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Faculty of Computing, Health and Science - Occasional Speaker

Saturday, 28 August 2010, 2.30pm

Professor Ralph Martins


Chancellor, Vice-Chancellor, distinguished guests, university, colleagues, graduands, ladies and gentlemen. I too would like to acknowledge the traditional owners of this land and pay my respects to their elders, both past and present.

Graduands, I congratulate you on this your special day that celebrates the successful completion of your degrees at ECU.

In November, last year I was pleasantly surprised and deeply humbled and privileged with the great honour which had been bestowed upon me as WA Australian of the Year for 2010, especially in the presence of other outstanding Australians who have been nominated for this prestigious award. These other candidates had all made outstanding contributions in their respective fields of interest and if I was on the judging panel I would not have picked me!

The other successful WA recipients were:

1. June Butcher, WA Senior Australian of the Year 2010

2. Rhonda Parker, WA Australian Hero of the Year 2010

3. Trooper, Mark Donaldson, Young Australian of the Year 2010

In the interests of time I will only highlight the achievements of the WA Senior Australian of the Year, June Butcher, but it reflects achievements of similar calibre of both Rhonda Parker and Trooper Mark Donaldson.

June Butcher’s love of animals resulted in her founding Kanyana Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre in 1986. Kanyana now has 140 volunteers and operates 365 days of the year caring for over 2,000 animals each year. Kanyana provides advice, hands on care and expertise to ensure sick, injured and orphaned native animals are given a second chance and released back into the wild. The centre receives animals with injuries from predators, motor vehicles and human impact on the environment.

On getting to know the WA recipients and the Australian of the Year recipients I recognized that even though we came from different backgrounds and equally diverse fields we ALL shared a number of key qualities. These include the desire to contribute to reducing suffering in our world whether it be for humans or animals. Believing in ourselves in spite of facing considerable and at times seemingly impossible challenges, a very strong work ethic, the ability to attract many other like minded people to help in our respective causes and we EACH have a dream we ARE following. My dream was to see an end to Alzheimer’s disease in my lifetime and to this end I have been working very hard to develop an early diagnostic test for this devastating disease, which is reaching epidemic proportions and threatens to cripple our economy in the near future. Early diagnosis in turn will enable both prevention and effective treatment to be developed and thereby avert this looming epidemic.

I am pleased to note that with considerable support from members of the public led by the McCusker family, the McCusker Foundation, ECU, Hollywood Private Hospital the WA State government and Hall and Prior, my team at ECU is leading the field internationally in the development of such a blood test for Alzheimer’s.

It would be remiss of me if I did not acknowledge the considerable efforts of my research team that have worked so hard to achieve our goals and take great pleasure and pride in the achievements of many of my former students who are now playing leading roles in the fight against Alzheimer’s. One such outstanding team member is Dr Giuseppe Verdile, who is on the stage today to celebrate the graduation of our PhD student, Dr Sudarsan Krishnaswamy, whose work is a world first and holds the key towards developing an effective treatment for Alzheimer’s.

One of Eleanor Roosevelt’s famous quotes was that “The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams”. However to besuccessful in realizing our dreams we need to act on them by first planning a course of action and then working very, very hard to actually put it into action. One of the many old sayings that my father used to often quote to me was that “Action speaks louder than words” and this became my motto!

A well known American basketball coach called John Wooden defined true success as “peace of mind through knowing that you have made the effort to do the best of which you are capable”.

This is what I practice and instil in my own students and find it appealing because it means that anyone from anywhere can live a successful life with a bit of hard work and self belief. I am also a very strong advocate for the notion that you should “NEVER let what you cannot do….interfere with what you CAN DO.” And this positive CAN DO attitude has been an essential ingredient in my own recipe for success!

On your journey to successfully establish yourselves in your respective careers please also remember the values of community engagement that you have seen so strongly emphasised and demonstrated at ECU and take on a cause that will help better our community at large. I can assure you from firsthand experience as a member of St Vincent De Paul and Rotary that the sense of personal fulfilment that you will receive is worth much much more than what you give of yourself.. All it takes is one act of service – one blow against injustice – to send forth what Robert Kennedy called that “tiny ripple of hope.” That’s what changes the world. That one act, an act by you.

Graduands,once again, my congratulations! You have every right to be proud of your achievements and I’m sure that each of you will find a way to follow your dreams but always remember and acknowledge ALL those wonderful people who helped you to this stage in your life’s journey, particularly your family and friends AND your teachers at ECU. May you become a living example of the excellence you have seen and experienced at your alma mater.

I end with a quote from Mark Twain.

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.

Good luck and best wishes for the future.

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