VC's update – National Reconciliation Week and vaccines

4 June 2021

Hi everyone,

It has been an incredibly busy few weeks on our campus with National Reconciliation Week, community forums and a super blood moon. But importantly, we've all had a reminder that COVID-19 is still present in the Australian community and we all need to remain vigilant. What is happening in Victoria right now shows how quickly the situation can change.

With the ACT now more than 325 days without community transmission, a lock down may seem unlikely, but we should be prepared in case something happens. If you are not familiar already, please read the information about COVID-19 and our protocol and response guidelines. I've been speaking to my team about how we would manage a snap lockdown, but I encourage everyone to think about how you can shift to remote working for a couple of days, and what would you need to do to ensure you and your team can work effectively. For those staff and students already off campus, it's a good opportunity to think about ways you can remain connected and let us know if you need more support. 

One way I have been preparing personally is by receiving my first vaccination against COVID-19. I want to be very clear: while ANU has not mandated that you have to be vaccinated to work or study here, the expert advice is unambiguous: get vaccinated. My personal view is that it is the responsible thing to do and we need a vaccinated population if we're going to beat this. Please get vaccinated as soon as you are able. Canberrans aged 40-49 years old can now book in to get their Pfizer COVID-19 vaccination at the Garran mass vaccination clinic. If we can get our community fully vaccinated - then it will give us resilience against any COVID breakout in the future. Let's aim to be one of the first communities in Australia to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

A panel of our experts held a community forum earlier this week, and they discussed topics from the chances of blood clotting to the national roll out and the effectiveness of Pfizer vs AstraZeneca. For those unable to attend, you can watch the recording, and please keep an eye on our website for additional forums and information. If you have a question, you can also contact our COVID Response Office, or read Professor Tracy Smart's regular blog on COVID-19 updates.

This fortnight has also been a personal highlight of 2021 for me with the ANU National Reconciliation Week events and activities. For the first time, endorsed by our campus elders, a non-Indigenous Australian (our Pro Chancellor, Naomi Flutter) delivered our Reconciliation Week keynote. Reconciliation is everyone's responsibility, and I take my commitment to making a better Australia seriously. It has been heartening to read the number of commitments from staff and students on our virtual Commitment Wall and see how our community is taking a leading stance on this important issue because we each hold the parts to a better future if we work together.

Also as part of National Reconciliation Week, the National Centre of Indigenous Genomics (NCIG) held a moving ceremony with the people of Galiwin'ku. You may have seen media coverage about the repatriation of First Nations blood samples, and the incredible partnership between ANU and Galiwin'ku. This is reconciliation in action, and I was incredibly proud to be part of the ceremony. I'd like to acknowledge and thank the NCIG team for their work - not just for the ceremony, but for their ongoing commitment to the people of Galiwin'ku and developing a relationship built on mutual trust and respect.

Last week also marked the final Council meeting for Natasha Stott-Despoja, who has been part of our governing body for more than five years. Personally, I will miss Natasha's fierce advocacy of preventing sexual violence, and holding our campus accountable for creating lasting change to support all Australians to pursue tertiary education. We will be able to announce our new Council members soon and I am sure you'll join me in welcoming them to our community.

On the theme of appointments, I was pleased to see two members of our academic community elected as Fellows of the Australian Academy of Sciences. Professor Barry Pogson and Professor Dorrit Jacob are both highly accomplished academics in their fields, and their election is a great recognition of their scientific contributions by their peers. Congratulations Barry and Dorrit!

Finally, as I mentioned above, last week we saw the total eclipse of the moon - the so called Super Blood Moon. For those able to see the moon, you would have enjoyed the moon being a shadow of its normal self, showing off pinkish redhues in the night sky. It was great to see so many people watching the night's sky, and a special thanks to Brad Tucker and Pete Swanton for running a stargazing event for our community - wearing shorts despite the cold temperature - on the side of Parliament House. What a great picture of Pete with a shooting star in the background!

Have a great weekend - I'll be resting up before a quick trip to Sydney to meet with some of our alumni.