VC’s update – final blog for 2021

17 December 2021

Hello everyone  

This is my final blog for the year! I think it is fair to say that the year certainly wasn't the one we had all hoped for when we first started 2021. But it is not all bad news.  Canberra is titled most vaccinated city in the world, the University is in a somewhat stronger financial position than originally forecasted, and we are starting to welcome back our international students.  

Omicron is a storm cloud on the immediate horizon, and I think we can expect the next phase of the pandemic to be challenging for the next few months. But the good news is, boosters provide strong protection, new vaccines targeting the variant will emerge quickly, and we have all built up the systems around living with some amount of the disease more safely than before. So, I expect a bumpy ride, but I am optimistic the worst is behind us. But we need to make our own luck. Book in your COVID-19 booster shots as soon as you are eligible. I got mine this morning in Kambri! You can book in at either the University Pharmacy or the ANU Medical Centre.  

There's been a lot of action on campus these last few weeks -- last Friday I had the pleasure of joining Annabel Crabb and Leigh Sales on stage at Llewellyn Hall for their final Chat 10 Looks 3 Christmas show. Head of the ANU Music School Professor Kim Cunio accompanied by Soprano Heather Lee did a memorable duet -- a rendition of Ava Maria featuring the Tuba (Leigh Sales' most hated instrument) and ANU PhD student Jenny Evans talked about the Leigh's least favourite bird - the Fairy Wren -- based on her thesis work. The 1,000 people who attended the event brought back memories of the past, and foreshadows the fun we will have throughout 2022.  

On Monday evening I was in conversation with Dr Andrew Leigh MP on his latest book, What's the worst that could happen? Existential risk and extreme politics, and the catastrophic risks we face and how we can mitigate them. It turns out the most likely way for us to end our civilisation is by our own hand through things like nuclear war, bio-terrorism, break-out artificial intelligence, or unmitigated climate change. 

But ANU is a leader on stopping this self-annihilation, and so I was pleased on Wednesday evening, with the help of the Honourable Malcolm Turnbull, to launch the book 'prosperous, resilient and carbon-free economy: a guide for decision-markers'.  The book's contents were discussed by a distinguished panel moderated by Australia's Chief Scientist Dr Cathy Foley. With over 60 contributing authors and editors, some of our most eminent specialists in the field have designed a handbook to equip policy makers and leaders with the knowledge and tools to address the issues around climate change. I have no doubt this handbook will serve its purpose in the world - congratulations to everyone involved.  

I'd like to congratulate Professor Katherine Daniell who has recently been awarded, by decree of President of the French Republic, the high distinction of Chevalier in the Order National du Merite for her dedication to strengthening scientific and university cooperation between France and Australia, particularly for her work in the field of water management. This is an incredible honour and well deserved. Well done Katherine - one of the biggest steps forward in the French-Australian relationship since the AUKUS announcement!   

Good news! ANU staff will have received a formal notification today that the two per cent pay increase scheduled for 7 July 2022 will be brought forward and paid in the pay run on 20 January 2022, replacing the July 2022 increase under the ANU Enterprise Agreement 2017-2021. This is something I have always hoped to be in a position to do, in recognition of what you all gave up. Thank you for your sacrifices over these last two years.  I know it has been hard, the toughest times we've ever faced as a University, but we got through it together.  

And finally, that leads me to my annual year end of year video. While there is no musical theme for this one, it's a genuine message of thanks and my gratitude to every single member of our community. I have never been more proud to be part of ANU - thank you.  

Please enjoy your holidays everyone, stay safe, get some rest and I am looking forward to seeing you all in 2022.