VC’s update – HEAL conference, Demo Day and Thanksgiving

19 November 2021

Hello everyone

I have never seen it so green here in Canberra. My vines are already 60cm long, my berries are taking over the world, and the garden looks fantastic. Too bad about the grass pollen. Simon Haberle in CHL tells us we have hit the highest recorded values of grass pollen over the past week. The rain looks set to continue this weekend. But I'll take the rain over drought any day.

This week I opened the first Healthy Environments and Lives (HEAL) conference on Wednesday, a new national initiative in environmental change and health research made up of 100 investigators from 28 organisations across Australia - spearheaded by ANU. This is part of the announcement earlier this week of a $10 million grant received from the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) to the HEAL network that will go towards better protecting Australians against the health impacts of climate change.

The HEAL Network, led by ANU academic and Chair Professor Sotiris Vardoulakis, will underpin Australia's immediate and long-term research activity and policy response to the health effects of climate change and environmental degradation. It also draws on the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander knowledge, ensuring their leadership and knowledge is at the heart of the Network. I am optimistic this will provide a model for other countries to follow to holistically tackle the health consequences of climate change. Climate change is having a profound impact on our environment, our lives and our health - and it requires cross-disciplinary solutions. Well done to everyone involved.

I also enjoyed being part of my third Master of Applied Cybernetics' Demo day this week. Students showcased their projects from their Building Cyber-Physical Systems course, and it was great to hear how they conceptualised, designed and created their unique systems. A gas-leak sniffing rover; a Smart e-waste recycling program; and a web-based digital artwork that uses the human heartbeat to bring a map of the world to life. All very impressive - I recommend the short-videos that encapsulate the projects to you.

Last night I attended the Sir Roland Wilson Foundation Secretaries Dinner at the National Museum of Australia to celebrate the achievement of the SRWF scholars and alumni. It was also a chance for the Mandarins to get together socially for the first time in a long while. I was pleased to announce at the event that the long-serving Sir Roland Wilson Foundation Chair Dr Ken Henry AC will be bestowed an Honorary Doctorate of Laws. Ken has made exceptional contributions to the Australian public policy as leader in the public sector, and played a pivotal role in strengthening the links between ANU and the Australian Public Service. I am looking forward to conferring Ken's Honorary Doctorate in the new year. And congratulations to all our award recipients last night - it was a great evening.

Next week on Tuesday 23 November, we will celebrate our annual Chancellor and Vice-Chancellor's awards online. We've had many outstanding nominations this year and I hope that everyone will show their appreciation and celebrate the achievements of our amazing colleagues as a community. Please join me and the Chancellor on Zoom - bring a glass of bubbles with you and enjoy the evening. Register here.

We are almost at the end of 2021 so I want to encourage you all to take some leave either side of our campus shutdown over the new year break - I will be doing this and so will my team. We have all had a brutal last two years - but I am genuinely optimistic about a new normal for 2022. Things will not be exactly the same, and COVID will be around,  but 2022 will be a year to re-emerge and thrive, where we will revitalise campus life and be able to get on with our work, full steam ahead. I know some of you have busy times at the start of the year, but if you can take break, please work with your supervisor about how much time you can have. As Paul Duldig said announcing the shutdown dates in last week's On&Off Campus, by booking eight days annual leave you could get 23 consecutive days off. To quote the Prime Minister - "How good is that?"

Let's get some rest, reset and be refreshed for a great year ahead.

Lastly, I am looking forward to celebrating American Thanksgiving with my family next week. It is one of my favourite holidays, a time to come together to give thanks and reminds me of my childhood growing up in the mountains of Montana and Alaska. We will celebrate with some friends, a traditional turkey, cranberries, stuffing, and more pies than we can possibly eat.  And of course we'll bring out some of our best vintages.

Have a great weekend everyone.