VC's update – the new normal

3 April 2020

Hi everyone  

We are nearly at the end of the first full week of our 'new normal' - working from home. Thank you all for the 'can-do' spirit that has helped make this change much smoother than it could have been. Not everything is perfect, and I won't pretend otherwise. But what we have achieved in a few short weeks - creating a functioning, remote participation, national university - is remarkable. Please bear with us, with your colleagues, and with your students as we all work together to iron out the kinks.  

I too am adjusting how I work. Today I took part in the first ever ANU Council meeting held entirely by video - the world is definitely changing! I have also learnt this week the importance of scheduling regular breaks, getting up from my desk at home, taking a walk, and getting some exercise. I encourage you all to do the same. 

I'm happy to be able to share some good news. Professor Ian Anderson AO, a Palawa man from northern Tasmania, joined us this week as Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Student and University Experience). Professor Anderson joins us from the Australian Public Service, where he was Deputy Secretary in the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, and Deputy CEO of the National Indigenous Australians Agency. Ian graduated as a doctor in 1989 and spent over two decades with the Victorian Aboriginal Health Service as an Aboriginal health worker, doctor, Chief Executive Officer and board member. He received his PhD from LaTrobe University in 2006, and then moved to the University of Melbourne. After being appointed as Foundation Chair, Indigenous Higher Education, and Foundation Chair, Indigenous Health, he served as Pro Vice-Chancellor (Engagement). 

Ian will now take the lead on creating a student experience that is distinctly ANU and equal to the best in the world, and ensuring our whole University is a respectful, equitable place to work and study. Despite just finishing his role in Government last week, Ian hit the ground running this week, and played a leading role in the University's COVID-19 response in our residences. Ian's induction to ANU has been unusual to say the least, but he is making his way around virtually to meet colleagues. If he pops up in your Teams chat feed or on Zoom, be sure to say hello. Let me also acknowledge Professor Tony Foley for his excellent work serving as PVC (University Experience) since last July. Tony will thankfully remain in his current role for the next several weeks to help Ian as he transitions into his new role. 

 I can report that thus far a total of 7 members of our community have contracted COVID-19, and our Community Wellbeing team is providing them with support. We wish all of them well.  All the necessary contact tracing steps have been completed by ACT Health for the 3 people who were potentially contagious while in the ACT. To ensure everyone has full information, we will continue to post updates of any confirmed cases of our staff and students on our webpage here

COVID-19 may feel like a sprint right now, but it will be a marathon. It has taken a whole-of-University effort to respond so far, and it'll take a whole-of-University effort to carry us strongly through to the post-COVID-19 era. The Easter/Autumn break is coming up, and I strongly encourage you all to take some additional annual leave over this period - I sure am! One of the reasons many of us need a break is that we are working with so much uncertainty - about our roles and responsibilities while working from home, or just not knowing what the COVID-19 pandemic is going to throw at us next. Thanks for your patience and please seek support if you need it. While we are working things out, there are lots of things you might wish to do if you have some spare time: 

  • This a really good time to complete your CORE Cultural Awareness Training. This course is designed to enhance cultural capability across ANU and build greater awareness of the extraordinarily rich history and cultural heritage of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, who have lived on this land for thousands of generations. It's a great program that I highly recommend.  
  • I'm looking forward to going online and catching up on all the little things that I want to learn, but just haven't had time. For me it is things like how to use TensorFlow to do Machine Learning. Follow your own path... 
  • You might also want to do an admin 'spring clean'. This is a great time to get to all the things we never have time to do. File those emails, create and revise 'how to' guides, think about processes that work and don't work, and what we can do better in our areas.   
  • And why not check to make sure your Professional Development Review (PDR) is up-to-date? 

