VC's Update - 2020 and beyond

10 July 2020

Hi everyone,

It's been a couple of big weeks since my last blog - and a lot has happened since then. This week the Victorian Government made the decision to increase restrictions for more than five million people to reduce the spread of COVID-19, and the ACT and NSW governments have also put in strong border restrictions. Many of our students are impacted and we are working to ensure that although they can't join us in person just yet, they remain connected to the ANU community so their upcoming semester is not seriously impacted. Ian Anderson and Grady Venville are hosting a forum for teaching staff on Monday 13 July, and I'll be hosting a forum for students on Tuesday 14 July.  If you can Zoom-in, please do, it'll be an opportunity for us to answer lots of your questions.

With the news of Victoria's situation, Paddy Nixon from the University of Canberra and I, have made the difficult decision to delay our Safe Passage international student pilot program. Lots of planning and creative problem solving has gone into this pilot, and we'll look to resume it as soon as we feasibly can. I know this will be hugely disappointing for many of our students - and it saddens me - but we have to wait until we can return students from wherever they are in the world in a safe and ordered way.  

This week has signaled the hard slog we all are going to have in the months ahead. The easing of restrictions brought back hope that things would continue uninterrupted towards normalcy.  The current setbacks are hard on morale, but I'm taking each day on its own merit, and doing the best I can.  While sometimes it feels like there is no end in sight, I remind myself that each day we are a day closer to the end of the pandemic.

On that note, I am going to share some good things from my past week, and also what I am looking forward to next. I took a day off last week, and if you haven't taken a break, try and do something for yourself - it's good for all of us.

Last week, I attended the annual Lindau Nobel meeting which was held for the first time, virtually.  While the 2am time zone hurdle was not great, I did get to talk about climate change with three colleagues without using the two tonnes of CO2 I would normally use to get to Germany.  Lindau happens every year and brings together some 600 young researchers from all around the world to meet a bunch of Nobel Prize winners, and discuss a highly diverse set of science matters. This meeting reminds me that amazingly talented people are spread all over the world, and it is by working together that we can enable humanity to thrive.

And it reminds us what an important role we have here at ANU for the future of our country, the region, and the world. Our staff continue to help guide the Government's pandemic response, both from a health point of view, but also an economic one. This week you will have seen the announcement of ANU researchers working on integrating electric cars into the electricity grid, just one of the many things we are doing to make sure the world is powered sustainably and cheaply into the future. These are just a few things we are doing to help Australia and the world adjust to a "new normal". No one knows what this will look like, but it will emerge from the work done on our campus and others like ours. Our students will be particularly important at using their acquired knowledge and critical thinking to steer their part of the world, and so I thank everyone for working so hard to provide them with a great education, even if under less-than-perfect circumstances.

It is time to start focusing on the future, and I will host a forward thinking event as part of our Foundation Day activities on Monday 3 August. Australia has never needed its national university more than today, and we have a responsibility to help the nation chart a positive path forward for the betterment of the entire world. Please register to attend here.

Enjoy the weekend!

Brian