Annual Report 2023


Message from the Vice-Chancellor

It’s my pleasure to introduce the 2023 ANU Annual Report – and my last as Vice-Chancellor after eight years in the role.

There is no doubt that our University – and the entire Australian higher education sector has gone through several tough years, weathering natural disasters and the COVID-19 pandemic along with re-establishing our networks and connections across the world. The impacts of the pandemic are long reaching, and
ANU continues in a phase of recovery as we grapple with the challenges of re-establishing our stability

in a changed world. Underpinning this remains world-leading research to serve the nation, and a place to educate and inspire the best and brightest students in the world. Despite the challenges, our staff and students have been remarkably resilient, and I thank and acknowledge their ongoing support and commitment to recovery, especially in my final year as Vice-Chancellor.

In February, we opened our newest student residential accommodation – Yukeembruk, which means ‘The Crow’ in local language. Yukeembruk is now home to more than 700 students who call ANU both their campus and home, increasing our residential cohort to more than 7,000 students – the largest residential cohort in the sector.

We were also delighted to welcome our international students back to Canberra after the difficult years of border closures and pandemic restrictions. By Semester Two, our entire community was able to return to in- person learning. It’s been wonderful to see the campus so vibrant and full of life again – with more than 100 nations represented across our community.

ANU has always attracted prominent leaders and advocates and facilitated important conversations. In February, we hosted Her Royal Highness Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden, who partook in discussions around the electrification of our society. In August, we hosted two major events demonstrating the role of the national university to create an environment for learning and leading conversations for the broader Australian community.

First, in the lead-up to the Voice to Parliament referendum, we hosted a Dialogue in partnership with 20 other universities, bringing together students and members of the public from around Australia to listen and learn about what a Voice to Parliament would mean for First Nations Australians. A week later, we were delighted to partner with the New Zealand High Commission to host Mana Wāhine, a sold-out discussion celebrating the spirit, leadership and excellence of women. Moderated by ABC political journalist Laura Tingle, the panel included former New Zealand Prime Minister Dame Jacinda Ardern, Olympian Bronte Campbell, actress Rena Owen and our Chancellor and former Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs, The Hon Julie Bishop.

In October, former ABC journalist Professor Stan Grant chose an ANU event to share his reflections on the Voice referendum. He delivered the 10th annual JG Crawford Oration, and his emotional address–‘The witness of poetry: the silent breath’ – was both powerful and a brilliant start to the ANU Crawford Leadership Forum, which had the theme ‘Democratic resilience and renewal’.

Finally, opening the optical ground station at Mount Stromlo Observatory in December was an exciting way to finish 2023. The new telescope will be vital in helping NASA, the Australian Space Agency, and others to safely reach Mars and communicate with the Moon mission.

As I have reflected for eight years, it is our responsibility and our privilege as the first and only national university for Australia to contribute to the advancement of Australia’s First Peoples through education, research and meaningful discourse. Almost 300 First Nations leaders, public servants, researchers and industry representatives have participated in the Murru Waaru (On Track) Economic Development seminar series this year. Led by Professor Peter Yu and the ANU First Nations Portfolio, the six-seminar series explored the development and implementation of a policy framework that would facilitate the economic empowerment of Indigenous peoples. This is vital work to see true reconciliation between Australia and our First Peoples – and we remain committed to reconciliation and creating the physical and intellectual spaces to facilitate these important discussions.

Many of our academics were recognised for their accomplishments this year. Associate Professor
Aparna Lal was named 2023 ACT Emerging Scientist of the Year for her research into how changes in the environment can act as an early warning system for population health. Professor Yuerui (Larry) Lu’s work in nanotechnology and nanoscience won him both the Australian Academy of Science Pawsey Medal and the Malcolm McIntosh Prize for Physical Scientist of the Year at the 2023 Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science.

Among our most significant and impactful examples of trailblazing work was undertaken by genetic researcher Professor Carola Vinuesa and her team, which saw Kathleen Folbigg’s official pardon and release, after two decades of wrongful imprisonment following the tragic deaths of her children. Their tireless efforts to uncover the medical reasons behind the devastating deaths of Folbigg’s young children led to a just outcome after years of heartbreak and imprisonment.

In recent years, institutions across the world have wrestled with the legacies of historical collection processes. The ANU Classics Museum has returned an amphora – known as the Johnson Vase – and a fish plate from its collection to Italian ownership as part of a landmark repatriation agreement between the University and the Italian government. ANU purchased the items in good faith in 1984, unaware of their connections to the illegal antiquities trade. Both the amphora and fish plate have been loaned to the museum for the next four years to continue as a teaching resource. Our own proactive investigation also led to the identification of a Roman marble portrait head owned by the Vatican, which will be repatriated in due course. We are proud to have taken a leading role in the important work of repatriation and collections management.

At ANU, making knowledge and world-class research accessible to everyone is one of our key priorities. In November, our open access platforms, ANU Press and the Open Research Repository, celebrated reaching 100 million free downloads.

Finally, following the joy and excitement of the FIFA Women’s World Cup, it was only fitting that the ANU Australian National Dictionary Centre selected ‘Matilda’ as their Word of the Year.

It has been a privilege to serve the University as its Vice-Chancellor for the past eight years, and I am so grateful to have had the opportunity.

Distinguished Professor Genevieve Bell has been appointed as the 13th Vice-Chancellor and President the first female leader to lead our national university in our 75-year plus history. Professor Bell will commence her term on 1 January 2024. Genevieve has a clear and aspirational vision for the future of our University, and I hope everyone will join me in supporting her journey in the next chapter for our national university.

Professor Brian P. Schmidt AC FAA FRS 

Vice-Chancellor and President

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