Monday, 09 October 2023

Royal Institute of Australia Reasons to Hope Exhibition

Rod and I are pleased to be with you at RiAus this evening, the first time in my capacity as Governor, to unveil this striking artwork ‘Reasons for Hope’, which also features on the cover of the 100th edition of Cosmos magazine.

In an earlier role as Australia’s Deputy High Commissioner to the United Kingdom, I met Baroness Susan Greenfield, then Director of the Royal Institution. She had just returned from a stint as an Adelaide Thinker in Residence and was very taken with the idea, subsequently realised of course, of establishing RiAustralia.

As is well‑known, one of my distinguished predecessors, Sir Mark Oliphant, made very direct, and major, contributions to science. I came to know Sir Mark a little though his biographer, my step-father, Stewart Cockburn, and am sure he would have been a strong supporter of RiAustralia’s objectives.

It is my pleasure to lend support in other ways, through celebrating our state’s fine history of scientific discovery; championing our world-leading scientific research and acknowledging the efforts of scientists and science communicators in our community.

Rod tells me the Royal Institution was undertaking science communication a good century before others started to think and talk about it in similarly structured ways.

As Governor, it is my privilege to speak first-hand with emerging and established South Australian scientists and engineers about the innovative ways in which they are developing responses to some of the biggest challenges our society faces.

Only last week Rod and I took part in a roundtable at Lot Fourteen on the emerging challenges and opportunities of AI.

I have noticed that, whether they are developing AI applications, new medical treatments, sustainable technologies that are kinder to our planet, or ways to reduce space junk, the scientists, the engineers, the science administrators – all are driven by common factors: passion for their work, and hope for our future.

There is an old saying that the human body can live for about forty days without food, but not a second without hope, and I suspect there is truth to this.

In times of great challenge – such as climate change, or the rise of disinformation via the internet – it is important that we remain hopeful for the future.

Not by the way of ‘toxic positivity’, as it is currently termed, but by pursuing ambitious goals while keeping our feet firmly on the ground.

Shifting our perspective can often provide the insight we need to move forward in addressing great challenges, and it’s heartening to see this concept at the heart of the ‘Reasons for Hope’ artwork, by renowned perspective artist, Jenny McCracken.

In the video we’ve just seen, I was struck by Jenny’s description of how she chose to depict paint rising up and defying gravity – representing the coming together of our intellectual ideas to be transformed into a flood of solutions, spilling out of cupped hands.

The result is a striking and thought-provoking piece, and I congratulate Jenny on its completion.

I’m looking forward to seeing the work installed on the outside of your building, where thousands of South Australians will see it every year.

I also congratulate Cosmos Magazine on publishing its 100th edition, also titled ‘Reasons for Hope’.

As the only remaining long-form science magazine in Australia – which also has a significant overseas readership - you play a crucial role in encouraging Australians to engage with science.

Thank you to everyone at the Royal Institution of Australia for your vision, dedication and hard work.

You provide Australians with robust, evidence-based information upon which they can form their ideas, their opinions, and ultimately their hopes for the future of their own lives and the future of our planet – and for this you deserve to be proud.

Coming events