VC's Update - A fortnight of 'missions accomplished'

17 Nov 2023

Hi everyone,

It has been a busy and interesting couple of weeks, and I have been to a series of great events which in different ways have shown how we're delivering on our founding mission as the first and only national university.

Throughout my tenure, I made this mission a key personal focus and I've seen ANU make strides in this space, by forming strong government linkages, contributing to public policy and national societal issues, participating in global engagement and demonstrating our power to convene and lead conversations in the tertiary education sector and beyond.

Recently I was pleased to be able to announce the creation of a new university consortium, led by ANU, to help build pathways to higher education for refugees from around the world. The Australian Refugee Welcome University Sponsorship Consortium (ARWUSC) brings together 12 universities each with strong commitments to social impact. This nationwide alliance will design a blueprint for a proposed new education-led pathway for refugee resettlement in Australia and will deliver benefits to the nation for decades to come.

With global displacement at a peak, only six per cent of refugees are currently enrolled in tertiary education. Given the number of global crises currently taking place around the world, including in the Middle East and Ukraine, I have no doubt that this team of education experts will find ways to ensure more refugees can continue their education journeys, along with the support of the Australian Government. This unique capability to lead and assemble key partners to tackle global issues is part of what makes the national university so special.

This Wednesday I was also proud to hear what the Hon Andrew Giles, Minister for Immigration, Citizenship and Multicultural Affairs had to say in his address at the ANU Migration Update. Not only did Andrew praise the ANU Migration Hub, its researchers and their work, he also commended Professor Stephen Howes and his team in the Development Policy Centre (DevPol) and stated that their work was crucial to the formation of the Pacific Engagement Visa bill that was just passed through the Australian Senate last month. Now that's what I call impact!

I attended the second ANU Rare Earth Element Conference (REECON) this week, run by Professor John Mavrogenes. REECON convened more than 60 companies and organisations from academia, industry and government to discuss the Australian context for critical minerals focusing on research, geopolitics, supply chain, bio-extraction and processing. Madeleine King, Minister for Resources, delivered one of the main keynotes, encouraging our bilateral partners to work with Australia to steady supply and demand globally.

REECON is yet another brilliant demonstration of the unique capacity of ANU to bring key people together who hold different pieces of the puzzle to tackle issues of sovereign importance. Talking about the future and specifically the essential capability that Australia needs to help make the clean energy transition is such a high priority agenda item.

At the event I also learnt that Professor Mavrogenes received an ARC Linkage grant in the latest round, partnering ANU with fellow research institutions and junior exploration companies to evaluate the prospects of the Gascoyne Region of Western Australia. My congratulations to John and his team.

In the wake of the recent referendum outcome, the First Nations Portfolio has set up the First Nations Strategic Priorities Fund, an initiative designed to provide flexible funding to support economic self-determination projects for the advancement of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. I'm so proud of this initiative that once again fulfills our mission and seeks to put funding towards first nations-led research and initiatives to drive practical change, work towards democratic participation, societal equity, and economic opportunities. To learn more and to donate, click here.

As I am nearing the end of my term as Vice-Chancellor, my diary has not been any less busy, in fact quite the opposite. I had a whirlwind trip to Hong Kong last week where I caught up with our amazing Alumni including Professor Matthew Bailes who won the prestigious Shaw Prize in Astronomy earlier this year. I was fortunate enough to be a Shaw Prize winner back in 2006, so it was great to have the opportunity to congratulate Matthew in person. I also dropped in at the Chifley Library for a celebratory cake cutting event to mark the 100 millionth download from our ANU open access platforms. This is a perfect example of ANU making information and research widely available, yet another way we are meeting our mission goals. l also enjoyed a tour at the School of Cybernetics hosted by the Master of Applied Cybernetics cohort. They showcased the operational exhibits from their group projects. I am always impressed by the unique talents of our students, and I am fortunate that in this position I am able to be exposed to and appreciate so much of it.

I was pleased to discover that the ANU start-up, Nomad Atomics won the 'Engineering of the Future' Cluster at this year's Falling Walls Venture competition in Berlin. Nomad Atomics are a leader in deployable quantum sensors and are transforming the field of quantum sensing and so yes, more congratulations are warranted. You can learn more about Falling Walls here.

Each year our Australian National Dictionary Centre, based at ANU, selects a word or expression that has gained prominence in the Australian landscape over the past 12 months. It may not come as a surprise, given the football fever on our campus and across the nation, that this year's word is 'Matilda'. I particularly like this year's choice because it has historic cultural significance and also reflects the massive popularity of the Australian women's soccer team after their semi-final run in this year's FIFA Women's World Cup.

The People and Culture Division have asked me to be include a couple of reminders for staff. Following on from the ANYOU Survey delivered in March this year, a subsequent survey has been launched to find out what progress has been made. The survey is confidential and takes 4 minutes to complete and I encourage you all to respond. Invitations to participate were emailed to all staff yesterday and more information can be found here.

Applications are also still open for mentees in the 2024 ANU Professional Staff Mentoring Program. If you are interested in receiving support from experienced senior staff, building networks or want help navigating your career, this is the ideal opportunity. Applications close on Friday 1 December and you can register your interest here.

First raspberry of the year.

Lastly, I wanted to mention that I am very much looking forward to hosting my final End of Year Staff Garden Party on Friday 15 December. The Chancellor's and Vice-Chancellor's award will be a highlight and I am looking forward to seeing everyone's best (and possibly worst) at the 'Bake your Brian' competition -  not my idea! I'm not sure exactly how I have inspired a baking competition, perhaps word got around about my wood-fired pizza oven, or my raspberry tarts  -  either way, I am looking forward to tasting all of the entries and making an informed decision on who wins. My raspberries are ready, so I may even enter something into the people's choice category. Don't forget to RSVP and I look forward to seeing you all there.

Have a great weekend.