Celebrating 50 Years Vice Chancellor's Message

Vice Chancellor's Message

In 2020, JCU will celebrate 60 years of higher education in the north and 50 years as a University, having commenced operations in 1960 as the University College of Townsville within the University of Queensland. In 1970, and to coincide with the bicentenary of Lieutenant James Cook’s voyage to the Australian continent, JCU was proclaimed as Queensland’s second university.

During her visit to Australia as part of the national bicentennial celebrations, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II visited the University in Townsville and on 20 April 1970, gave her Royal Assent to the enabling Act of Parliament, the James Cook University of North Queensland Act 1970. Research indicates that this is the only Act of any Australian Parliament to have received the personal assent of the reigning Monarch. That particular date was chosen because James Cook’s log shows that he first sighted the east coast of Australia on 20 April 1770.

On April 20, 1970, the Queen visited Townsville and made the establishment of the James Cook University official

In that Bicentennial year, governments were looking for enduring symbols of Australia's 200th birthday and, as one tangible legacy, JCU was named in recognition of Cook’s remarkable voyage of discovery. The James Cook University of North Queensland Act (becoming simply the James Cook University Act in 1997) articulated the mission of the new University. With remarkable foresight, both the Queensland and Australian Governments charged the University with pursuing education and research on issues of importance to our local communities and to the peoples of the Tropics, globally.

Since then the University has done just that. As a research and teaching institution located in the Queensland Tropics, the University has built great strength through its tropical focus. JCU is now internationally renowned for the outstanding work that has been done over many years, focused on the Tropics, from our Australian and Singaporean bases. Our University is world renowned for, and can be rightly proud of, our ground breaking research in areas as diverse as marine and coral sciences, ecology and biodiversity, and tropical health. This research is undertaken in our nation leading centres and institutions, including the Australian Research Council (ARC) Centres of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies and Australian Biodiversity and Heritage, the ARC Research Hub for Advanced Prawn Breeding, the National Centre for Research Excellence in Peripheral Arterial Disease, The Cairns Institute and the Australian Institute of Tropical Health and Medicine.

JCU graduates are vital and highly regarded members of their communities, both locally and internationally. In serving regional, remote and very remote communities, JCU graduates bring their professional skills and in-depth knowledge to the fore. They stand out in their abilities to apply technical competency, while also thinking differently about the challenges they are likely to face in a complex world. We have made significant contributions to the professions and the economies of our communities in Cairns, Mackay, Mount Isa, Rockhampton, Townsville, and more broadly across northern and far northern Queensland and beyond.  Our Singapore campus too, makes a significant contribution to its community, and more widely across southern and eastern Asia.

JCU’s birthday celebrations will focus on northern Queensland and Singapore, and we have been working with the Commonwealth and Queensland State Governments to ensure our activities complement and enhance local and national celebrations commemorating the sestercentennial of James Cook’s remarkable voyage.

As we celebrate this milestone and reflect on our history, this is also a moment to look to the future. There are many reasons why students come to JCU. They may have a passion for improving health outcomes, or fighting injustice or preserving our natural wonders. Our students come for a range of reasons and they have unique life experiences and talents. Wherever they may be on their journey, JCU is committed to creating a student experience that is life changing with our many, wonderful academic, professional and technical staff dedicating themselves to this most satisfying and uplifting of purposes on a daily basis.

The way education is delivered has changed over the past 50 years; we have gone from chalkboards to typewriters to digital platforms. We will continue to evolve. What will not change is our commitment to a brighter future: one in which students can study in world-class facilities, be taught by high quality and engaged academics and connect with global experts. We are, and will remain, a place where practical learning and self-development is valued. Our future and our students' futures are one and the same. It is through working together that we make a difference and that the world becomes a better place for us all.  We have much to celebrate and I encourage you all to explore this website and join in as many of our events as you can.