Signs of normal life

10/1/2020 by: Professor David Lloyd

Vice Chancellor's speech at graduations

There's something strangely comforting about us hosting graduation ceremonies again. It heralds a return to something akin to normal. It doesn’t matter that the graduates are seated at 2m intervals from one another, that there are no handshakes or that parchments have been pre-dispatched. Our COVID-friendly, hand sanitised, socially distanced arrangements have worked beautifully. They were put in place around the feedback we got from those students whose commencement as graduates had been put on hold as the world around them changed in ways we simply couldn’t have imagined.

The ceremonies were put in place the UniSA way. Thoughtfully. Progressively. Centred around our students and our community. Delivered professionally and with meaning. And impactful. Impactful for the graduates, their friends and families and for those of us lucky enough to participate. As I made my now perennial joke about the risks of trying out new shoes for the first time, it came home to me just how very important routine and normality really are – and just how very much we have all suffered in having routine and normality taken from us this past year.

Pausing for a moment, to applaud the success of a graduate crossing the stage, to recognise the sense of achievement and pride that graduation bestows, to witness the boundless possibilities that lie ahead of our new graduates as they apply their learning and begin their careers – was a wonderful reprieve. A reprieve too long waited for, as restrictions edge their way to further relaxation, as we dare to hope to see the return of international students arriving on-shore again to complete their studies, as we turn our thoughts to the challenges of 2021 against the backdrop of looming federal legislation changes and yet more disruption to our sector in the short term –that moment of reflection and remembering that this is what we are here for, this is why we do what we do, this is what we excel at. Generating knowledge and transferring that knowledge to others. Enabling the success of others. Establishing career trajectories. Recognising achievement. Advancing society.  

The little chink of normal light which has shone through this graduation week doesn’t illuminate the challenge or difficulty or the trials we may yet face. It illuminates the certainty that things will get back to normal, that what we do matters and that we do what we do exceptionally well. One of my earlier graduation speeches a few years back used to quote WB Yeats and his view that ‘education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire’. I then quoted Terry Pratchett’s view that sometimes ‘it’s better to light a flamethrower than curse the darkness’. Whatever the source of this week’s chink of normal light, it has been a comforting light in uncomfortable times. We look forward for more to come.


Professor David Lloyd

Through The Big Picture, I hope that our whole community gains a greater and current appreciation of what is going on, how it fits together and how our activities connect and reinforce each other at a whole of enterprise level.


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