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Re-opening of the Shine Dome, Australian Academy of Science, Acton ACT


This is Ngunnawal Country. Tonight we are all meeting together on this Ngunnawal Country. We acknowledge and pay our respects to the Elders.

Good evening.

Linda and I are delighted to be with you on this significant occasion.

The reopening of the Australian Academy of Science Shine Dome has been a long time coming – a little over two years, five months – and eagerly anticipated.

It looks fantastic.

It always has.

At the opening of the Shine Dome in May 1959 the Academy’s inaugural President, Sir Mark Oliphant, remarked, ‘You only need to look around you to appreciate how successful this pioneering enterprise has been.’

Three years earlier the members of the Academy’s Building Design Committee said they ‘wanted a building that would be of a very high order aesthetically, judged from a non-traditional standpoint’.

I think the Committee members would be very pleased with the Shine Dome of today.

The building’s signature 710-tonne concrete dome has created some structural stresses over the last 63 years as well as sound issues and optical interference.

However, the combined expertise of industrialists, business associates, architects, mechanical engineers, acoustic engineers, builders and committees has created a building fitting for the pursuit of scientific excellence and the work of Fellows of the Academy.

Like science itself, the Shine Dome continues to surprise, amaze and endure.

When the hailstorm hit Canberra on 20 January 2020, Linda and I were in the United Arab Emirates for official engagements.

We saw firsthand the impact of the damage around Canberra upon our return.

It was severe and widespread and the Shine Dome bore the full brunt of the hailstorm.

When I reflect on that weather event and the other big hits inflicted on our nation in recent years – fire, flood, drought, cyclones, a mouse plague and a pandemic – I am, perhaps counterintuitively, imbued with a sense of confidence and optimism about our future.

That may sound like an odd or even glib statement to make.

It is not.

It is informed by, in part, my observations of the Australian character and the capacity of Australians to tackle and solve big problems.

At our core we are a gritty, determined and innovative people.

Linda and I see it an individual and at a community level.

And we see it more broadly in your work and in the work of the scientific community you represent.

Academy Fellows have dedicated their careers to science, to humanity, and to solving the world’s challenges and creating new opportunities.

That’s what fuels my optimism for our future.

The Australian Academy of Science has had a remarkable few years, despite the obvious disruptions to its workplace.

It has helped improve Australians’ understanding of the benefits of immunisation.

It has published a climate report on the risks to Australia of a warming world.

It has launched a Champions Program to support the implementation of the decadal plan for nutrition.

It has launched a STEM Women database to raise the profile of women in STEM.

And, its three innovative school education programs have received multi-year funding to extend educational resources and program reach.

These are significant achievements. There are many others.

I was also delighted to see that four Academy Fellows were recognised in The Queen’s Birthday Honours List with appointments to the Order of Australia for outstanding service and exceptional achievements:

  • Professor Tanya Monro, appointed a Companion
  • Professor Jennie Brand-Miller and Professor Warren Ewens, appointed Officers
  • Professor David Gardner, appointed a Member.

Congratulations to all of you.

Tonight, we’re here to reopen your building, the Shine Dome.

It is an iconic building.

Its architecture and design inspires and befits those who make a unique and valuable contribution to humanity.

Put simply, it is a special place.

Yet its real power comes from within – from its people.

As elected Fellows of the Academy, you are amongst Australia’s best and brightest.

Our nation relies on you, believes in you and is willing you to succeed.

Thank you for what you do.