to have a positive impact on the community we serve.

Congratulations, all.

It is now my pleasure to ask Professor Eileen Baldry, DVC of Diversity and Inclusion to say a few words.

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