Remarks at ceremony to unveil Martin Luther King Jr. bust at UNSW

Thank you, Laurie, and thank you, Dr McKenzie, for that powerful welcome to country. 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 this afternoon. There are some very special guests here today who I would like to acknowledge: • The Honourable Sharon Hudson-Dean, United States Consul General here in Sydney • Mr Donald Maynard, Public Affairs Officer of the US Consulate, and a key support of this magnificent project • Ms Kathy Topley, Program Specialist at the US Consulate, another person who has worked tirelessly with UNSW to bring this work to life.

We are also pleased to have with us here today Mr Eric Tidwell, Esquire, Licensing Manager of the Estate of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. And a special welcome to our American students. Everyone—special guests, community members, students, friends and colleagues—thank you for joining us this afternoon, to honour a true giant of our time. Fifty years since Reverend Dr Martin Luther King’s untimely death, it is important to reflect on the progress we have made as a society in furthering his vision. Fifty years is not a long period of time. But in fifty years the global community has made significant bounds in extending universal human rights, protecting the rights of children, women, refugees and Indigenous people, and as Dr. King would have said, “judging people not by the colour of their skin but the content of their character.”

Most of you would look at the political turbulence of today and argue that the progress we have made has not been nearly enough. I would agree. But we are on a path—a path towards a more just, more equal society. And that path which only exists due to the selfless and brave actions of those like the man we pay tribute to this afternoon. Sitting in a prison cell, Martin Luther King Jr. wrote “Human progress never rolls on the wheels of inevitability; it comes through the tireless efforts of men” – and I would add, of women. It’s hard to think of a more necessary ethos to guide our world today, or a message more relevant to universities like UNSW. Injustice isn’t for others to fix. It is the collective responsibility of us all. Equity, diversity and inclusion are essential if UNSW is to make a positive impact on, not just Sydney, not just Australia, but on the world. I know that by having this bust here, among other titans of human rights, Mahatma Gandhi and Nelson Mandela, Dr. King’s story will continue to inspire those who pass through this place.

I look forward to hearing Mr Tidwell from the King Centre reflect further on Martin Luther King Junior’s life and legacy a bit later in the program. What I want to focus on first of all is thanking all those who have contributed to this project. The bust we unveil this afternoon is the product of the collective creativity, vision, and generosity of a great many people. Much credit goes to the wonderful Jennie Lang, Honorary Fellow and a dear member of the UNSW family, who has worked tirelessly to see this project to its end. Zenos Frudakis, the immensely talented sculptor who was commissioned to create this incredible work also has our deepest thanks. I regret that Zenos was unable to attend the ceremony at the last minute, but he has sent a video message that we will view shortly. I also acknowledge the many UNSW alumni living in the US who contributed financial support to this sculpture, especially Charlie Grant, Chairman of UNSW’s Foundation Board in the US. I also thank everyone at the Consulate, for being instrumental in securing funding from the United States Government, and for your ongoing support.

UNSW is immensely proud of the strong relationship we share with the United States, across all areas of our work. We have had, on average, about 800 American students enrolling in our courses each year over the past five years. UNSW and American researchers from over 700 institutions have published 6,750 co-authored papers, which is approximately 20% of UNSW’s total, over the last five years. The United States is also UNSW’s largest funder for international research, with over 70 percent of all our international research funding originating there. UNSW is also a committed member of several international networks, through which we enjoy a strong relationship with our American counterparts. The Association of Pacific Rim Universities connects us to universities such as Stanford, Berkley, and Caltech, and through Universitas 21, we are connected to UC Davis, Maryland and Connecticut. Then, of course, we have newly formed PLuS Alliance, linking Kings College London, UNSW Sydney, and Arizona State University.

This alliance brings together strengths in the UK, Australia and the US and, rather topically, is predicated on collaborating on sustainability, global health and social justice.America is a key strategic partner for UNSW, and has been a good friend to Australia over centuries. I am delighted that we will celebrate those bonds today and I am deeply honoured that UNSW has been given the approval to host a permanent memorial to one of the United States’ greatest contributors to civil rights history. It is with these thoughts in mind that I now welcome the Honourable Sharon Hudson-Dean, US Consul General here in Sydney, to speak.

Thank you.

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