This year has been the most challenging since ANU was established nearly 75 years ago. Through circumstances largely beyond our control, our University has been forced to change dramatically. Our community has had to draw on its resilience, as we have all been impacted by the events of this year. Many of us have farewelled valued colleagues who have taken voluntary redundancies.
With the arrival of COVID-19 our lives have abruptly changed. Homes have become offices and virtual classrooms. Friends, family and pets have transformed into office and classmates. Some of us had to make the difficult choice to leave Canberra entirely, rushing back to distant homes and families ahead of border closures. Many of us have not yet been able to return.
Everyone has made sacrifices. Staff voted, generously, to defer their pay rise due in July, donated money to support others in the community, and took on additional responsibilities. Throughout all of this we demonstrated the best qualities of our community - resilience, compassion, and commitment.
We are not yet through the disruption - but the time is right to focus on the future. We must be sustainable in the long-term, but we must also be the national university that Australia needs - and we will not be if our strategy is solely reliant on cutting costs. We must invest in our people, our community, our campus, our digital infrastructure and our ideas. We must grow our revenue and prioritise activities. Our overall strategy, goals and values are sound. Our recovery must build on them.
This year has demonstrated the essential role of Australia's national university. ANU staff and alumni have been at the heart of Australia's medical, community and public policy responses to the pandemic, something in which we should all take pride. Those colleagues take their place in a story that began when ANU was founded to build a better Australia in the aftermath of World War II. We have another daunting opportunity in front of us today.
The ANU that emerges from this recovery will be defined by our collective contribution. We need to make sure that the decisions we make to see us through this difficult period do not place a disproportionate burden on any particular part of our community. They must be fair and equitable.
It will require all of us, staff or student, academic or professional, to continue to strive for excellence in all that we do, and to support one another with, I hope, pride in being a part of this exceptional community.
To that end, I want to encourage everyone to continue to make contributions, big and small. Nobody knows better than you how this University works, day to day, on the ground. The feedback that we have received and the initiatives in this document are a testament to that. However, these will be much more successful alongside numerous, incremental, everyday improvements. So, if you have an idea, no matter how small, share it. If you aren't sure who to tell, tell me.
If this plan is successful it will chart a course to a University that is financially sustainable, delivering on its responsibilities to Australia, ambitious and world leading. A University that is more resilient to what a changing world might demand. A University that is ready to celebrate its 75th anniversary next August and looking ahead confidently to its centenary. A University, most importantly, that will remain a great place to work and study.
Before we get there, we will have some more pain to endure. But there is also vital work to be done, and a nation that needs its national university. Let's maintain those traits that have helped us through the hardest of years: kindness and collaboration, resilience and care. I am committed to working with you through the difficult months ahead and I look forward to the exciting future this University certainly has in store.
Professor Brian P. Schmidt AC
Vice-Chancellor and President
Australian National University
*From the ANU Recovery Plan, published 13 October 2020.