VC’s Update – the great west and COVID vaccines

7 May 2021

Hi everyone,

Autumn has well and truly arrived to Canberra with the cold and wet weather hitting campus this week - perhaps making those of us not used to cold to think it is winter. Despite the cool change, the beautiful autumnal colours are everywhere - and it really makes me appreciate how beautiful Canberra is to live and study. For those budding photographers, don't forget to include #ouranu - it's a great way to share campus, especially with those unable to return yet.

Earlier this week, I returned from a flying visit to Perth where the Chancellor and I hosted a Perth Grand Graduation event. Our Perth celebration was postponed in February due to COVID-19, and despite the latest lockdown and restrictions, we managed to hold a COVID-safe celebration for our WA graduates. Graduations is one of the most important milestones for our students, and even with masks and social distancing, it was very special to watch a small cohort receive their Graduation statement, take photos with family and collect their alumni duck. COVID will continue to disrupt some of our traditional events, but we are planning to hold a COVID-safe mid-year graduation on Friday 16 July (and our Grads team will be in touch with eligible students in the coming weeks with further details) as well as our more traditional ceremonies in December.   

Also as part of my visit, Julie and I officially opened our Perth office. The Perth office in actuality has been operating since early 2020, enabling the Chancellor to serve in her role very effectively, as our Melbourne office was so important in supporting Gareth Evans as Chancellor before her. I was surprised just how excited the people of Western Australia were to have us there, and we already have many very interesting new opportunities to pursue. We were honoured to welcome our former Chancellor, His Excellency Kim Beazley, to officially open the site, along with members of our WA alumni community.

Congratulations to Professor Lisa Kewley for her recent recognition by the US National Academy of Sciences. In addition to being elected foreign member of the Academy, Lisa received one of their major prizes, the James Craig Watson Medal. She is the first Australian (and indeed person in the Southern Hemisphere!) in the award's 133 year history to do so. Lisa's work on galaxy formation and evolution continues to be trailblazing, along with her commitment to improving STEM outcomes for women.

This week, it would have been hard to miss the Australian coverage of COVID vaccines being available to more Australians - and the hesitancy of some in our community to receive the vaccine for health concerns. I have booked my first jab for next week, and I encourage all eligible members of our community to get in early. Events in Sydney has shown us we could have a major breakout at any time.

I understand misinformation has created some community trepidation, so our ANU experts - whom you see regularly in the news - will be hosting a virtual forum to discuss the vaccine and answer any questions. The Forum will be held in the coming weeks, so keep an eye on the COVID website and your inbox. Remember, knowledge is key and we each have a responsibility to source information that is based on fact. In the meantime, please check out the ACT Health website or share our myth busting videos.

The contrast between life in Australia and the COVID situation in India is stark. The images and stories are distressing, and my heart goes out to everyone in our community with friends or family who have been impacted - and to those members of our community who are in India. For all of our students impacted, we will be flexible in our approach to special circumstances, including special consideration, deferred assessment and late withdrawals. If you need to access these supports, please contact Student Central. For anyone in our community who is experiencing distress, please reach out for support - we are here for you, please ask for help if you need it.

Finally, on Monday I will be heading to the ANU School of Music, where we are opening a new Indigenous recording studio. This was part of the 2019 Grand Challenges scheme, and it's great to see this project realised. As Danish author H.C. Anderson said, "where words fail, music speaks" and this new studio will provide an opportunity for many Indigenous artists in our community to share their voice. I have been told that I will be able to "jam" but I'm not sure what that means yet - I used to play the French Horn but not sure I should even be trusted with the triangle these days.

Have a good weekend, stay warm,



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Comment by Andrew Angus Smalley
5.30pm 8 May 2021

Hi Brian


Thanks for your weekly Blog.  On your invitation to "Jam" at the new indigenous centre - a wonderful initiative.  To Jam is to participate through singing, dancing and/or playing a musical instrument; either in isolation, or as a combination.


You should go for it!