Dean Forbes


Aerial UTS Function Centre

Ultimo, Sydney

24 November 2014

Professor Dean Forbes

Matthew Flinders Distinguished Professor Emeritus

Flinders University

Good morning. I want to begin by expressing my thanks to Dr Chun Jiang for the invitation to attend this first graduation ceremony of Elite Education Institute.

It is a joyful occasion. For you the graduates, of course, your family and friends, and those who have taught you.

We live in a world that is changing fast and relentlessly. 

Knowledge, skills and the ability to think widely, logically and creatively are valued more than ever before in human history.

I stress the importance of creativity. Creativity demonstrated by the emergence of digital technology and the ‘sharing economy’. Creativity in the arts and humanities. Creativity in the ‘bespoke economy’, the micro-economy of artists and artisans.

Of course, the words ‘creative accounting’ may have mixed meanings for professional accountants…

As higher education graduates you are privileged. You have acquired qualifications that will open opportunities for you now and in the future.

Take your chances. Take risks. See where they lead you.

I say this from the heart. Higher education transformed my life. When I finished school as a 16 year old my strategy (calling it a strategy is an overstatement) was to find a source of income that would enable me to spend most of my time surfing.

I commenced a Bachelor of Arts intending to be a teacher, primarily because of the generous holidays.

Within a year or so of starting my studies I realized that there were more exciting things to do than surf all day. It was the late 1960s. I became absorbed by the massive events in Indonesia, Vietnam, China and Papua New Guinea. After graduation I boarded a plane to take up a job at the University of Papua New Guinea, and I followed up by doing a PhD in Indonesia, and later spent much of my time in Vietnam and China. 

You are graduates in Business and Professional Accounting. The opportunities open to you are numerous, and diverse.

Today we are standing in Australia’s most significant hub of innovation and start-ups. I’m speaking of the arc of suburbs from Paddington through Surry Hills, Redfern, Ultimo, Pyrmont and adjacent suburbs.

Similar concentrations of new innovative businesses are emerging across the Asia Pacific in cities such as Singapore, Hong Kong, Tokyo, Seoul, Osaka, Pusan and Taipei.

This explosion of new businesses will help build the foundations of economic growth and create opportunities for skilled graduates like you.

As graduates don’t ever forget that along with opportunity comes responsibility and humility. Wear your learning lightly. Not everyone has the same chances in life.

Regardless of which city or country we live in our communities are diverse, and constantly changing. We should welcome and respect that diversity. We cannot, and should not, turn back the clock.

Some call it becoming a ‘global citizen’. I never felt entirely comfortable with the term ‘global citizen’. I have four daughters. Until last year they lived on four different continents; now its three continents. But they always felt they were Australian even if a permanent return to Australia was unlikely.

Our identities are as complex as the diverse cities in which we live. We each need to tolerate, even celebrate, that diversity. At home and in the workplace. Or when Australia wins the next FIFA world cup. I am an optimist.

I hope that your study and your experiences living in Australia together help you along on a happy, prosperous and successful career path.

Thank you again Dr Chun. As an academic I always relish the opportunity to talk to a captive audience.

And, once again, my congratulations to the Elite graduates of 2015. And best wishes to you and your families.