Discovering the origins of our species
In June, Griffith’s Dr Adam Brumm and Professor Rainer Grun created a global buzz as part of an international team of researchers who announced the discovery of ancestors to the Liang Bua hobbit discovered more than a decade ago on the Indonesian island of Flores.
As reported in the 9 June edition of Nature, fossil remains of hominins that are similar in size to the Liang Bua hobbit but at least ten times older have been excavated at Mata Menge in Indonesia. Dr Brumm directed the fossil dig while Professor Grun undertook radioisotopic dating of fossil teeth. This pioneering research is the most significant breakthrough yet to help with our understanding of the origin of hobbits.
Adam and Rainer are part of our newly formed Research Centre of Human Evolution (RCHE) – the world’s first academic centre specifically focused on the subject of human evolution in our region. The RCHE was officially launched by the Hon Leeanne Enoch MP, Minister for Housing and Public Works and Minister for Science and Innovation, at a special ceremony Friday 8 July.
Pat Weller honoured
Recently, a Griffith legend was recognised at the official naming of Room -1.07 in the Glyn Davis Building (Nathan campus) as the ‘Professor Pat Weller Boardroom’.
Pat is acknowledged internationally as a leader in the study of politics and as one of Australia’s foremost social scientists. He has made a seminal contribution to research and practice in public administration, executive government and federal-state relations. It is especially fitting that a physical reminder of Pat’s contributions should be placed in the building where so much of his work was undertaken. The naming ceremony on 28 June provided a wonderful opportunity to both congratulate Pat on a distinguished career and to thank him for his significant contributions to Griffith over the last thirty-two years.
Frank Fenner award winner
Congratulations to Dr Kate Seib from the Institute for Glycomics who has just received the 2016 Frank Fenner award from The Australian Society for Microbiology. This prestigious award recognises distinguished contributions in any area of Australian research in microbiology by scientists in a formative stage of their career. Kate’s research focuses on understanding how certain bacteria cause disease in humans, with the aim to identify vaccine and drug targets. The award is named in honour of Professor Frank Fenner, an Australian pioneer of viral research who played a central part in the global eradication of smallpox. Well done Kate on this important recognition of your work.
Banking in the South Pacific
The South Pacific Studies Group (SPSG), housed within the Griffith Asia Institute and headed by Dr Parmendra Sharma, was established in 2012 to enhance Griffith’s engagement with our closest and geo-politically important neighbour, the South Pacific.
The success of the SPSG in collaborating with South Pacific institutions and organisations was highlighted in the inaugural symposium “Central Banking in the South Pacific – Opportunities and Challenges in the 21st Century”, hosted on our South Bank campus on 10 June.
The symposium, the first of its kind convened by an Australian tertiary institution, attracted leaders from central banks in Fiji, Vanuatu, Solomon Islands, Papua New Guinea and Australia, as well as delegates from the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority, Australian Securities and Investments Commission, Asian Development Bank, World Bank, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Australia-Pacific Islands Business Council and major Australian banks. Congratulations to Parmendra on his leadership in convening this signature event.
I’m delighted to report that for the fourth year in a row Griffith fielded the largest team for the Gold Coast Airport Marathon which was run over the first weekend in July. Team Griffith’s 955 runners – cheered on by our own cheerleaders – comprised 411 staff, 165 students, 93 alumni and 286 family and friends. Griffith also retained the title for most distance travelled in all events across the weekend: an impressive total of just under 16,300 kilometres. Meanwhile, the Griffith tent was the place to be with staff serving barbecue breakfasts and refreshments, and weary runners receiving massages from our physiotherapy students. A big thanks to the OMC team and all the volunteers for your help in supporting another successful event in 2016.
Rio here we come
Tests of stamina will also feature in the Olympics in Rio next month. In August, we will see 15 Griffith students and four alumni representing Australia, and two students representing other countries, in this year’s Olympic Games. And in September, three of our students will represent Australia in the Paralympics. In terms of the total number of current students competing, this will be Griffith’s largest contingent ever at the Games. To celebrate the achievement of Olympic selection, I was honoured to join our elite athletes, together with parents, friends, coaches and supporters, at a special farewell ceremony at the Gold Coast campus on 27 June. I’m sure the entire Griffith community will join me in wishing our athletes their best possible performance in Rio.