Listen to the 2016 Commencement Address

9 February 2016

So from today onwards, follow your dreams. Make a difference.

Vice-Chancellor Professor Brian Schmidt, Education Minister Simon Birmingham, Australian of the Year David Morrison, 2009 Australian of the Year Professor Mick Dodson and student leaders have welcomed new students to ANU.

In a commencement address to more than 2,000 students and staff, Professor Schmidt committed the University to work towards reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians, and to be a safe place for all students and staff.

Alongside ANUSA Women's Officer Linnea Burdon-Smith, he led the crowd in a pledge to ensure the campus is a safe place for all, and safe from violence, sexual harassment and assault.

He encouraged students to enjoy their time at ANU, to meet other students, and to reach their full potential.

"This place nurtured me. I want it to nurture you. It gave me an opportunity to push the boundaries and it will give you the opportunity to push the boundaries. It provided me with the environment to develop and grow, to learn and be mentored by those who came before me," he said.

"My ambition as Vice-Chancellor is to pay that forward. And make sure the University will provide that same environment for you."

The 2016 Australian of the Year, former chief of the army and ANU alumnus David Morrison AO, said it was a great honour to be back on campus, where he learned the value of self-appraisal.

"The ability for robust self-appraisal is something that I would attribute in no small measure to ANU. I had no memory of them sparing honest appraisal of me throughout the four years I spent here as an undergraduate," he said.

"ANU taught me the inestimable value of taking nothing at face value."

Education Minister Simon Birmingham said ANU students had the opportunity to transform their lives, and the world, through education.

"It's that opportunity that we have to transform not just your life and the lives of those around you, but of our world and our country that you should seek to strive for and take from the wonderful educational opportunities that are before you all as students of The Australian National University," he said.

ANU Students Association President Ben Gill said the University's cultural and disciplinary diversity continued to attract the best and brightest around the world.

"It is our curiosity which leads us to be the first to learn the nature of things, produce world-class research and change the world. But it is our passion for excellence, inclusivity and for a continuous improvement that ties us all together."

Postgraduate Students Association President Chris Wilson said everyone in the University community was committed to showing new students ways they can nurture their success and cherish their own identity.

"It is a place for you to be able to make yourself what you want to be," he said.

"Of course we'll encourage you to be yourself and pursue your dreams but we will also trust that you will be the best person to decide where you want to go."

Professor Dodson, Director of the National Centre for Indigenous Studies, said he was inspired by the new students and immensely proud to be a staff member at ANU.

"I ask you not to feel threatened about the journey some of you are about to embark upon, but rather to embrace what is really a wonderful opportunity, knowing that one day you will reflect back on this day and know that every step you've taken was worth it in the pursuit of your dreams," he said.

"There will opportunities afforded to you to help you map out your future, as you are tomorrow's leaders.

"Always remember this if you remember nothing else: education is not a destination or a commodity to be purchased off the shelf. Education is a lifetime journey. It's a journey of learning and seeking to understand and then sharing that understanding with others."

"I ask you to remember the wise words of the great Nelson Mandela - 'education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.'

"So from today onwards, follow your dreams. Make a difference."

The ANU Commencement Address, including all speeches, was recorded and can be viewed online