VC Blog - An update from the acting Vice-Chancellor

29 June 2018

Hi everyone,

The Vice-Chancellor is in Singapore this week and I am pleased to provide an update on what has been an extraordinarily busy week across our campus.

We kicked off the week with the fifth Crawford Leadership Forum hosting many of Australia's business, government, and academic leaders along with experts from around the world. It was a terrific few days and great to hear from a number of different experts discussing important issues like the US, China and Korea in the current geopolitical climate; the influence of President Trump in Asia; and the relationship between jobs, wages and growth on the economy. This was my first Crawford Forum and I came away from it with a clear sense of the very important role our university plays in fostering ideas and cultivating effective policy to ensure Australia remains ready to deal with the biggest challenges facing our nation and the world.

Another great piece of policy research was published earlier this week. The study led by Professor Emily Banks and Associate Professor Ray Lovett sought to understand the risks of cardiovascular disease among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians. I was very pleased to attend the research launch at Parliament House with the Hon Ken Wyatt AM, MP, Minister for Aged Care and Minister for Indigenous Health. Whereas it is well known that our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians have a higher risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke, the new work has found that this risk is present and significant in young adults and increases rapidly with age. There are clear implications for new preventative strategies. You can read more about the study here.

It gave me great pleasure this week to see the announcement of the appointment of inaugural CEO of the Cyber Institute, Dr Lesley Seebeck. Dr Seebeck joins ANU from the Digital Transformation Agency and brings a wealth of experience from the strategy, ICT and transformation sectors to the new institute. The Institute was established to combine expertise from across a range of disciplines to conduct leading research that will help shape the nation's future in the increasingly vital fields of cyber security and innovation, as well as contributing to the Reimagine Project. Welcome to ANU Lesley.

Next week, Indigenous parliamentarians, Indigenous leaders and academics from around the world will be in Canberra for the First Nations Governance Forum (2-4 July 2018), supported by ANU. Over the two days they will consider complex issues, including the development of Indigenous rights in the modern world and Indigenous recognition. The University is hosting a livestream of the Forum where you can interact and engage with the discussion and share your thoughts. I encourage you to attend the free livestream screening in the auditorium of the Australian Centre for China in the World. It will be broadcast on Tuesday and Wednesday with a free lunch on Wednesday 4 July, 1-1.45pm.  

Finally, I want to make a comment on the attacks on the University that have continued this week in sections of the media. When I arrived at ANU four months ago, I was impressed to find a Vice-Chancellor and leadership that were extolling the principles of academic freedom, as exemplified in their efforts to agree on a new degree program with the Ramsay Centre for Western Civilisation. Recognising that the very name of the proposed partnership would raise opposition from parts of the broader community, it would have been far easier never to have engaged in the first place. When it became clear that months of work by the negotiation team had failed to reach agreement on many details, I was equally impressed to see that those same principles of academic freedom and autonomy were the basis of the decision to withdraw. This, in turn, produced a series of public attacks and poorly informed interpretations, and our Chancellor and Vice-Chancellor have made every effort to correct the record.

As the community of ANU, we can all take pride in the commitment our Vice-Chancellor and Council have shown to these principles of academic autonomy - principles that are integral to successful academic endeavour - in both phases of consideration of the Ramsay proposal.

Have a nice weekend,