After the disruption of 2020, 2021 was expected to be a year of renewal - not just for ANU, but the nation. Instead, we saw state-wide lockdowns, the extension of international border closures and a vaccination rollout for all Australians.
While we were unable to welcome our international students back on campus in February as we had hoped, our classes continued to run as a hybrid model and our academics and tutors worked hard to ensure student engagement and the student experience was still nurtured and our international students felt connected to our campus.
Despite the turbulent start to 2021, there was still a sense of excitement starting the new academic year, and our staff and students transitioned into our 'new normal' smoothly.
ANU held a first-of-its-kind hybrid graduation celebration across seven international and domestic cities to honour our 2020 graduates who missed the opportunity to celebrate in person because of COVID-19 restrictions the year before. This provided an opportunity to come together as a community and celebrate an important and exciting milestone in the overall student journey before our graduates joined our community of more than 120,000 alumni.
Our institution continued to be relied upon as a trusted resource for the nation, and our experts and academics were at the forefront of the pandemic response - lessening the impacts through research, intellectual support, and hands-on work. ANU staff were on the frontlines in remote New South Wales to assist with the vaccine rollout in Aboriginal communities; our researchers worked on medical breakthroughs; and our experts were called upon to advise government and private agencies, and provide credible and trusted guidance and advice to the nation.
Our campus was also impacted by a nine-week lockdown in the nation's capital, with the majority of our staff and students working and studying remotely. Our essential staff remained on campus and worked tirelessly to ensure our students living in residences on campus were safe, supported and well fed. Despite the challenges of the lockdown, our community continued to demonstrate resilience, understanding and teamwork.
Our work and responsibilities extended far beyond COVID-19 and our research, led by worldclass academics, continued to address the complex challenges our nation and the world faced - both emergent and enduring - including inequality, international instability, and the impacts of climate change.
We continued to partner with the Commonwealth Government to address societal challenges and provided guidance and expertise that helped shape public policy to support Australia's wellbeing, security and prosperity.
We established the First Nations Portfolio, led by Yawuru man Professor Peter Yu AM, to provide leadership on national policy discourse and decisions that impact First Nations peoples. The portfolio ensures the University is a world leader in teaching and research of First Nations issues, and ANU continues to embed First Nations peoples, culture and history into our everyday business.
In early August, we launched our ANU by 2025 Strategic Plan to chart the course of the University's next five years - ensuring we continue to deliver on our founding mission. We were founded 75 years ago in the spirit post-war optimism, and by a single Act of the Federal Parliament, with a mission of strengthening the social and economic fabric of our nation and our place in the world. Our mission remained more critical than ever as the nation sought to restore some stability and renewal in 2021.
We implemented our University-wide business development and commercialisation strategy, to continue deepening and broadening our pipeline of partnerships with companies, government, and the community, as well as finding the best pathway for translation and impact of our research.
We established a digital ecosystem to support future learning and teaching and improved delivery of student services, and created a new Student Experience Division to focus on student success and wellbeing through a settings-based approach to student engagement.
We celebrated the University's 75th anniversary and reflected on the incredible work that has been built upon these last seven and a half decades, and celebrated our University's culturally diverse community. The celebrations, which continue throughout our anniversary year, included the wider Canberra community, reinforcing that ANU is a resource beyond our campus and we serve the people of Australia.
ANU Council unanimously voted to re-appoint the Honourable Julie Bishop for another four-year term as Chancellor. It was a privilege to serve beside Julie this year, and despite the Chancellor's terms being besieged by fire, hail and a pandemic, she did an outstanding job to help steer the University through adverse times through her skilled leadership of the ANU Council.
These last two years have been the most challenging the University has ever faced, but our community continued to build on the solid foundation on which we were founded, and we were able to get through the challenges and adversity because of the community spirit found on our campus.
I am optimistic we are past the worst of the pandemic now, and I have never been prouder of our ANU community.
Professor Brian P. Schmidt AC FAA FRS
Vice-Chancellor and President