I'm sure in your part of the University there will be numerous other things - from routine tasks to blue-sky thinking about the future - that you can work through. And don't forget to schedule those virtual morning teas, lunchtime online catch-ups, and after work digital drinks, so you all stay connected. I'd also encourage everyone to look at the ANU wellbeing check list. It helps people check in with their welfare, evaluate how they're feeling and find advice on reducing any anxieties you have - whether they're work related or personal. Now, more than ever, we need to take care of ourselves. You can complete the check list here

Lastly, ANU has been doing some incredible ground-breaking work in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. To be able to share this with our community, I have initiated Zoom-casts where I chat with our ANU experts across a range of disciplines about their contributions. This week I had the pleasure of chatting with public health expert Associate Professor Kamalini Lokuge - you can listen here.   

I finish with what may be more good news! From next week, I hope that you will be receiving fewer emails from me and the Executive. There has been a lot to talk about recently, but I want to let everyone spend some time getting settled into our new working mode, and hopefully getting some downtime over the next several weeks, particularly as we move into the mid-semester break next week.  So do look out on Monday for the reintroduction of the new OnCampus, where we will include all relevant information about the ANU COVID-19 response and other important updates. I'll continue to keep in touch via my Blog. 

To our students - take care during the mid-semester break. To our staff - enjoy another weekend of social distancing, however you can. I'll be baking more sourdough.  



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Comment by Eddie O'Brien
2pm 3 Apr 2020

Don't just tease us with a photo Brian.

Please give us the recipe.

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Comment by Steven Han
2.30pm 3 Apr 2020

Thanks for all you have done in this challenging time.

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Comment by Steve Eggins
2.45pm 3 Apr 2020

Good call Brian, CORE Cultural Awareness Training is already trending big time on PULSE

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Comment by Kate Eve
3pm 3 Apr 2020

Hi Brian,

You've posted a picture of something I would like to have a go at making too.

Any chance you would share the recipe?



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Comment by Ian Chambers
3.30pm 3 Apr 2020

Congratulations to the entire ANU management team and student community. These achievements are a real testimony to good planning and execution, as well as tremendous team spirit. Well done to everyone as we now work together to continue to meet the challenges ahead and build a more sustainable and resilient future.

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Comment by Helen Duke
3.30pm 3 Apr 2020

Any chance of getting the recipe for the sourdough? Looks yummy!

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Comment by Smitha Mandre
3.45pm 3 Apr 2020

Dear Prof Schmidt,

As a new HDR student, I really love your blog this week, especially the reminder to complete CORE Cultural Awareness Training, because protecting our First Nations people is extremely important at this time of crisis. People need to be reminded that what many are going through in this crisis situation in relation to paying bills, police controlling us, buying food, unemployment is something that most of Australia's First Nations peoples are going through since 250 years ago #closethegap #effectsofcolonisation Thinking of elders and others remember #permits #dogtags that controlled Indigenous lives and movement

Please refer to Dr Kris Rallah-Baker's article posted via IndigenousX -

Thanks you for your empathy and thank you ANU for being the best uni in Australia currently dealing with crisis management like a BOSS :) #StrongVC #StrongLeadership #StrongBoard #FantasticStaff

Best Smitha

For context my profile published on IWD 2019 by SAGE:

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Comment by Marian Jane van Enst
4pm 3 Apr 2020

I have really appreciated all your posts and the generosity of spirit which shines forth from them.

Thank you!

Dhiracharita (Marian v.E.)

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Comment by Deborah Apthorp
4pm 3 Apr 2020

That bread looks amazing!

I just wanted to say I've been watching ANU's response to the COVID-19 situation and I am so impressed with your leadership on this. I think ANU has been so far ahead of most other Universities in Australia, and I am also sure your response has been influential.



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Comment by David Nicholls
5.30pm 3 Apr 2020

Recipe for the apple sourdough please?

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Comment by Shuxian Cao
6pm 6 Apr 2020

It's very warm and inspiring to see your home-made bread during these hard days!

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Comment by Trish Dollisson
7pm 6 Apr 2020

How are less emails good news when we've been deprived of pizza night already Brian? Appreciate the food news though! Stay safe and thanks for the amazing leadership you've displayed through this difficult time, I feel confident all will be well and proud of the research ANU is conducting on a global stage.

Best wishes,