On 13 March 1963, Queen Elizabeth II opened the RG Menzies Building at ANU — an important milestone in the history of the University.

Today, The Australian National University (ANU) joins the world in mourning the passing of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.

On 13 March 1963, Queen Elizabeth II became the first reigning monarch to preside at the opening of an Australian library when she opened the RG Menzies Building at ANU. The event was an important milestone in the history of ANU and the development of Canberra.

“The Queen’s visit to ANU in 1963 signified the truly national character and importance of the University,” ANU Vice-Chancellor Professor Schmidt said.

“It also demonstrated Her Majesty’s commitment to freedom of thought and understanding of how academic scholarship should inform policy and government.” 

The gala event opening the RG Menzies Building was part of Her Majesty’s Royal Tour and telecast live on Australian television, including speeches by the Queen, then Prime Minister and namesake of the library Sir Robert Gordon Menzies, and ANU Chancellor Sir John Cockcroft.

Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and then ANU Chancellor Sir John Cockcroft at the opening of the Menzies Building in 1963. Photo: ANU Archives

The Queen’s visit occurred at a very exciting stage of growth in the University’s history— just 17 years after the establishment of Australia’s first and only national university.

“I have been very interested to hear about the recent developments and the rapid progress achieved by the national university in the relatively short span of its existence,” Her Majesty said.

Her belief in freedom of thought and the role of scholarship in supporting good government was also articulated in no uncertain terms.

“It is no coincidence that the public burning of books and the destruction of libraries are the first acts of tyrants and dictators. Books represent the freedom of thought and the highest expression of the human spirit,” Her Majesty said.  

“They are a constant source of ideas and inspiration which are the basis of our developing civilisation.

“This library in particular has a very special significance. It stands at the heart of the national university in the midst of the national capital, and thereby demonstrates that high standards of learning are the crux of good government.

“Other capital cities may claim to be centres of transport, or commerce, or military strongholds. But let Canberra’s pride be scholarship.”

Watch a video of Her Majesty’s visit to ANU at ANU TV.

Top image: Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II speaks at the opening of the Menzies Building at ANU in 1963. Photo: ANU Archives

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