ANU community celebrates Foundation Day

1 August 2018

Gender equity and age discrimination were the focus of the inaugural Foundation Day Lecture, delivered by ANU Alumna of the Year Dr Susan Ryan and former ANU Chancellor, Professor Peter Baume.

Speaking on the eve of University's 72nd anniversary, Vice-Chancellor Professor Brian Schmidt said Foundation Day is a day to celebrate not only what the University has achieved so far, but what it is yet to achieve.

"We put our values front and centre, and live by them every day. This means having the confidence to have the conversations that our nation needs to have.

"These values will make us the place where everyone can succeed regardless of their background," he said.

Introducing the Foundation Day lecture, ANU Chancellor Professor the Hon Gareth Evans paid tribute to the many accomplishments of guest speakers Dr Susan Ryan and Professor Peter Baume.

Dr Susan Ryan was Senator for the ACT from 1975 to 1988, and was instrumental in the landmark Sex Discrimination Act 1984 and the Affirmative Action Act 1986.

She served as the Australian Human Rights Commission's Age Discrimination Commissioner from 2011 to 2016, and was also the Disability Discrimination Commissioner from 2014 to 2016.

In her address, Dr Ryan remarked on how far Australia has come in legislating to protect citizens from gender and age-based discrimination, and said there is still more work to be done.

"When I introduced the Sex Discrimination Bill to the Parliament in 1983, it was urgently needed. At that time, women could be sacked when they married or became pregnant.

"Banks could refuse to lend to women. Universities rarely considered women for postgraduate scholarships or research grants.

"This was the environment in which I, as part of the Hawke Government, introduced the Sex Discrimination Bill."

The Bill was passed into law not only by the Labor Government, but also with the support of Professor Peter Baume, a Liberal senator who crossed the floor to support the Bill.

"Peter I've thanked you before, I thank you again, and I thank you on behalf of the women of Australia," she said.

Professor Peter Baume was a Federal Senator from 1974 through to 1991, and then served as Chancellor of the ANU from 1994 - 2006. He has also had a long and distinguished career in medicine and academia.

In his address, Professor Baume also reflected on the need for continual progress towards gender equity.

"The glass ceiling today really exists. Of the 193 member states of the United Nations, just 12 have female heads of government," he said, referring to an article recently published in New Scientist.

"The problem is now. It's not theoretical, it's now."

He applauded the University's work towards gender equity through the SAGE Athena SWAN program.

"We as a community are dumb if we don't use all of the talent available to us," Professor Baume said.

The Vice-Chancellor also used the occasion to launch the ANU Vice-Chancellor's Annual Awards, and said he looks forward to hearing about the extraordinary ANU staff who are making a difference in Australia and around the world.

Hear the full Foundation Day Lecture, now available on the Experience ANU podcast on Soundcloud.