Brian’s big plans for Indigenous students and climate action

7 February 2020

In years to come, The Australian National University can look back on this moment as the time we made real our commitment to Indigenous Australians.

Vice-Chancellor Professor Brian Schmidt has announced a $50 million endowment for Indigenous scholarships at The Australian National University (ANU) and the University's bold pledge to become carbon-negative.

The Vice-Chancellor announced these major initiatives as part of the State of the University address to ANU staff at Llewellyn Hall on Friday.

The Kambri Scholarships will provide major financial support as well as a tailored student experience that sets students up for academic, professional and personal success. 

ANU will provide $25 million in matching funds to help establish a $50 million endowment to fund the scholarships in perpetuity. 

Vice-Chancellor Professor Brian Schmidt said the University will match donations to the endowment dollar for dollar. 

"The investment returns will fund the program in perpetuity, so never again will Indigenous students miss out on the ANU experience," Professor Schmidt said. 

"In years to come, The Australian National University can look back on this moment as the time we made real our commitment to Indigenous Australians.

"And they, along with their fellow graduates, will become the leaders Australia turns to in order to tackle the problems their own generation is facing."

Professor Schmidt acknowledged the challenging start to the year and the resilience of the University community in the face of bushfires, smoke, hail and coronavirus.

He said "an almost universal concern across our campus is the impact of climate change", before pledging that ANU would become carbon-negative "as fast as possible".

"The world is looking to us, and other leading universities, for action and solutions, so the Chancellor and I resolved that we must do something significant," Professor Schmidt said.

The University's Climate Change Institute will convene a group of staff and students to chart how ANU can remove more carbon than it emits each year.  

Professor Schmidt also pledged that year 2020 would be the "year of the student experience".

"I will not be satisfied with simply meeting their expectations. I am setting this University the goal of delivering a student experience that is as good as the best in the world," he said.

Other endeavours for the University will include being the 'brains trust' to the policymaking community, and striving to improve its service to the Government and the nation.

"The Government is entitled to expect this from its national university, which it endows with the National Institute Grant, and we must exceed their expectations," Professor Schmidt said.

Chancellor outlines her vision

The 2020 State of the University address was Chancellor the Hon Julie Bishop's first chance to address the ANU community, since taking on the role on 1 January.

Ms Bishop is the 13th ANU chancellor and first woman to take up the role since the University's founding in 1946.  

In a wide-ranging and inspiring speech, she outlined her vision for the University and why ANU must be truly representative of the entire nation. 

"I want for every student in Australia that has the will and the capacity to study at ANU, whatever their family background, whatever their circumstances, if they are able to gain a place here at ANU, we will give them the hope and the opportunity that they so richly deserve," she said. 

"ANU must continue to strive for excellence and embrace and defend fiercely academic freedom and independence within a culture of challenging accepted wisdom and the status quo. Our students, our researchers, our academics must be and feel supported in their pursuit of knowledge and understanding. 

"I've always believed that Australia, as one of the most industrialised and developed nations on earth, with one of the highest standards of living with a top 20 economy, that we should have at least one university in the top 20 around the world and that is my ambition and aspiration for ANU."

Ms Bishop also spoke about the excellence of ANU and the importance of providing world-leading advice to the Government as it faces some of its toughest challenges yet. 

"I believe that ANU has a national responsibility to come up with evidence-based solutions to the great challenges facing our region, facing our nation," she said. 

"And many of our researchers, indeed our own esteemed Vice-Chancellor, have been recognised globally for their great discoveries contributing to the benefit of humanity.

"This is a prestigious institution. It has national and global significance, it has an enviable reputation for excellence in teaching and research and I've had a long-held interest in improving the quality of the Higher Education sector in this country.

"As Foreign Minister I came to know the university so well because it was my go-to university for public policy development. Whether it was the Coral Bell School or the National Security College or the Climate Change Institute or the Fenner School. The research and the data and the analysis was first class, always had credibility and was always accessible."
Drawing on her experience setting up the New Colombo Plan as Foreign Minister, her speech also outlined the importance of international education and the positive impact it has for the nation, as well as Australian students. 

"ANU was a partner from the outset and already over 1,085 of our students have been recipients of New Colombo Plan funding in about 25 countries and they come back here, they come home with new perspectives, new ideas, new skills, maybe a second language," she said. 

"I came back into government as Foreign Minister, I introduced the New Colombo Plan as Foreign Policy and as Brian indicated, around 60,000 students have now been funded to live and study and work in one of 40 countries in our region."

Read the 2020 State of the University transcript: