Former Telstra boss Ziggy Switkowski says tertiary education is now more accessible than ever before as he is honoured for his work in the sector.
Dr Switkowski, who is chancellor of RMIT University in Melbourne and chairman of NBN Co, has been recognised in the Queen’s Birthday Honours as an officer in the Order of Australia for his service in tertiary and education administration, scientific organisations and the telecommunications sector, business and the arts.
He said universities and employers were now mindful they were addressing a generation that was well informed, ambitious and flexible with relatively short-term horizons.
“Tertiary education is more accessible now than ever before,” Dr Switkowski said.
“That’s a direction that all governments have encouraged.
“It’s good for the nation. We build up our pool of trained and intellectually curious people and I think we are a better country and society for it.”
Participation in the tertiary sector had grown, with more than one-third of year 12 students undertaking some form of higher education, he said.
Dr Switkowski said he had been fortunate to embark on a business career, which had included chairing the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation.
“That enabled me to engage in the debate around clean energy, climate change and be an advocate for nuclear power in Australia, which was a very worthwhile and stimulating period,” he said.
Helping Opera Australia become resilient and engaging with students and academics as chancellor of RMIT in Melbourne had also been rewarding.
Meanwhile, Sydney businessman and environmental advocate Geoffrey Cousins and former Westpac chief executive and Santos director Frank Conroy have been appointed members of the Order of Australia.
Mr Cousins has been recognised for services to the community through the establishment of the Starlight Children’s Foundation and to the visual and performing arts.
“The Starlight foundation has been a massive part of my life,” he said.
“In the early days we had no money, no staff, no support.”
Mr Cousins said he was pleased to see the organisation grow to have a national presence and grant more than 8000 wishes to extremely sick children.
“It’s tremendously satisfying to see that happen,” he said.
Mr Conroy has been recognised for his service to the finance and banking sector, to corporate administration as well as the arts, health and secondary education.