VC’s Update – Parliamentary hearings and change plans

26 March 2021

Hi everyone,

As this week draws to a close, we're nearly at the end of the first quarter of 2021. And I know for many of our staff as well as our students unable to get to campus, it's pretty hard going. In my office, we're looking to recharge over the Easter long-weekend, and I encourage everyone to switch off and spend some time away from work and study. It can be hard to take breaks when it's busy, but if you don't, burn-out can become a real issue not just for you, but everyone in your team. I'm hoping I'll be harvesting my grapes and making sourdough hot cross buns that give Kiaran Kirk's a run for their money, and I hope you can take some time as well.

My scheduled appearance at Senate Estimates last night didn't end up going ahead, and I admit I'm a little disappointed. It was only the second time in our University's history we have been asked to appear at Estimates, and we understood that the unique circumstances of Australia's recovery called for it. Having prepared myself thoroughly I was ready to shine some light on the great story of the national university's contribution to Australia over the past year, but I will continue to champion the successes of ANU in other ways.

This week has also seen a lot of media and campus attention on our change management plans. As I said in my last blog, we will unfortunately see a large structural deficit for 2020 - a bit smaller than we predicted nearly a year ago - but still large. Because our borders remain closed, 2021 will be tough, and all of this flows into the future years as well. All this means we have no choice but to reduce our expenses, including our largest expense: salaries. Speaking to colleagues across campus, I know this is an incredibly difficult time of change and uncertainty - but I don't see us needing to make changes beyond those announced last year. I ask our College and Portfolio leads to regularly update your staff; and for any staff member or student impacted by a proposal, to provide honest and as constructive of feedback as possible.  Budget savings are necessary, but if you have ideas or suggestions, please make your voice heard. In my own Portfolio, colleagues were vocal about proposed changes and had suggestions for savings we had not thought of - and the final implementation plan was amended significantly to respond to these ideas and suggestions. You can send confidential feedback to or directly to the head of your College or Portfolio.

Looking ahead, we have nearly completed Phase 1 of the ANU 2025 Strategic Plan consultation process. On Tuesday, our Chancellor launched a survey to gauge views on the feedback emerging from the forums and working groups. I know it's hard right now as we continue to recover from the pandemic, but we must embrace the future and chart what our role as the national university needs to be to best serve the nation, the region, and the world. What ANU will look in 2025 and beyond is up to us as a community. These questions come from what we are already hearing but you may not agree, or think we've missed something key - so please - and I really am begging you - take the time to have your say. You can complete the anonymous survey here.

Also this week, we've seen a couple more phishing scams doing the rounds. Our CISO and his team are doing their best to ensure our cyber safety, but their work requires your help and diligence to be successful. If you receive an email that doesn't seem right, don't download or click on any links. Please report the email by sending to and And even if you think you are cyber savvy, another reminder to try the Cyber Sense training - cyber security is constantly evolving and changing, and the best way to stay safe is to stay in front. You can visit the website here.

Finally, one of the constant pieces of feedback I am hearing around campus is the need for more support for early career academics. One of the best supports I have received across my own career has been from mentors and even now, I have mentors who provide me with guidance and feedback. My mentors gave me the courage and support to lead an international team from Australia and the rest is history. Now, 25 years later, I have a wealth of my own experiences to share with others. The NECTAR applications for mentors are open until 31 March, and I encourage our senior academics to take the time to support a more junior colleague. Mentoring is an incredibly rewarding experience for both the mentor and mentee, and it is a powerful and easy way to make a big difference to our ANU community.  You can sign up here.

Have a good weekend,