It felt like a world away from ANU, a place where I could fully immerse myself in my ecological research.
The month of August saw the long-awaited reopening of the University's Kioloa Coastal Campus.
The campus had been closed since late 2019 due to the disruptions caused by both Australia's devastating bushfires and the COVID-19 pandemic.
"With everything we've been through over the last three years, our goal was always to go back and use the facilities at Kioloa as soon as possible," Professor Saul Cunningham said.
As Director of the Fenner School, Saul has been hosting students at Kioloa over the past decade.
"Kioloa is a beautiful place. You are surrounded by fantastic forests, and you can walk to the beach within minutes. Most importantly, Kioloa is a place that enriches students' understanding of the local landscape and its relationship to people."
For many students in the ANU Fenner School of Environment & Society, getting out of Canberra and studying at Kioloa on the South Coast of New South Wales is often the highlight of their degree.
A third-year Bachelor of Environment and Sustainability student, Ruby McMullin spent a week at Kioloa last month as part of her Environmental Science Field School (ENVS2018) coursework.
"The Kioloa Costal Campus is beautiful and rich with history. I really enjoyed learning about the Indigenous, agricultural and logging history in the area," Ruby said.
"It felt like a world away from ANU, a place where I could fully immerse myself in my ecological research."
Ruby also enjoyed the accommodation facilities at Kioloa following an extensive upgrade during the campus closure.
"The facilities and food were fantastic! We were able to rest and rejuvenate each night and make the most of our jam-packed days."
Isobel Bender, a Bachelor of Philosophy (Honours) student, has been to Kioloa three times as part of her Environment major.
"The Kioloa Coastal Campus has a relaxed atmosphere, with comfy sleeping areas, amazing food and a beautiful natural setting," Isobel said.
"Rather than being in a classroom, I was able to have a more hands-on experience to learn about the natural landscape."
As ANU staff and students return to Kioloa, the University is working with the South Coast Elders Association to prepare a memorandum of understanding to initiate a journey of reconciliation with the Traditional Owners of the Kioloa Coastal Campus.
As indicated in the University's Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP), ANU takes its obligation to acknowledge, understand and contribute to rectifying deep historical wrongs very seriously.
"Kioloa is a place where we can enact the objectives of the University's RAP," Saul said.
In particular, the draft MoU outlines broad principles to underpin the collaboration including to improve relationships, celebrate culture and restore heritage. For example, since the Kioloa Coastal Campus reopened, all significant events now begin with a Welcome to Country.
After a challenging few years, ANU staff and students are looking forward to returning to Kioloa for a new chapter in its history.
For more information about Kioloa, please visit https://www.anu.edu.au/about/campuses-facilities/kioloa-coastal-campus.
Story by Pamela Hutchinson