Thank you for your generous welcome Chancellor, academic staff, distinguished guests, ladies, gentlemen and – most importantly – graduands.
I acknowledge the traditional owners of this land on which we meet, the Darug people. I thank them for their custodianship and pay my respects to their Elders past and present. I also extend my respects to any Indigenous Australians present this morning, and acknowledge that there is still such a long way to go in closing the gap in educational outcomes for Indigenous Australians.
Graduands, I consider it not only a pleasure but a sincere privilege to be here with you on your special day - a day where we acknowledge your achievement and hard work over many years.
As you all know, education is the greatest equaliser and the foundation of a fair and just society.
My personal education story is certainly very different to most people in this room. I grew up in central west NSW, left school in Year 10 and enlisted in the Australian Regular Army where I served as rifleman, paratrooper, transport soldier and Non Commissioned Officer.
While it may not seem like it on the surface, my time in the army was undoubtedly the beginning of my professional education – albeit a very different professional education to what you have all experienced over the past few years.
Upon my discharge nearly a decade later, my academic interest grew and I embarked on further studies in business and commerce, focusing on corporate governance and social economics. I now stand before you as an alumnus of the Australian Institute of Business with an MBA.
I remember my graduation very fondly – not just because it was only a few years ago, but because of the unparalleled sense of pride and achievement it conjured. This moment in your lives is a memorable day, just as mine was for me.
As you embark on the journey of life and aim to fulfil the opportunities gifted to you through your education, be assured that equally important days await in the exciting and ever changing world of business — a world that I know firsthand has boundless limitations, countless hurdles but the potential to bring great rewards of all kinds.
As the influence of business in all aspects of modern society continues to grow, business practices are becoming more innovative, but are also more intently scrutinised for their impacts on society and the global business world. In the careers you are about to embark on, you will no doubt confront the challenges that business managers of years gone by have found themselves faced with.
However, modern business is increasingly expected to extend their focus beyond financial outcomes to also include environmental and social outcomes – no small feat by any definition. With the quality education you have all received here at WSU and your achievement during your time here, I have no doubt you are well placed to navigate your way through these challenges.
The friends you have made throughout your time at WSU may or may not be seated beside you today. But they are all part of lifelong personal and professional networks that will serve you greatly throughout your lives.
It is important to reciprocate their support, strength and advice. This reciprocation is the key to maintaining strong personal and professional relationships, without which one cannot be truly successful both in business and in life.
Some of you may be the first in your family to graduate from university, some of you may come from a long line of academic excellence, but each and every one of you has the opportunity to achieve great things in your field.
Be proud of your achievements and be excited about what is yet to come. History shows that society’s great advances have come about as a result of bold and courageous ideas being combined with pragmatic execution.
In your time at WSU you will have learned both of these important traits, and this leaves you in the strongest possible position to launch into the future and all it may bring.
Once again, congratulations on your achievements and all the very best for the future.