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Launch and Commemoration of the birth of Sir Ian William Wark (1899-1965)
The Ian Potter Museum of Art, The University of Melbourne, Thursday 9 December 1999

Launch of the Australian Science and Technology Heritage Centre
The Honourable John Brumby MP
Minister for State and Regional Development

Thank you Gavan, Deputy Vice-Chancellor, David Solomon, John Swan, Family of Ian Wark, Ladies and gentlemen, I am delighted to have been invited here today for the official launch of Austehc The Australian Science & Technology Heritage Centre.

Australia has a very proud tradition of scientific and technological achievement that spans virtually all fields of endeavour. It is vitally important that we chronicle and document this heritage if we are to build further upon it in the future. It is also vital that as wide an audience as possible has access to these resources, if the benefits of science and technology are to be distributed equitably.

Science and technology can serve to facilitate the transition from declining to expanding industries; to foster socially beneficial innovation; and to "even out" disparities between the development of regions. The State Government is committed to promoting science & technology as a source of benefit to all rather than as a creator of winners and losers the knowledge rich and the knowledge poor. This means not just boosting its growth but also ensuring the equable distribution of its benefits.

On 11 November I made a landmark statement about information technology in this State - the first major statement of Government policy in the Victorian Parliament for six and a half years - which underlines our commitment to positioning Victoria as the nation's ICT leader. This strategy - Connecting Victoria - aims to integrate the information society into the State's mainstream economic and social agenda and will have major benefits for regional Victoria.

The strategy focuses on six major goals:

  • building a learning society through increased attention to lifelong learning for all Victorians;
  • taking a strategic approach to growing the industries of the future
  • boosting e-commerce;
  • connecting communities;
  • improving infrastructure and access; and
  • using ICT to promote a new politics based on consultation and openness.
I would like to confirm once again that we will be maintaining the 1999 Budget allocation of $310 million over five years for initiatives that will strengthen this State's science, technology and engineering capabilities.

One recently announced initiative is the Technology Commercialisation Program that commits funding of $20 million over the next four years to support commercialisation of Victoria's science and technology knowledge base. The objectives of the Technology Commercialisation Program are to create wealth, promote investment and create job opportunities by fostering the creation and growth of technology companies. It's about turning smart ideas into good business.

Through ongoing consultation with the diverse range of stakeholders involved in science and engineering in Victoria, we seek to identify the areas to which we can make worthwhile and sustainable contributions. A science and engineering advisory council will shortly be appointed to assist the development of these strategies.

A major strand that runs through all of the programs is support for initiatives that promote learning about science and engineering throughout the community. Universal access to knowledge and resources is essential if Victoria and Australia - is to prosper as a "Smart" location.

The launch of the Australian Science and Technology Heritage Centre is therefore a most welcome development and one that has the potential to make a significant contribution to our social and economic wellbeing. Austehc undertakes collaborative projects and activities relating to the history and heritage of science, technology and medicine.

It facilitates access to the outcomes of these actions in order to support academic scholarship, secondary and primary education, and general community awareness. Its research into important figures and organisations who paved the way for today's activities in medicine, engineering, industry, agriculture and the environment is delivered via a user friendly online database, designed for a variety of audiences.

Austehc plays a valuable role in spreading this body of knowledge beyond purely academic circles and in disseminating it throughout all sectors of the community via increasingly accessible Internet facilities.

It is particularly fitting that such a centre has been established in Victoria, the birth-place of significant figures such as Macfarlane Burnet and Jean MacNamara. Victoria has also been home to many perhaps lesser-known, yet equally important, contributors to scientific achievement. The Centre will bring to the attention of a wider audience the contributions of people such as Ian Wark, whose detailed archives are being opened here today.

The people featured in Austehc's ever expanding archive serve to highlight Victoria's strong history of scientific achievement, which has resulted in our extremely solid science & technology base. Victoria has world class educational facilities as exemplified by our present setting, the highest university participation of any State and the highest number of students in engineering, science, mathematics and computing. We want to keep it that way.

Victoria leads Australia on business skill indicators. And Victoria accounts for 38 per cent of the national R&D total as well as being home to Australia's largest R&D laboratories in both the private sector Ericsson - and the public sector - Telstra. Maintaining and further developing this base and promoting science & technology across the community will be a major key to Victoria's future prosperity and wellbeing. It will underpin our industrial growth and competitiveness.

Victoria is, and has always been, Australia's manufacturing heartland. Increasingly our manufacturers are focusing on R&D and design skills to create products - from car components to golf club heads - that are among the best in the world. Elaborately Transformed Manufactures, which typically comprise high-technology processes, will soon represent 40 per cent of the State's export earnings.

Science and Technology is also central to the development of other industries where Victoria is currently setting the pace such as biotechnology and multimedia. Shortly we will commence a strategic audit of Victorian industry to identify the areas of greatest potential and the strategies needed to develop this potential. We will work hard to attract and retain investment, aggressively promoting Victoria as a centre of manufacturing excellence.

We are therefore sponsoring the production of the Australian Science and Technology Heritage Centre's project entitled Australian Science at Work. It will be a web-based information resource about Australia's scientific, technological and medical institutions. It will document the role of industries, research organisations, scientific societies and other related organisations in transforming science into the tangible objects - buildings and products that influence all of us and contribute so significantly to the building of our nation.

Linked to this, we are also co-operating with Austehc to transfer the industry specific guides to research that were produced by Industry Victoria to an on-line format. This will serve to further disseminate the benefits of the research currently being undertaken and help to accelerate the take-up of new technologies and processes.

These projects will take their place alongside the many other excellent programs that are now being provided via this innovative and valuable Centre. Congratulations to all individuals and groups involved in its establishment.

And with great pleasure let me now declare The Australian Science & Technology Heritage Centre officially launched.

Thank you.

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Created: 15 December 1999
Last modified: 16 December 1999
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