Princess Mary opens Chang Institute

Resource type: News

The West Australian |

Denmark’s Princess Mary has begun her first official engagement in Sydney during her Australian visit. The Australian-born princess was opening a new building for the Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute. NSW Premier Morris Iemma and Cardinal George Pell were also attending the ceremony.

Dressed in purple, Princess Mary greeted school children outside the institute, accepting several bunches of flowers before heading inside for official proceedings. The $80 million Lowy Packer Building is the new home of the institute named after Victor Chang, the distinguished heart surgeon whose career was cut short when he was murdered in 1991.

The facility was funded jointly by the state and federal governments with contributions from the families of property tycoon Frank Lowy and the late media magnate Kerry Packer. Princess Mary said heart disease remained a leading cause of death and disability in the community.

“It was with great pleasure that I accepted the invitation to open the Victor Chang Lowy Packer building that will not only house the Victor Chang researchers but also scientists from the St Vincent’s Hospital,” she said.

She made reference to her own “personal experience of the devastating effects of heart disease”, and praised Dr Chang’s groundbreaking work before unveiling a statue of the man dressed in surgical scrubs.

“Dr Chang was an original thinker and saw the need for research and the development of heart assist devices and not least, he is known for his legendary caring for his patients and their families,” she said.

Princess Mary’s mother Henrietta died of heart disease in 1997. Princess Mary said she was made an honorary life governor of the institute in 2005 and had followed its work since that time. A fellowship to the institute for a young Danish scientist had also been named in honour of her son, Prince Christian, she said.

“The focus of today is this building, a new home that will house a state-of-the-art research environment for some of the brightest and best minds in the country and the world,” she said. “Buildings like this don’t just happen. They take a great deal of work from many people over many years. “In this regard, the leadership of the board, not only of the Victor Chang institute, but also St Vincent’s Hospital and their precinct partner the Garvan Institute, deserve much praise and congratulations.”

Princess Mary also acknowledged the great cost of such facilities. “In this instance, the vision, the leadership and generosity of the NSW state government, the federal government as well as that of corporate and private sponsors such as the Atlantic Philanthropies, the Packer and Lowy families and many others, should also be acknowledged.”

James Packer and his wife Erica Baxter, who recently celebrated the birth of their first child, attended Wednesday’s opening along with members of the Lowy family and Ann Chang, the wife of the pioneering heart transplant surgeon.

In his address, Mr Iemma said the institute represented important partnerships between different levels of government, business, generous donors, and between Australia and Denmark. He labelled it “a magnificent research facility that we will see over the years save lives, extend lives, improve lives”. Mr Iemma paid tribute to Dr Chang who he said was “so callously and wastefully gunned down on a Sydney street 17 years ago”.

Likewise, he said the late Mr Packer was “a giant of a man in every way”. To Princess Mary he extended a heartfelt greeting on behalf of NSW residents. “Your Royal Highness, welcome again to Sydney, a place where you command such affection and respect,” Mr Iemma said to the Danish royal. AAP