Australian-American Fulbright Commission Gala Presentation Dinner

Thank you Sara.

Thank you Aunty Violet for your beautiful Welcome to Country.

I start by acknowledging the Ngunnawal and Ngnambri people and pay my respects to elders, past, present and emerging.

And commit again the government, that I am proud to be a part of, to the implementation of the Uluru Statement from the Heart.

I also want to recognise and thank Larry Lopez, the Chair of the Board of Directors of the Australian-American Fulbright Commission.

The many Chancellors and Vice Chancellors who are here tonight.

Representatives of the US Embassy, the Fulbright Commission and the Kinghorn Foundation.


And most importantly the recipients of this year’s Fulbright Scholarships.

Paul Harpur was 14 when he was hit by a train.

The accident left him blind, but it didn’t dent his ambition.

For as long as he can remember Paul always wanted to be a runner. A sprinter.

12 years after that terrible accident he broke the Australian 100 record at the Melbourne Commonwealth Games.

As a boy Paul also dreamt of being a lawyer.

And he achieved that too.

He studied at Queensland University of Technology.

He got a Master’s there.

And a Phd.

Today he is an Associate Professor in the School of Law at the University of Queensland.

He’s also a dad.

And as you might have guessed, he is a Fulbright Scholar.

And he’s here tonight.

Paul’s just one of the five and a half thousand extraordinary people supported by this scholarship over the last 75 years.

Australians and Americans who have who have been shaped and changed by this opportunity.

And in turn have helped transform the world around them.

And now you join them.

You are also part of something bigger than that.

Mark Twain, that great American writer, said “travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry and narrow mindedness”.

This scholarship was conceived with that in mind.

It was initially funded from the sale of surplus US war material.

Scrap iron used to fund education.

An education exchange that William Fulbright hoped would bring “a little more knowledge, a little more reason, and a little more compassion into world affairs”.

You are part of that.

To American recipients here tonight, welcome to Australia.

I hope the time you spend with us are moments you will treasure for the rest of your lives.

And to Australian recipients, soak up every bit of the journey ahead.

I envy you.

If I could live my life again, I would want to do what you are doing.

The chance to study overseas is a rare one.

You’ll learn more than just what you can find online or draw out of any lecture hall or classroom conversation.

You will get a better sense of the world we live in. And how we can shape it and change it for the better.

And also, hopefully a better, deeper understanding of what makes up this unbreakable bond between our two great nations.

Paul Harpur’s Fulbright experience wasn’t without its challenges either.

He arrived at Harvard in February 2020.

Around the same time COVID did.

It cut short his time in the US, but as you can imagine it didn’t stop him.

Not much does.

I wish you a less eventful time. But no less no less meaningful.

Be inspired by those who have come before you and build bridges for those who will follow.

It’s now my pleasure to present the Australian and American Scholar and Postdoctoral recipients.