VC’s Update – Reconciliation Week and our community forum

2 June 2020

Hi everyone,

This week marks one of the most important times on our national calendar - National Reconciliation Week. It's been a time of reflection, learning and acknowledgement. For me, and hopefully for you, it is the time to commit to doing everything we can to make sure all Australians have the same life-chances, opportunities and choices. I also encourage you to use this week to better understand our shared history with Australia's First Peoples, and celebrate the extraordinary richness and beauty of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture. As the national university, ANU has a clear mission to meet our responsibilities to Indigenous Australia - and this will be a whole-of-University effort. You can watch our National Reconciliation Week Lecture here.

Over the past week I have had the pleasure of speaking with several members of our Indigenous community: Aunty Anne Martin AM, an inspirational member of the University who needs no introduction as Director of the ANU Tjabal Centre; Peter Yu, a member of the ANU Council who will soon become our Vice President (First Nations); Izayah Davis, a Bardi Kija man and former Indigenous Summer School student who is now studying health science with us; and Rebecca Beutel, a Kuku Yalanji woman who is studying anthropology and sustainable development at ANU. Speaking with Bec and Izayah was a great reminder about the remarkable students - our future leaders - we are lucky enough to have in our community. In my discussion with Bec, we focussed on her experience as a student, but also her views of how we can address Reconciliation - deconstructing systems that marginalise First Nations People, and the way places like ANU can show leadership for the nation. It is really worth a listen.

Last Thursday afternoon, I hosted the largest staff meeting in the history of ANU to discuss our financial position, with more than 1,100 staff joining me on the call. For those who missed it, you can watch a recording here. Your ideas will help us get through the tough times ahead and I want to thank everyone who has already submitted responses in such a constructive and collegiate way, as well as those who have offered personal financial sacrifices to support others. Many others have provided ideas and solutions to help ANU save money, or make money. Thank you all for your selflessness: each thing we do helps. I still want to hear from you - every voice in this discussion is important - and you can submit your questions or feedback here. We will continue to consult with you, inform you and seek your feedback as we look at this problem from every dimension. None of this is comfortable, but we are facing this news as one University and I will provide another update later this week.

Of the many changes ahead, I wanted to draw your attention here to our International Strategy. I am asking for your views on what is important by contributing to the development of our regional plans. The consultations are underway, and you can participate in one of the sessions here.

Finally, on Saturday I spoke at an event for our Young Stars - a STEM outreach program run in afflication with my home ANU school, RSAA. There were more than 400 students on the call from 30 countries across the world - it's really cool to see how science can bring people together, and how technology can keep us connected. Every discovery is built on the hard work and dedication of others, answering new questions and solving problems. The next generation might unlock the next great mystery of the Universe. You can listen to my talk here.



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Comment by Greg Yaxley
12pm 3 Jun 2020

Hi Brian,

in relation to discussions about possible pay cuts to senior staff at ANU, one concern might be the potential effect on superannuation benefits for those within 3 years of retirement. To get around this, a scheme used in the Federal Public Service allows the purchase of additional annual leave from the employer. This way their salary remains at its normal level so the super is unaffected, but the employer saves money because the employee pays them back for more annual leave, on top of the normal four weeks. I'm not sure how that would be implemented within the enterprise bargain, or outside it, but maybe it could be done.

Savings per individual would be modest, but if there was reasonable buy in, maybe it'd contribute a bit and for some it would be a better option that a straight out salary cut.

Also, thank you for your excellent leadership, particularly during the completely mad year that 2020 has been so far!


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Comment by Alice Macdonald
3.30pm 3 Jun 2020

I've studied and lived on these lands, since I moved here in 1989 and always aware of that I am a white descendant of the McPhersons who took up residence on Springbank Island in 1831. I acknowledge the devastating interactions, environmental destruction, disease and damage that occurred between my great, great, great grandparents and the aboriginal people, their land, their home. I acknowledge the continued hurt and the work still to be done. I am passionate about the land and the environment, about the aboriginal people here now, in strength.

Voice, Treaty, Truth

Today I planted waraganj for Reconciliation Week because I love the high country too.