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The Australian Science Festival, Canberra, Friday, 1 May 1998: address on the occasion of the opening.

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FRIDAY. 1 MAY 1998

It’s a great pleasure to be here to open this year’ s Australian Science Festival The Festival, which is in its 6th year and part o f National Science Week, is well established as Australia’s premier science event Indeed, it has become an important part o f our national life This year it is expected to attract over l 50,000 people to Canberra from other parts o f Australia and from overseas, with 160 separate events.

One o f the continuing themes o f the Festival is that science is everything ... everywhere .. and for everyone. Another is that science, technology and engineering are an integral part o f the culture and social perspectives o f our civilisation.

It’s sometimes thought that the term “ culture” relates only to the arts. But that’s not so A people’ s “ culture” encompasses their whole worldview - the way they see and interpret themselves, their beliefs and their society. And that being so, culture is as much the domain o f the scientist as it is o f the author, performer or other artist. Thus, it was largely scientists - such as Newton, Galileo, Darwin and Einstein - who, by their ideas and by their demonstrated or postulated scientific truths or theories, changed and are changing the way we think about ourselves and our world within the universe o f time and space and matter. And, as the discoveries and speculations o f the present generation o f physicists, astronomers and computer scientists constantly remind us, the process o f change and o f thinking all things anew continues and w ill continue for so long as our world and our species survive.

In Australia, during the last century - people like Lawrence Hargrave, the aeronautical pioneer, Charles Todd who built the Overland Telegraph, Richard Daintree, the geologist whose name is given to the Daintree Forest o f North Queensland, Ian Clunies Ross who championed scientific research and its application, all had a significant impact on our realities and perceptions. And if that was true in the century before we became a nation in 1901, it w ill be equally true in 2001 when we w ill enter our second century as a nation as our world celebrates a new millennium For our nation’s leading scientists - people like Frank Fenner, who has worked for the eradication o f smallpox, the immunologist and medical administrator Gustav Nossal, the microbiologist Nancy M ills, the paediatrician Fiona Stanley, or Peter Doherty, the Nobel Laureate who was an honoured guest at last year’s Festival - continue to be men and women o f outstanding


vision and dedication who influence our perceptions, augment our knowledge and mould and enhance our lives.

These same qualities are needed by the new generation o f young people on the threshold o f a career in science, engineering or technology As we face an uncertain future - and really, there has never been a time when the future was not uncertain - the students o f today who will be the scientists o f tomorrow will need the same capacity for imagination, the same flair, the same human sympathies, the same ability to communicate and to capture the public imagination as their predecessors Indeed, the more we discover and know and understand, the more important science and scientists become to the lives o f us all

In recent years, a trend seems to have been emerging in which fewer students are going on to study the basic sciences - mathematics, physics, chemistry - at tertiary level There is no shortage o f students with the ability to become competent or even outstanding scientists, as we see from the achievements o f our International Science Olympians. But,

sadly, it seems that science education and a scientific career are receiving lower priorities from some students today. To reverse that trend, it is essential that we draw attention to the challenge and relevance o f science and technology and encourage scientific growth and

sustainability within modern Australia. It is also important that we encourage our young people to consider careers in science and technology. It is good to see that all these things are among the principal objectives o f this Festival It is also good to see that quite a number o f industries in the Canberra region are contributing to the Festival by conducting

Industry Career Tours for those undertaking science courses

This year, like last year, we have visitors and delegations from around the world attending the Festival And conversely, the Australian Science Festival w ill be contributing to other international events For example, it is organising a group o f some 20 students from every Australian State to attend the inaugural APEC Youth Science Festival to be held in Korea in August

And now, in accordance with the Festival’s emphasis upon science and youth, I invite Mr George Doukas, an Australian Science Olympian who won a gold medal in Canada last year at the Physics Olympiads, and a Canberra student, Ms Hui San Heng, who is representing Australia at the first APEC Youth Science Festival, to help me light the flame o f science and thereby launch the 1998 Australian Science Festival.