VC's update – COVID, CAAL and Murru Waaruu

21 April 2023

Hello everyone,

Autumn is my favourite time of year, and 2023 is not letting us down. Just as well, because after the coldest and wettest spring and early summer, we are picking our grapes on Saturday - our latest vintage ever. We were actually going to pick last weekend, but the Easter Bunny brought COVID to my entire family.  

So my COVID case is a cautionary reminder for all of us that COVID is still around. My family was lucky, none of us have gotten too sick, but a non-zero fraction of people get very sick from COVID, and along with any other disease, it is best to avoid it, and if you do, transmitting it to others. If you feel unwell, please stay at home - and if you must come to campus or travel in public for something you cannot miss (like a medical appointment), wear a high-quality mask and keep your distance from others. The ANU Medical Centre also offers telehealth appointments so you don't physically have to attend. While I have to wait six months now to get my COVID booster, I did get my flu shot yesterday on campus for free (for staff) - and I encourage everyone to get their vaccinations in a timely manner.  And I am sorry to be a nag - please don't forget you still have to let ANU know if you test positive (I had to fill out the form too - you can access it as I did via ANUOK app or go to our COVID advice page) 

On Monday, I was in Melbourne for a dinner to introduce the Centre for Asian-Australian Leadership (CAAL) to a group of interested members of the community. It was a great opportunity to discuss the important work of CAAL with leaders who might be able to help and guide the work of the Centre, and I was delighted to have the chance to welcome the Centre's new Chair, and alumna Geraldine Chin Moody. Geraldine has been a friend of ANU for a while now so it's great to have her involved in this capacity and we will all benefit from her expertise. Geraldine will be helping the Centre to break what has been called the 'bamboo ceiling', which has led to relatively few Asian-Australians getting leadership roles in sectors across society. It's something we have to analyse, measure and try to resolve. We also had the opportunity to thank outgoing Chair and our former Chancellor Professor Gareth Evans who was integral in getting the Centre established 

On Wednesday, the First Nations Portfolio held their second seminar, part of the Murru Waaruu series. Set up in the Innovation space of the Birch Building, complete with amazing artwork, this workshop  focused on the rights and assets that have, and will continue to be, reclaimed by First Nations people under existing policy and legislation. A key outcome of the series is to design a new First Nations economic policy framework with input across Government, corporate sectors and other universities. There are another four seminars scheduled throughout this year, and its one way we are trying to ensure that in this year of the referendum, progress is made on multiple fronts for Indigenous Australia. Well done to all involved. 

I have spent a fair bit of time going through the more than 3000 responses to our staff engagement survey this week - thank you all once again for providing your assessments. We will be going to each part of the University over the coming months to discuss the results with you. One thing that is apparent, is there is a small but non-negligible group of people who very disheartened about the state of the University I will be focusing on trying to understand why this group is disenchanted, and see what we can do to restore their faith in the University. While it is true we have been through a terrible period over the past three years, and things are a fair bit tighter than they were in 2019, there is much to be optimistic about.  

One of the reasons that I am optimistic is the Accord process. I have seen quite a convergence across the sector around some sensible themes about what the future of tertiary education looks like for Australia. ANU continues to have the most distinctive and nation-building agendas of all Australian universities, and I think what flows from the Accord will be highly aligned to our mission and strengths. If you want to read my submission or the University's (or a hundred or more other submissions), they are available on the Department of Education website. 

I am taking Monday off to make the most of the ANZAC day holiday, and to ensure everything goes smoothly with my grapes post vintage