Opening remarks at the InnovationAus Awards

Sydney NSW

Good evening, everyone. I want to begin by acknowledging the Gadigal people of the Eora nation, the Traditional Owners of this land, and pay my respects to elders past and present and I pay my respects to any Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the audience today. I also want to recognise that I represent an electorate that sits on Darug land, and I want to acknowledge and thank them for their custodianship. And I wanted to say thank you to Matthew for his welcome to country earlier. 

If I may just observe when Matthew spoke to you in language that a few years ago – well, not a few years ago, it would be a few decades now – that was a very provocative and radical thing to do. Because for many years you weren’t allowed to do that. If you can imagine the impact of that for a people who transmit culture and knowledge about the land and the way to survive in one of the toughest continents: one, to separate family; and two do what we saw happen over those years needs to be acknowledged, particularly as we are but a few days away from 30 years since an Australian Prime Minister at Redfern was one of the first to engage the truth-telling. 

It is important that we also commit as a government, if I may say, as a Minister for Science, we are going to do way more in terms of acknowledging and preserving and projecting First Nations knowledge as part of the work we do. We’ve already started that process with the Chief Scientist leading the way on the refresh of the national science priorities, and we’ve included for the first time as a country acknowledgement as a priority First Nations knowledge, and we’ll continue to do that as a government moving forward. 


If I can also acknowledge there are a number of people who may or may not be here, but I’ve got to acknowledge them. I think my counterpart, the Federal Shadow Minister for Science, Paul Fletcher, I don’t know if he’s here, but g’day. I don’t think Victor Dominello is here, but I just want to say when I grow up I want to be a rock star like him. And I also want to acknowledge he is a brother from another political mother. But I do want to pay my respects to Victor’s contribution. This will probably be his last InnovationAus major function as a New South Wales Minister. I don’t care what side of politics you’re on – if you join in the national interest to advance the national interest, I’ll work with you. And I certainly respect that in Victor. 

The Chief Scientist, who’s a patron, David Thodey who’s a legend. Where are you, David? He had to go? Is it something I said? Everyone at InnovationAus, I just want to thank everyone. Well done to you all. This is huge. So many people that are here tonight. And it is fantastic. Can we give it up for InnovationAus for doing this. 


This is important. Why? Not just because we can get together after what we’ve been through over the last few years. It is important as a country that we celebrate smarts, know-how and what you are all doing to contribute to advancing this country in the way that you do. It means a great deal. And so, to be able to have people nominated in this way, celebrated in this way and for you to all come together in this way is no small thing. It is a big thing that we should be celebrating more and more. I’m absolutely determined that we do that. 

I want us to also know that as a country – and I notice [indistinct] and his contribution in that terrific video that was put together – in terms of re-imaging the way we do things. You all have a big role to play in helping us re-imagine and get things done. And when I say to you we want to celebrate know-how, can I just emphasise to you all, this is not just going to be about words; but this is going to be about deed as well. 

And we are going to bring in and introduce in the next few weeks one of the biggest co-investment funds this nation has seen to support your ideas, and that is going to happen with the National Reconstruction Fund. I’m not going to go and list all these government things we’ve done and drone on like a politician, but I just want you to know what we are going to do a number of things to be able to assist you in helping the nation longer term. And we are committed to doing that in so many ways. 

[That involves] thinking ahead and not being behind the curve on things like, for example, quantum technologies, where we punch above our weight and do so well. So making sure we’ve got a national quantum strategy, a national robotics strategy, feed that into the National Reconstruction Fund so we have those investments made so you never feel – never have to feel that the only place where you will get that support to grow your firm and country and advance our interests is by going offshore. 

We’re going to do it here. We’re going to do it with you, and we are going to make sure that is a reality. And I’m also going to stop waving my arms around and ranting the way I do. But I get worked up. 

And the reason – okay, I’m going to continue to rant – and the reason I get worked up is this: because I think that if we get these policies right, they reflect something not a metric, not a KPI, not some sort of political slogan; they reflect the belief in who we are as a people because it reflects our ability to get things done and that we don’t have to wait for someone else offshore to think of the next solution to our problems. You can do it. We’ll put you to the test. Some of you will be recognised tonight as nominees and eventual winners. Thank you very much for what you’re doing for the nation, and thank you InnovationAus for giving a platform for us all to recognise that. Rant over. 

SPEAKER: Thank you, Minister. It’s really nice to have such energy and leadership, and it’s always a delight to hear you speak. And we are delighted that you were able to join us tonight. So thank you.