Honouring a local legend

Sir Gustav Nossal with his bronze statue. 373892 Pictures: STEWART CHAMBERS

By Matthew Sims

Berwick local legend Sir Gustav Nossal AC has been immortalised with a life‐sized bronze statue unveiled at Nossal High School.

The work of internationally recognised sculptors Gillie and Marc, the bronze statue aimed to capture his many achievements in science, his contribution to the school and his friendly and approachable nature.

The school community united on Monday 20 November to unveil the statue and celebrate Sir Nossal’s legacy.

School council president Dr John Inns said the statue had been a long time coming, with preparation starting in 2019 ahead of the planned 10-year anniversary in 2020.

“Forever will he be an inspiration to us all,” he said.

Speaking about the sculpture, the school’s founding principal Roger Page said ‘Sir Gus’ was an integral part of the school community and hoped the statue would honour that connection.

“It is an honour to be the foundation principal at a high achieving school that bears the name of such an outstanding and inspirational Australian,” he said.

“Sir Gus is a regular and welcome visitor to the Berwick Campus.

“Sir Gus enjoys the opportunity to attend, stop and chat with students, staff and visitors.

“It is for this reason, the bronze statue, of a seated Sir Gus will be located at the front entrance to the school.”

Mr Page said it was an honour to have the school named after such a significant Australian figure.

“He has lived an exemplary life.

“We all aspire to be like Gus.

“We take his name as an exemplar.”

Awarded the Australian of the Year award in 2000, he has served both Australian and communities across the globe, not only in his chosen specialised field of immunology, but also in a wide range of humanitarian work.

During his illustrious career, he has been the recipient of numerous international awards recognising his work and leadership with groups such as the Bill and Melinda Gates’ Foundation’s Vaccine Program and the World Health Organisation, where he chaired the Global Program for Vaccines and Immunisation.

Born in Austria in 1931, Sir Nossal migrated to Australia with his parents at the age of eight.

Unable to speak English, he studied hard becoming Dux of his school before graduating in medicine at the University of Sydney and later achieving his PhD at the University of Melbourne.

Early in his career, Sir Nossal moved to Melbourne and commenced working with Macfarlane Burnet in Medical Science at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research (WEHI), eventually serving as the director from 1965 to 1996.

Sir Nossal said he hoped the statue and his influence on the school would inspire others to achieve their dreams.

“This is still one of the best countries to live in,” he said.

“It is an honour to stand here with you.

“Please remember your time here with fondness.”

The school community and business suppliers provided the funding for the project, with money donated by business suppliers to Nossal High School such as PSW Uniforms and Edunet Computers, as well as a large donation from the WEHI in recognition of Sir Gustav Nossal’s significant contribution to the organisation and to medical research.