12 October 2015
Welcome to the Sunshine Coast and to this IUFRO (International Union of Forest Research Organisations) Conference. The University of the Sunshine Coast (USC) is delighted to be associated with this event.
A particular welcome to Dr Christoph Hartebrodt, IUFRO 3.08 Coordinator and Mr Tony Bartlett, ACIAR (Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research) Forestry Program Manager.
I’d like to acknowledge the Traditional Owners and Elders of the country we’re meeting on today and their Elders past and present. Referring back to the Welcome to Country, Lyndon Davis, who is a Senior Fellow of the University, is a veritable font of botanical information regarding Indigenous custodianship of the Coast - so he should get on very well with you people.
If you’re a visitor to the region you may not realise that many many place names here are derived from the Gubbi Gubbi descriptors for different parts of their territory.
So to play on the forestry theme – Buderim is the township that looks down over our Sippy Downs campus where you’ll be meeting on Wednesday. Buderim is derived from the Gubbi Gubbi word for “place of the hairpin Banksia” – Banksia spinulosa var collina.
Nambour is the “place of the red flowered bottlebrush” – Callistemon viminalis
We’re at Mudjimba – the “place of mid-jim”, an important food source for Aboriginal people – whitefellas call it Austromyrtus – and the small whitish pink berries really are quite tasty – maybe something to be domesticated – and a project for IUFRO small scale forestry.
Just off shore you may have spotted Mudjimba Island (Old Woman Island). Couple of dreamtime stories about its creation – one relates to two women who decided they’d had enough of men and became recluses on the resource rich island – eventually only one was left and the old woman eventually became part of the island. The other legend is a bit more gory – Mudjimba is the head of a slain warrior whose body (minus the head) is Mt Coolum which is about 5km north of here.
And so on – on the Sunshine Coast we are fortunate to be gifted a rich Indigenous cultural heritage that is very much alive in our region. I hope visitors get the opportunity to soak some of it up.
To get back to the conference and USC’s involvement.
I can’t resist mentioning that, like most Vice Chancellors, I used to be an academic and researcher – once – I hope my former colleague from the University of Queensland, David Lamb, could give me a positive reference on that - but I’m now well and truly lapsed as a researcher unfortunately.
Through remote sensing my research intersected with forests and forestry on a regular basis. At one stage I was briefly the convenor of the IUFRO wildlife chapter. And I worked on ACIAR forestry program projects for over a decade. At that stage Heather Crompton was your predecessor Tony. In a partnership between the then Northern Territory University, Northern Territory Bushfires Council and the Nusa Tenggara Timur (NTT) Provincial Government in Indonesia we conducted wildfire research in eastern Indonesia, as well as Australia’s Top End. So I feel quite at home and amongst friends at an event like this and I’ve watched the development of USC’s research profile in this area with personal interest.
Tropical Forests and People Centre
The Forest Industries Research Centre
And the Genecology Research Centre
We’ve forged a terrific group of researchers and we’ve carved out a niche for our institution.
USC is ambitious. We have been doubling student numbers about every 5 years. We’ve reached 12,000 students this year and the new strategic plan sets a target of 20,000 by 2020. If anything, our growth in research has been even more impressive – we’ve been trebling research income every 5yrs and while that’s been from a small base, we are now playing at the big end of town in our key areas like forestry. And here I’d like to acknowledge the partnership with ACIAR who are the largest single funder of research at USC.
We ‘ve set ourselves the goal of joining the top 100 universities under 50yrs of age by 2020 and for this to occur, we will need to continue growing our research outputs, our numbers of research students and our international research partnerships. Our forestry groups will be significant players in this quest and so too will international conferences like this one.
We’ve become active participants in IUFRO and its research groups, so we’re delighted to be hosting a major IUFRO event like this for the first time. And we also look forward to hosting a full IUFRO Board Meeting in 2018, which I understand will be a first for Australia.
Enjoy your conference and your time on the Sunshine Coast.