VC's update – Virtual Open Week & July financial update

21 August 2020

Hi everyone,

As an astronomer I'm used to the weather disrupting the best laid plans... This week has been cold (by Canberra but not by my Alaskan childhood standards) and wet - which has been great for my dams, but not so great for taking a satellite image of the ACT. Since our attempts so far haven't been successful, we're trying our final flyover on Tuesday next week (weather permitting). The satellite can pick up objects as small as an A3 piece of paper but the bigger the message, the better. If you aren't sure of what to do, have a look at Fellows Oval or the ANU School of Art & Design, or think outside the box - even a large enough chalk drawing could be seen from space. The satellite has already captured some great images from the Northern Territory. Sadly, with the change of dates, I won't be able to attend in person, but I look forward to seeing the ANU images. 

On Wednesday, I attended the National Press Club Address where our ANU Council member, and Chair of Our Watch, Natasha Stott Despoja, spoke on the national issue of violence against women and how we can eliminate it by addressing, among many things, gender inequalities exacerbated by the pandemic. Her speech had passion, clarity and purpose - a reminder of what great oration looks like, and how lucky we are to have her on Council.  I always value her advice and expertise in our work to make our ANU community one of the safest and inclusive in the world. Natasha also recently spoke at our Respectful Relationship Summit, and I look forward to inviting her to continue to be part of our discussions to embed the Sexual Violence Prevention Strategy in our community.

Earlier this week, I read in On&Off Campus about one of the remarkable contributions of our student community to the pandemic. Lucy Kirk - whom I interviewed on the first Tuckwell Selection Panel way back in 2013 - has been working as part of the CHM COVID-19 Evidence Team. Lucy's work has been provided to State and the Federal Government to inform and shape their understanding of the virus which is a testament to the important role CHM is playing, but also the role our students are playing. Leadership can take many forms - great job Lucy!

Starting tomorrow, we are hosting our first-ever Virtual Open Week or VOW -  replacing our annual one-day showcase of campus with a week-long series of online events, activities and information sessions. If prospective students can't travel to campus right now, we'll take ANU to them. 2020 has thrown many challenges our way - including how to hold our annual Open Day remotely - and it has been encouraging to see the collegiality, creativity and resourcefulness of our community on full display - this is what makes ANU so unique. I'll be attending a number of sessions over the weekend and I'd like to thank everyone who is making it possible for potential students to experience ANU, and hopefully, we'll see many of them enrol next year.

Looking ahead to 2021, it seems it will be another year of global uncertainty, even if a vaccine is successfully produced and distributed. Here at ANU, we're planning for not just the next two to five years, but for the coming decades - because this is when Australia will need us most. To meet this responsibility, we're going to need to ensure that the measures we take now will allow us to fulfil our mission to Australia and our region: to provide the knowledge, research and trained people to help the nation rebuild, remain united and prosper as we navigate a new world. We have a special role and a unique responsibility that comes from our history, our geography and our funding - and the difficult decisions we make now will ensure that we can lead a new national reconstruction effort in response to this new national crisis.

I have provided our July financial update here which shows that we have done a good job at staying on track to our cash savings targets this year. This hard work will make the task of adjusting to the circumstances of 2021 and beyond, that much easier.

We are working as hard as we can to make sure the ANU can deliver on its even more vital national mission next year. While we are looking for savings, we are also talking to business, philanthropists, and government about how we can find additional funding for our work that will help Australia prosper into the future. It is too early for me to provide specifics on 2021, but there is no way for me to put a positive spin on what awaits. Under all scenarios, we will need to make extremely hard decisions about what we do and don't do.

We are working to get a clearer picture in place for mid-September, and I'll provide an update as soon as I can about what this will look like, with the transparency you've come to expect. That will not make the hard decisions any easier, but all decisions will be made with compassion and respect of our community, and be focussed on maintaining excellence in service of our national mission.  The spirit of collegiality our community has shown throughout this difficult year is inspiring, and it will ensure we come through the COVID-19 pandemic able to serve Australia in what will be the most challenging time for our nation in several generations. I thank everyone for their positive can-do attitude in these difficult times.  

Brian