All that glitters...

31 Jan 2024

It’s been a month since I started in this new job and, #spoileralert, it has been a steep learning curve. 

Like all new jobs, it has come with new responsibilities and accountabilities, as well as new rhythms and rituals and colleagues. ANU Council meets next week and the preparation for those meetings is impressive and thorough. There have been lots of acronyms and forms and paperwork and organisational charts; and I have rediscovered that four letter acronyms are my kryptonite. I have visited nearly all the Deans in their offices now and have also met people from all over campus, and I know I will meet so many more over the weeks and months to come. I haven’t got lost yet and today I even found a shortcut in Coombs that I remember from being a kid here. And I have already witnessed amazing acts of kindness and compassion and sheer relentless hard work – it makes me very proud of this place and also acutely aware of how much more we have to do. 

Over the weekend, there was email, cricket and a serendipitous meeting with one of my students on campus, and just enough sunshine and warmth that I could smell the gum trees for the first time in a while. And there are some genuinely magnificent gum trees on this campus. There is one that grows right near the edge of my old precinct. It has these really long tapered leaves – like the kind in children’s books. An old friend of mine collected leaves from that tree and gilded them for me. It was an unexpected gift (a bit like my ANU hard hat).

The paint has preserved them, so that no matter where I go, this place is with me. The paint also let me really see those leaves anew and gave me the space to think about their beauty, and about this place. 

Last week, I learned that there are 9,828 trees on our Canberra campus. That’s a lot of beauty and a lot of wonder and lot of responsibility. 

After six years here, I thought I knew the campus pretty well. But I certainly didn’t know how many trees we had until I started this role. I think it can be easy to grow too used to what we see every day, to take it for granted or ignore it.  Sometimes a big change can shake us out of this mindset and sometimes just a little one. One month in, I have had big changes and little ones, and I am relishing the opportunity to see this place anew.