SPEECH AT SGAC DINNER – 23 SEPTEMBER 2017
Your Excellency, the Honourable Hieu Van Le, distinguished guests including heads of space agencies, industry leaders, Space Generation Congress delegates, SGAC partners and sponsors, ladies and gentlemen.
It’s my honour to welcome you on behalf of the Space Industry Association of Australia, the local host of this year’s International Astronautical Congress. (In doing so I remind you that we meet on the traditional lands of the Kuarna people and we pay our respects to their elders and their ancient connection to their land.)
I would also like to congratulate the organisers and all participants in the Space Generation Congress proceedings. Once again you have achieved amazing results and we look forward to hearing more about your activities during the Congress.
You are no doubt aware that the hosting of this Congress has generated a large amount of community and media interest locally and there is a real feeling of excitement and anticipation as we approach the opening of the Congress on Monday. The fact that a team from Adelaide happened to win an unusual type of football match on Friday evening may also be a small contributing factor!
You may be interested to learn a little bit about the reason the Congress is being held in this city this year. There are many important contributing factors and without doubt the strong support of the South Australian Government, the City of Adelaide, the Adelaide Convention Bureau and our anchor sponsor Lockheed Martin Corporation were essential to our bid and the successful planning. But here is my version. The reason we are here can be traced back 70 years to the decision to establish the Woomera Rocket Range facilities in this State in the flat red Australian desert 600 kilometres to our north. (The history of Woomera and our space achievements are beautifully described in our new book ‘Australia in Space’ by Kerrie Dougherty and I encourage you to buy a copy as a souvenir of the Congress at Exhibition Booth No. 40.)
Since the 1950s Adelaide has been the home (or second home) of many Australian and in the earlier years of foreign scientists and engineers working on space-related projects at Woomera. That heritage has had a strong influence on the economic development of this State. Woomera has always been an Australian defence facility. Since the 1950s we have had an important defence research and contracting presence and this has contributed to the establishment of university research bodies such as the Institute of Telecommunications Research at the University of South Australia. I joined its Advisory Board in 1992 and this led to an opportunity for me to spend two years at the International Space University in Strasbourg France from 1995 to 1997. This in turn led to a bid by the three South Australian universities to host the ISU Summer Session Program in Adelaide in the winter of 2004. Seven years later we worked out the difference between the northern and southern hemisphere seasons and established the annual Southern Hemisphere Space Studies Program in Adelaide in the summer of 2011. I see many of our alumni gathered here this evening.
The experience we gained in organising these international space education programs gave us the confidence to think that a slightly larger event such as the International Astronautical Congress might be within our capabilities in this State. Whether this proves to be correct will be for you to judge. Our small not for profit Space Industry Association of Australia has been transformed into a vibrant rapidly growing voice for the Australian space industry sector, spurred on by the prospect of your presence at the Congress and the presence of up to 4000 of our colleagues, media representatives and school students this coming week. Our advocacy and that of others in the Australian space community has already seen the adoption of a pro-active space industry development strategy initially in this State but also in other parts of Australia. The announcement this week of the establishment of the South Australian Space Industry Centre is another exciting development and the South Australian Government must be congratulated.
Our combined advocacy has also led to establishment by our Federal Government of an Expert Reference Group review of our national space policy. I am optimistic about the outcome of that review which should lead to a boost to industry development and hopefully increased career opportunities for future generations of space professionals in Australia, including for some of you at this dinner. This, I believe, will be one of the main legacies of this Congress. Once again congratulations and thank you for inviting me to speak at your celebratory dinner.