18 September 2023: As graduates walk across the stage in the September round of the University of Canberra’s graduation ceremonies, the institution’s alumni counter will tick over to mark a significant milestone: 100,000 alumni.
Held over 18 and 19 September at the National Convention Centre in Canberra, the ceremonies will see 1,400 graduates receive their testamurs.
The 100,000 graduates are counted from the University of Canberra and its days as the Canberra College of Advanced Education (CCAE), which was established in 1967. The first graduating cohort was in 1972, but the first graduation ceremony was held the following year, in 1973.
In 1990, the college became the University of Canberra.
Numbers are only meaningful when they translate to impact, and Vice-Chancellor of the University Professor Paddy Nixon says that the 100,000 milestone is something to be celebrated across the University community, with graduates of the University making significant contributions across sectors, communities and regions.
“Our research excellence underpins our teaching, and is a big part of the reason we can serve the community and respond quickly to the needs of local industry and the government,” he said.
“When you think of the health infrastructure of the ACT – UC is the foundation on which it is built. When we think about the education of our children – UC is at the heart of every school. When you think about how we plan the future of the city and region– our students and alumni are helping to guide and provide support every step of the way.”
Addressing this round’s graduands, Professor Nixon said that he hoped their university experience had been enhanced by the people they met on their journey and the memories they had made.
“This year, we launched Connected, our new 10-year strategy, which outlines our clear commitment to our place in Canberra and the region, and to Ngunnawal Country and its peoples,” he said.
“The success of our endeavour in this place will be measured by the success of our graduates, the quality of our education programs, and the impact of our research.”
The September ceremonies also mark the last for Chancellor Tom Calma AO, as he retires from the role at the end of the year.
Professor Calma became the University’s Chancellor in 2014, and is the first Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander man to hold the position in an Australian university.
Professor Nixon said that Professor Calma is one of the most respected Chancellors in Australia, and leaves a rich legacy.
“Tom has taken the University on a great journey to immerse our institution in the Canberra community,” he said.
“He has always been a passionate advocate for equality in education and takes great pride in our commitment to embracing diversity, reducing inequalities, and the priority we place on adopting Indigenous ways across UC and recognising the traditional custodians on the land on which our Bruce campus is located.”
Chancellor Calma said that the twice-yearly graduation ceremonies had been his highlights for the past 12 years.
“I’ve never missed one – I even scheduled a double knee replacement operation in 2017 so that I could attend the second ceremony that year, and be fit to officiate the first ceremony the following year,” he said.
“There is so much meaning at the ceremonies. It’s about recognising the students, both domestic and international, who have dedicated these years of their lives to study – seeing the relief and pride on their faces, and the pride of their families and loved ones.”
Professor Calma knows that feeling well – he graduated his own daughter, Alice Calma, when she received a Bachelor of Educational Studies in 2017.
“At UC, we take great pride in the first in family study opportunities that we offer, and in our drive for equity for people from all walks of life,” he added.
“I am particularly proud of how robust our initiatives for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students are, and the large number of Indigenous students we’ve had across all disciplines.”
While expressing sadness that these will be his last graduation ceremonies as Chancellor, Professor Calma also noted that the last one will be an event of great joy.
“Knowing that we will have graduated over 100,000 students, that is truly amazing,” he said. “I am also very glad to know that Lisa Paul AO PSM will be taking over as Chancellor in January 2024 – I have every confidence in her and know that she will do a fine job.”
Photos by Richard Poulton.