Well thank you very, very much, Professor Jefferson. 

Can I start by adding my acknowledgement of country.

Can I acknowledge also, my Parliamentary colleagues; members of the diplomatic corp; Chancellor Jillian Broadbent; Professor Paul Wellings, Vice-Chancellor; and all the team from the University of Wollongong; to you, Professor Roberts, and to all your team; and to the ARC and Professor Jefferson; and everyone who was able to join us here this morning.

It is a great pleasure to be able to launch the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Australian Biodiversity and Heritage (CABAH) on behalf of Senator the Hon Simon Birmingham, Minister for Education and Training. 

Can I just say that for Minister for International Development and the Pacific, I am especially pleased to be here, given the breadth and scope of the work that the ARC is going to do.

90 per cent of our overseas development assistance is focused in the Indo-Pacific, and, of course, our closeness to Indonesia and Papua New Guinea. I am sure that the ARC is actually going to give us a lot more information about that closeness.

Of course, as you know, Minister Birmingham at the moment is somewhat occupied.

He has an education package which he is navigating – and I say navigating – through the Senate.  

Minister Birmingham has asked me to pass on his apologies and his very, very best wishes for today's event.

Now we know that ARC Centres of Excellence are recognised as pinnacles of excellence in the Australian research landscape.

And through ARCs, such as this one, significant collaborations occur between universities, publicly funded research organisations, other research bodies, governments and businesses – in Australia and overseas – all supporting outstanding research.

They function as an important meeting place, a place of intersection for some of the greatest talents in the Australian research community and in the international research community.  

They lead significant advancement of Australia's capabilities and knowledge and become part of our identity as research innovators.

Understanding the natural and human history of Australia is fundamental to our understanding of who we are and what our place is in the world.

But this understanding is not one which comes from following a single narrow research pathway.

Only by uniting the threads of such fields as earth sciences, ecology, genetics, archaeology and Indigenous studies can the full narrative emerge of a story that begins long before European arrival.

The Australian Government through the Australian Research Council has awarded $33.75 million over seven years to the ARC Centre of Excellence for Australian Biodiversity and Heritage to create a world class interdisciplinary research program that will examine Australia's unique biodiversity and heritage.

Headquartered at the University of Wollongong, the Centre's partner organisations will also contribute significant additional funding of $1 million from the New South Wales Government and $11 million from partnering universities, museums and other organisations.

CABAH, led by Professor Roberts – himself an ARC Australian Laureate Fellow, will research into unique insights into human evolution and interactions using frontier technologies in archaeological science.

Professor, you and your team will tackle research and innovation challenges facing Australia and equip, as you have said, the next generation of researchers with the range of skills needed to traverse that important interface between science, technology, engineering and mathematics – STEM, as they have come to be known in shorthand – and the humanities, arts and social sciences – the HASS disciplines.

It will also inspire, we hope, future generations of young Australians to study STEM subjects and sustain their engagement in science.

The Centre's ground breaking research discoveries will be taken into Australian school curricula, and communicated to the wider community through an exciting engagement program.

To tell the story as it emerges, the Centre has planned a comprehensive program of education outreach and science communication events, for schools, museums, science festivals and through the digital media.

Professor Roberts, you have united a truly interdisciplinary research team to redefine how we approach a new understanding of our unique biodiversity and heritage, and how it connects with our near neighbours, PNG and Indonesia.

I am confident that this Centre will deliver on our National Innovation and Science Agenda and will be an international showcase for Australian research excellence, engagement and impact.

And so, on behalf of Minister Simon Birmingham, it gives me great pleasure to officially launch the ARC Centre of Excellence of Australian Biodiversity and Heritage.

Both Minister Birmingham and I look forward to hearing about the important insights and outcomes that you produce to help inform the management of Australia's natural and cultural resources into the future.

Last, but not least, Minister Birmingham has asked me specifically to say that he does plan to visit the university later this year and he looks forward to seeing the cross section of research highlights across the many research strengths that the University of Wollongong has.

Having been born and bred in the Illawarra, and having my office there, can I just say just how proud I am to be here today to participate in, yet again, another example of the University of Wollongong showcasing its truly world class achievements as a university.

Thank you for your kind attention.

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