Dear colleagues and students,
Today I am reflecting on my fourth trip to ANU as Chancellor. When I took on this role in January last year, I couldn't imagine how much the world was about to change. The Covid-19 pandemic has impacted our lives profoundly and there have been regular restrictions on travel and other activities. These have prevented my anticipated regular visits to campus and that has been challenging, particularly for the conferring of awards at Graduations, and meeting staff and students. Like many first-time or international students, Zoom and remote interactions became the norm for my interactions with the university.
However, this week I have been able to meet many people and hear firsthand about the experiences of our community over the last 15 months. I have been encouraged by the resilience of students studying on campus and remotely, to adapt to change. I have been impressed by the resourcefulness of our staff in quickly adopting new ways of working.
Yesterday, I met with more than 20 of our scholarship holders for morning tea at the aMbush Gallery in Kambri. These students come from across the world and have many diverse stories of how they came to ANU. During my time as Federal Education Minister, I held a conference to promote Australian institutions although many international counterparts bemoaned the lack of exchange, where very few Australians were studying in their universities. That was the inspiration for the New Colombo Scheme that I established as Foreign Minister. Educational exchanges remain a key passion and an investment in our future leaders, domestically and abroad.
Earlier today, I attended a student roundtable with about 30 students undertaking degrees in politics and international relations where we discussed foreign policy, leadership and how COVID-19 has changed the geopolitical landscape, among other things. It's fascinating to learn from different perspectives of the world - and I look forward to more of these discussions on future visits to campus.
I was also privileged to be hosted by the Tjabal Centre for lunch yesterday. This was my first opportunity to meet First Nations staff and student leaders, and hear how ANU has played an important part in their lives. During my 20-year parliamentary career, I had the opportunity of meeting many First Nations people from around Australia. We all have a responsibility to do all we can to close the gap in First Nations outcomes. As Chancellor, I am proud to be part of a community that values our First Nations people, their history and cultures, and champions them. This will be underpinned by our new ANU 2025 strategic plan, which I hope you will all continue to help us build. Keep an eye on the ANU 2025 webpage early next week for some updates on what we've heard from you during the recent consultation.
I am looking forward to welcoming the Vice-Chancellor to our Perth Grand Graduation event next week. This event was cancelled in February due to a snap COVID lockdown, so hopefully we can come together and celebrate our graduands achievements!
Until my next trip,