Western Sydney University announces Jennifer Westacott AO as new Chancellor

Jennifer Westacott HeadshotMs Jennifer Westacott AO

Esteemed Australian business leader, chief executive of the Business Council of Australia, and former top public servant Jennifer Westacott AO has been named the next Chancellor of Western Sydney University.

Ms Westacott was elected by the University’s Board of Trustees as successor to Professor Peter Shergold AC, who will retire in December after 12 years of exemplary service as Chancellor.

One of Australia’s most prominent and highly-regarded public figures, Ms Westacott has forged a distinguished career in senior leadership roles in both the private and public sectors over 40 years, making numerous and sustained contributions to policy, public service and Australian public life.

She will continue to serve as the chief executive of the Business Council of Australia – the premier representative group for Australia’s large employers, advocating for good policy on behalf of the business community and the Australians they employ.

Since 2019 she has also been Chair of the Western Parkland City Authority – the NSW Government agency responsible for delivering, coordinating and attracting investment to the Western Parkland City, and realising the immense opportunities presented by the Western Sydney International (Nancy-Bird Walton) Airport and the Western Sydney City Deal.

Her many other current leadership roles include serving as Non-Executive Director of ASX-listed company Wesfarmers Limited, Council member of the University of New South Wales, Chair of the Board of Studio Schools Australia, Patron of Mental Health Australia and The Pinnacle Foundation, and Co-Patron of Pride in Diversity.

The University’s first female Chancellor and only the fourth Chancellor in the University’s history, Ms Westacott will officially commence her term on 1 January 2023. She said she is incredibly honoured to be joining the Western Sydney University community.

Growing up in housing commission on the NSW Central Coast and Blue Mountains, Ms Westacott said that experience has driven her throughout her life and made her strive to fulfil her potential and be a force for positive change – something she keenly recognises in the University’s own values and mission.

“I am delighted to be named the next Chancellor of Western Sydney University. I am passionate about the role universities play in helping individuals and societies achieve their potential.

“I’ll continue to be a strong advocate for the critical role universities have in building a thriving, dynamic economy and better society in both my roles as Chancellor and as Business Council chief executive.

“I was strongly attracted to the role in part by the University’s enduring connections with the diverse and vibrant communities of western Sydney and its role as a catalyst for the region’s economic advancement and social prosperity,” said Ms Westacott.

“Western Sydney University is world-leading when it comes to teaching, research and innovation. The countless partnerships formed with new and emerging high-tech industries together with the thousands of highly-skilled students graduating from this University each year are helping drive western Sydney’s economic and social transformation.

“Critically, Western Sydney University has been a leading voice at a local, national and international level for equity, social justice and social inclusion and advocated strongly for the people of western Sydney and under-represented groups. This has been a hallmark of Professor Shergold’s tenure as Chancellor, and together with the Board and the University community I am looking forward to continuing this important work.”

Vice-Chancellor and President, Professor Barney Glover AO, warmly welcomed Jennifer Westacott’s appointment. He said she will be an outstanding leader and advocate for the University, guiding it through this next important phase of development and growth.

“Jennifer Westacott is an exceptional choice for our next Chancellor. Like Peter Shergold, she acutely understands Western Sydney University’s distinct mission – its role as an anchor institution for the socially-diverse, culturally-vibrant and economically-important western Sydney region, and the transformative power of higher education,” said Professor Glover.

“Jennifer’s formidable leadership experience, professional insights and wealth of knowledge gained from working across the public and private sectors will be indispensable as she leads the University through this next exciting chapter in its history. Together with the Board of Trustees and the broader University community, I look forward to working closely with her in the years to come.”

Jennifer Westacott AO will be formally installed as Western Sydney University’s next Chancellor in the first quarter of 2023.

There will also be an opportunity to farewell Professor Peter Shergold AC and thank him for his outstanding service before the end of the year. Professor Shergold is one of the strongest and most passionate advocates for this University, our students, and the transformational power of higher education, as well as for the Western Sydney region and its diverse and vibrant communities.  He has nurtured the University’s distinctive identity and will leave a legacy that will be felt across the University community for decades to come.

Additional information about Jennifer Westacott AO

  • Bachelor of Arts (Honours), Political Science, UNSW and in 2017 also received an Honorary Doctorate from her alma mater.
  • Advanced Management Certificate, Monash Business School.
  • Chevening Scholar, London School of Economics UK.
  • Fellow, Australian Institute of Company Directors.
  • Made an Officer (AO) in the General Division of the Order of Australia in 2018.

Among her many other career highlights are a range of executive and non-executive roles, including:

  • 2005-2011 – Commissioner, Commonwealth Grants Commission
  • 2005-2011 – National Lead Partner, Climate Change, Water and Sustainability, KPMG International
  • 2003-2005 - Director-General, Department of Infrastructure, Planning and Natural Resources, NSW Government
  • 2002-2003 – Secretary, Department of Education and Training, Government of Victoria
  • 2001-2002 – Director of Housing, Government of Victoria
  • 2000-2001 – Deputy Director-General, Department of Community Services, NSW Government
  • 1994-2000 – Deputy Director-General, Department of Housing, NSW Government