VC's Update - A powerful speech from Stan Grant

03 Nov 2023

Hi everyone, 

People keep asking me if things are winding down, but my life seems even busier than normal. While some of the things happening I could do without, much of it is really good.

On Monday evening I attended our 10th Annual JG Crawford Oration at the Hyatt Hotel in Canberra along with our Chancellor and many other guests from across academia, business, the public sector as well as advocacy communities. We come together each year to consider major global developments shaping Australia's prosperity and security. This year the oration, which traditionally precedes the ANU Crawford Leadership Forum, was delivered by Professor Stan Grant.  
Stan's powerful speech entitled The Witness of Poetry: the silent breath reflected on the outcome of the Voice to Parliament referendum. I feel so privileged on behalf of our community that Stan chose an ANU event as his place to finally speak on this topic. The oration was moving, and I could feel Stan's personal pain in its delivery. I encourage you all to watch the oration in full which is available here
I also attended the ANU Crawford Leadership Forum on Tuesday and this year's theme was Democratic Resilience and Renewal, a major issue in Australia currently, and so the oration by Stan was a brilliant lead in to the Forum event. I chaired a panel on civics education - a topic I feel particularly passionate about. My guests on the panel were the Honourable Milton Dick, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Dr Stephanie Smith from the Museum of Australian Democracy, Professor Anne Twomey, ANU alumna and Professor Emerita at University of Sydney; and the Honourable Tony Smith, Professor in the Practice of Politics here at ANU. Our panel concluded that civics education needed substantial reform within secondary school, and that there was the opportunity to do some major community events to better raise awareness of how our democracy actually works.  
Last Friday I had the great pleasure of attending the Andrew Olle Media Lecture in Sydney which focuses on the role and future of the media. This year's lecture was delivered by Leigh Sales who explored the phenomenon of news avoidance. Leigh talked about her own period of media avoidance last year and after speaking to the other guests seated at my table, it became apparent that nearly everyone has reached a point where they have had to 'switch off' from the news. It was a theme in Stan Grant's lecture as well.  My main takeaway from Leigh's lecture was that we, as a nation, need to have a serious conversation about society's expectations about our news - whether it be a public broadcaster, or the private ones.  
November is the hardest month for many people in the calendar year - as we lead into the end of year summer break. Please, everyone, plan to take some annual leave over this period to recharge. Taking a substantial break is important for personal wellbeing and mental health.  
I was pleasantly surprised when the results of the Enterprise Agreement landed in my inbox this week. Such strong endorsement from our staff is amazing and it signals to me that we are getting it right when it comes to employment conditions. Thank you to everyone who took the time to engage with the Agreement and cast their vote. Over the last eight years, I have strived to improve workplace culture and conditions for staff at ANU. I want our national University to be a leader in the sector in areas like work-life balance, employment security, wage growth; and diversity and inclusivity so that our community feels proud to say they work here. I believe the 94 per cent endorsement for our 2023-2026 Agreement is a step in the right direction. 
Congratulations to Professor Bronwyn Parry, Dean of the College of Arts and Social Sciences who has been awarded a $16 million Synergy Grant from the European Research Council (ERC) along with her European collaborators. The award is an Australian first for social science - Bronwyn and her team will investigate the role that cooling technologies like cold storage and air-conditioned environments play in driving global warming. The research ties in nicely with the University's Below Zero Program and our commitment to support climate action. It is inspiring to see our academics tackling big questions the world urgently needs answers for. 

The Chief People Officer and I are working in consultation with Council, the Senior Management Group and the incoming Vice-Chancellor on processes to fill a number of senior vacancies. We already have arrangements in place for the Chief Operating Officer role and plans for interim appointments when our Pro Vice-Chancellor (Education and Digital) Maryanne Dever and Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research and Innovation) Keith Nugent depart. In the coming weeks we will start the process to recruit a Provost and the search for a University Secretary is already underway. Between now and the end of the year, I have asked the Chief People Officer to work closely with the On Campus team to provide regular updates on senior appointments.

Finally, I'd like to thank Grady, our Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic), for acting up in the Vice-Chancellor role for the past couple of weeks while I was away. Grady's leadership and her commitment to our community never falter, and I appreciate her willingness to step up whenever asked. I am grateful to have such a supportive teammate! 
I'll be out in the vineyard this weekend - preparing for it to flower in the next 10 days or so - quite a bit earlier than normal. I am going to take the plunge and plant out the summer vegetables as well - I am getting a bit sick of snow peas and silver beet, which are currently in abundance. For those of you wondering about my raspberries - lots have formed and so I think they are just a few weeks away.  
Enjoy your weekend.