9 November 2017
I’m delighted you could join us tonight and that the University has the opportunity to make this small gesture of thanks to our most significant donors.
I find it interesting to reflect on the impact of donations to USC on the Sunshine Coast community. It has made a huge difference and in very different ways. To use a few examples:
The Thompson Institute is providing specialised mental health services that simply weren’t available before to a community that really needs them. Over time, this facility will develop new diagnostic tests and treatments that will benefit the whole Australian community – that’s the research component of the Institute. The Thompson Institute will also train the next generation of mental health practitioners.
We can look at the sports precinct, where once again philanthropy has helped us provide facilities that are attracting national and international attention. As you would know, the Sunshine Coast Lightning live over there – the Stadium will host seven home games in 2018 and every one will be sold out. We have Olympic and Paralympic swimming squads that don’t just keep talented locals on the Coast but now attract elite athletes from across Australia and the World. The USC Spartans are Australia’s most successful swimming club. This is all great for USC’s reputation and there are spinoffs in research and teaching, but again the biggest beneficiary is the Sunshine Coast community.
If we go to the cultural aspects of our community, and as many of you would no doubt remember, founding Vice-Chancellor Paul Thomas was determined that USC would contribute to this – we have the Art Gallery. With 13,000 visitors a year, it is a catalyst for a wonderful are collection, and once again provided by philanthropists.
The example go on and on, but I would like to finish by talking about scholarships and bursaries. We receive over 2,000 applications per year for scholarships and we are able to provide at least something to about 1,200 students. This year we distributed around $2.5 million with $800,000 of this coming from donors.
There are quite a few different aspects to the scholarship environment. Disadvantaged students are unlikely to be able to succeed at university without financial support. At the other end of the spectrum there are the talented students who will be lost to the Coast if we cannot acknowledge them with a scholarship because the southern universities will. Here it is as much about recognition of the money and the data is quite clear that if they complete university at a metropolitan university there is only a 25% chance they will return to regional Australia. If they study locally there is a 2 in 3 probability the will end of working regionally.
We cannot afford a brain drain. And it is not just about the academically talented. We don’t want to lose the athletes either. This year we launched a High Performance Sport program. It is there to ensure elite athletes get the support they need to be successful at university while they compete. To get into this program you need to be competing at the national or international level. In this first year we signed up 75 students. We give them lots of support, free parking and gym membership, and few get a scholarship. Viritually all of them would be offered a scholarship at University of Queensland or Griffith University.
I had a meeting a couple of weeks ago with two of our Rio Olympic Games swimming medallists, Taylor McKeown and Jake Packard. Both were on $20,000 scholarships at Griffith University. Taylor wanted to be at home and Jake wanted our Coach.
I could take about the High Performance Sport program for hours, not to mention the Sunshine Coast Lightning or the Australian Cycling Academy that will be announced tomorrow. But, all the sport business started with the philanthropy that facilitated the building of the first core infrastructure and that is why this group is so important to USC and the Sunshine Coast community.