VC’s Update – Border closures and my commitment

21 May 2021

Hi everyone,

It's only been a week since my Federal Budget blog, but a lot has been happening in the media that I want to update you on. At this stage, the Federal Government is not planning to re-open the Australian borders until mid-2022 and, understandably, this has caused some anxiety for our international students, many of whom remain offshore and studying remotely. Please be assured that we are working with all levels of government on a safe return to campus as quickly as we can, and I'll continue to advocate that our international students should be able to return to Australia. You are an important and valued part of our community and we will continue to support your return. In the meantime, I am aware that some of our students are experiencing hardship and I ask that you reach out for support if you need it - we are here for you.

You may also have read comments in the media from the NSW Government about their plans for the safe return of international students. ANU is one of the universities working on that proposal. I will continue to advocate that our international students should be able to return to Australia because the reality is, thousands of our students remain offshore and impacted by COVID. I have been explaining that although safety of our community is paramount, we must also ensure that we do not cripple our Australian higher education sector if we can develop safe options to bring students back to campus sooner than mid-next year. What is happening at ANU is the canary in the coal mine for the sector and universities posting surpluses now will face a different future in the coming years unless we see movement in this space.  

Also in the media yesterday, you may have seen news that ANU is addressing climate change with our new Below Zero Initiative. Climate change is already here and we are committed to reducing greenhouse emissions to below zero by 2030. We've also set an interim target of net-zero emissions by 2025 as a stepping stone to achieving negative emissions - and everyone in our community will be part of accomplishing this. Below Zero has been incorporated into our ANU Recovery Plan, which means we aren't addressing climate change at the expense of jobs or resources, in fact we'll be saving money long term. This is a shared commitment, born from feedback from our community. I also heard yesterday that Deakin University is on a very similar emissions journey to us and it's great to see our sector showing such leadership in this important space. We're keen to work with Deakin, other universities, businesses and governments - this is a race, but a collective race, and we'll achieve better outcomes together.

 Next week we will be hosting a suite of events for National Reconciliation Week. We have our annual lecture, this year being delivered by Pro Chancellor Naomi Flutter, along with a high-profile panel including the Hon Linda Burney MP and moderated by Fran Kelly discussing what we can change if Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians work together. Our campus is alive with activity and open for business, and whether you want to watch a film, join a heritage walk or learn more about the night sky there is something for staff and students alike - make sure you check out the program.

Reconciliation Week is an important time to reflect on our personal accountability to improve the lives and visibility of all Australians. This is why, next week, to accompany our new Reconciliation Action Plan, we'll officially be launching our new commitment wall - a virtual place to demonstrate our shared responsibility and accountability for making Australia a better place for all people. My personal commitment to reconciliation is to ensure that our campus is a place that welcomes and celebrates the diversity of First Nations people, history and culture and advances reconciliation. I will personally champion the inclusion of First Nations staff and students in initiatives that see greater recruitment and retention on our campus. I will also support activities that help the nation accept the invitation to "walk with us in a movement of the Australian people for a better future" contained in the Uluru Statement from the Heart. I encourage everyone in our community to show leadership and make a personal commitment.

For me, my understanding of reconciliation has continued to evolve over time. Among those stories that stand out, is Hunter Culbong, a Noongar man, born and raised in an outer suburb of Perth. Hunter is the first in his family to come to university - and we know that when you provide access and opportunity to someone, those that follow from their community have a greater chance of succeeding. This is why the Kambri Scholarships were established in 2020, and it is why our Annual Giving team is focused on raising funds for this important scholarship. It is one thing to attain an ATAR, it is another to have the courage and support to move across the country and find yourself in a new community. The Kambri scholarship ensures students receive this support and you can read more about the scholarship and ways to get involved here.

I also wanted to finish this blog by acknowledging the contribution of Sue Webeck to ANU and the broader Canberra community. Sue has led our Respectful Relationships Unit (RRU) since its establishment in 2019. During her time, Sue has overseen the implementation of the ANU Sexual Violence Prevention Strategy, worked tirelessly with survivors and delivered training to more than 5,000 people. Sue will be departing ANU next week to take on the role of CEO of the ACT Domestic Violence Crisis Service - well-earned recognition of her expertise, and I am grateful that we'll continue to work closely together. Personally, I will miss the immense professionalism and support she has shown in her time at ANU and her advocacy of inclusion and respect as foundational to everything that we do. The work of the RRU has been instrumental in addressing cultural change on our campus and providing support to those in our community who need it most - and they will continue this important work as part of the Student and University Experience portfolio. Good luck and thank you Sue.

I hope you have a good weekend,



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Comment by Matt Thompson
2.15pm 21 May 2021

Are you sure "Canary in the coalmine" is the right description for the ANU? Normally I'd expect to see that idiom used where you have a weak entity that fails before its stronger peers, but its failure is a symptom of a systematic threat to all. Is this the message about ANU you are trying to project to the world?

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Comment by Tom Worthington
5pm 21 May 2021

Good move with ANU Below Zero, but it will not be easy. I have student investigating ICT to reduce emissions in Canberra, and most of the easy measures have already been done, or at least started. Perhaps the campus can be a showcase for more ambitious approaches, involving behavioral change as well as technology. As an example, "Will an Electric Ute Plugged into a Shed Save the Australian Electricity Grid?":