Perenti chair Diane Smith-Gander will replace former High Court chief justice Robert French as chancellor at The University of Western Australia.

Ms Smith-Gander has been named UWA’s 16th chancellor and will start her new role on January 1, taking over from Mr French who has been in the position for seven years.

She is one of the most senior professional directors in Western Australia, being chair of ASX company Zip Co, the Committee for the Economic Development of Australia, and HBF Health.

Ms Smith-Gander joined the Perenti board in October and was promoted to chair, replacing Rob Cole, in March.

In announcing her appointment, Mr French said Ms Smith-Gander was an ideal fit as UWA chancellor.

“I congratulate Dr Smith-Gander on her election as Chancellor. I am confident that under her leadership the governance of the University will be in good hands,” he said.

“Her skills, experience and engagement with business, government and university communities provide her with a deep understanding of issues and opportunities within and beyond the higher education sector.

“Dr Smith-Gander is a graduate of the University with a Bachelor of Economics (1984), an MBA from the University of Sydney (1987) and Fellow of the Australian Institute of Company Directors and Governance Institute of Australia.

“The university awarded her an Honorary Doctorate in economics in 2015.”

Mr French also announced the UWA senate has reappointed Amit Chakma for a second term as vice-chancellor from July 1 2025.

Professor Chakma commenced as vice-chancellor in July 2020 during the unprecedented challenges of an international pandemic and since that time, has provided exceptional leadership that will continue to inform the University’s future growth and success,” Mr French said.

“His clear strategic focus and progressive approach has ensured that the University has continued to develop high quality teaching and learning while building our research capability and important partnerships across academic, government and industry sectors.”

Ms Smith-Gander also serves as chair of the UWA Business School board and is corporate governance adjunct professor at the university.

She will resign from her role as chair of the Committee for the Economic Development of Australia at the end of the year.

With Ms Smith-Gander’s appointment, all four public universities in WA will have female chancellors.

In February, professional director Vanessa Guthrie was appointed as chancellor at Curtin University.

Gail McGowan became the first woman to be Murdoch University’s chancellor upon her appointment in March 2023.

Denise Goldsworthy was appointed as Edith Cowan University’s chancellor in 2022, having served on the ECU council since 2013 and was previously deputy chancellor.