VC’s Update – Mask mandate update and enterprise sessions

14 October 2022

Hi everyone, 

I am writing to you from the United States, where I have made my first trip in three years. I have been to NASA, had meetings at the White House, and even bumped into Mitch McConnell (who, given the security detail around him, did not stop for a casual conversation). Our alumni have been out in force both in Washington DC and in New York City, and hopefully San Francisco tonight. There is a lot of interest in turning things up a notch here with Australia, and I am pleased to see my homeland thinking multilaterally for the first time in a while.   

Back on campus, the consultation around masks has concluded and I'd like to thank everyone who shared their perspective. In response to our community's feedback, it will continue to be mandatory to wear a mask in classrooms until the end of this semester to ensure our students and teaching staff can confidently continue to come to campus and participate in person. You must also wear a mask in a clinical setting. Masks are still recommended and I encourage everyone to be respectful of colleagues, students or visitors who may wish to wear a mask - so keep one with you just in case. We will monitor COVID's progression and will not hesitate to bring back a full mask mandate on campus if we see rises in severe COVID cases within our community.  

Making up for some lost time on travel, last week I visited Japan. Most of my time was at the International Science and Technology Forum, where I met science leaders from around the globe and the Japanese Prime Minister. But it was also a chance to reconnect with members of our alumni community as part of the '75-Cities' alumni campaign. The effects of COVID have been quite universal and similar for everyone I have met. As part of our alumni event in Tokyo, I conferred an Honorary Doctorate to Haruhiko Kuroda, the 31st (and current) Governor of the Bank of Japan for his contributions to international economic policy innovation and his long-term support of ANU in Asia. I had to bring my big suitcase to fit my academic gown (and Governor Kuroda's as well) for the occasion. Glad we don't need them for most events. We got home with only a few hours delay despite most flights being cancelled - I don't think this was caused by the two missiles that were launched from North Korea, but who knows. One thing is for sure, international air travel is chaotic right now, and I am pleased my overseas travel is done until Christmas.  

Back on campus, the award nominations for the Vice-Chancellor and Chancellor Awards are now open. ANU has a range of awards to recognise our community, and I strongly encourage you to nominate someone or a team who deserves to be recognised - it is easy. Professor Sally Wheeler has suggested a less formal awards ceremony, with food trucks and live music (the Chancellor has indicated a preference for spring rolls and music that is strangely similar to my own tastes).  It'll be our first opportunity to celebrate in person since 2019 and I hope to see our community come together for a fun night. Nominations close on Friday 28 October!  

Earlier this week, we saw the great announcement that five ANU researchers have won more than $10.7 million from the National Health and Medical Research Council Investigator Grant scheme. This funding will support some of the most interesting research into some of the biggest health challenges facing Australia - including chronic diseases caused by smoking, Alzheimer's and Multiple Sclerosis, cancer and heart attacks. These are a big deal to get, and a huge congratulations to Professor Emily Banks, Professor Mark Polizzotto, Professor Thomas Preiss, Professor Yuerui Lu and Dr Ehsan Kheradpezhouh 

Four of our ANU early career academics have also been recognised with a Tall Poppy Award. Communicating complex science can be a tough gig and it's great to see Dr Kiara Bruggeman, Dr Joshua Chu-Tan, Dr Bjorn Sturmberg and Dr Amy Dawel recognised for their work and raising research profile in the public arena. Congratulations all! 

In between Japan and the USA, I also attended Council.  Four new ANU Council members joined their first meeting. I'd like to welcome and thank Dr Liz Allen, Professor Lyndall Strazdins, Will Moisis and Professor Craig Moritz for joining the ANU Council and I look forward to many more discussions and meetings. We want Council to help the University be the best it can be. There are a lot of things to consider for most of our decisions, so feel free to reach out to the council members (including me) to ask questions or raise concerns.   

Finally, the University has given notice that it is bargaining for a new Enterprise Agreement (EA), and over the coming weeks the People and Culture team will be hosting feedback sessions for the bargaining round. This is your opportunity to express what is important to you in working at ANU. Not everything needs to go into the actual agreement. In the last bargaining round, ANU introduced some of the most generous parental leave entitlements in Australia, which we continued to enhance through our policy updates to provide greater support and flexibility to working families. The EA is an important document as it underpins the work environment we're all a part of. If we are going to be the University we strive to be, we have to be a great place to work. So please take the time to provide feedback and understand what we are hoping to achieve What matters to you matters to me.  You can attend sessions in person or virtually or visit the ANU Enterprise Bargaining webpage for more information. I also thank our local NTEU members for their positive engagement and I look forward to finding a good set of outcomes for all.   

I hope you have a good weekend, mine is going to be spent on an airplane over the Pacific.