VC's Update - Alumni celebrations and the federal election

8 April 2019

Hi everyone,

Autumn is back in Canberra, with cooler temperatures greeting alumni who returned to campus for the inaugural Welcome Back Alumni Weekend. I really enjoyed meeting alumni young and old and seeing them go on a Heritage Trail Walk, attend a reunion lunch or take part in the launch of the Women's Alumni Network. Despite the coolish wet (we needed that!) weather, more than 1000 alumni registered to celebrate the weekend and explore the new Kambri precinct.

Among the highlights, the Alumni Awards Gala Dinner was held in the Manning Clark Hall in Kambri. This was the largest event since the opening, and it was extraordinary that the Hall could be converted from a lecture theatre to dining space within a few hours. The Alumni Awards event is always a wonderful evening - bringing together alumni, staff and students to recognise the exceptional contributions of alumni to our community and the world.

Hannah Gadsby was recognised as the 2019 Alumna of the Year for her fierce advocacy of gender equity and LGBTIQ issues - which are key to making the world an open and inclusive place for everyone. Hannah's reflections about university resonate with many alumni. University is a transformational period in your life. The experiences that stay with you after graduation are often the memories you make outside the classroom where you meet people with different perspectives, and you find out who you want to be. I'm looking forward to seeing Hannah when she returns to campus later this year to accept the award in person.

I also enjoyed meeting Lauren Dreyer, who received the 2019 Student Volunteer of the Year (Postgraduate) Award for her work on Take One, Leave One: The Winter Coat Project. For those who didn't see the collection stations around campus last year, this initiative provides winter coats to Canberra's homeless population - which is a national problem. Providing a winter jacket not only provides warmth and comfort, but it also provides dignity and support for some of the most vulnerable people in our society. If you want to support this program, you can drop a jacket or coat in the ANU Law School foyer.

For me, this year's recipients have demonstrated the breadth of impact our students and alumni are making, not just to ANU, but also to the world. We want an ANU degree to empower our graduates to go out and change the world in any way they see fit - from training refugees to learn to code, fighting for the rights of sexual assault survivors, or developing diagnostics tools to detect cancer - our alumni and students truly are actually changing the world. You can see the full list of 2019 Award recipients here.

Here at ANU, we are home to great research - demonstrated, among many things, by the 2018 Excellence in Research for Australia outcomes released last week. Ninety-six per cent of our research outputs have been rated above world standard which is something we can all be proud of.  And from that world-class research, we want to train the next generation of leaders from our student body, and provide more ways to make sure that our research can be put to good use for the benefit of humanity. In this second respect, I am pleased to announce that Professor Owen Atkin from the Research School of Biology has been appointed Entrepreneurial Professor. Professor Atkin joins Professor Genevieve Bell, Director of the 3Ai, Professor Mark Kendall, founder of WearOptimo, Professor Anna Moore, Director of the ANU Institute for Space, as ANU Entrepreneurial Professors, to drive and develop interdisciplinary research which will enable new approaches to research and innovation challenges.

Also last week, the Government released the 2019-20 Federal Budget in preparation for the forthcoming election, followed by the Opposition's Budget Reply Speech, but what happens next is really up to the people of Australia. The election presents an opportunity to have your say about our politics and what you want the future of our nation to look like. For those not yet enrolled, I encourage you to use your voice at the next election by enrolling here.

And for those who are interested in the election battleground issues, ANU is coordinating a four-part series featuring some of our leading academics. You can see the full line-up of events, videos and activities here which I hope will give you some insight before hitting the polls in May.

I have been spending my weekends tending to my now fully fermented grapes, including my first Shiraz-Viognier (watch out Kiaran Kirk and Clonakilla!). Last weekend I pumped and pressed all of the wine from the vats. We filled 13 of the 228-litre oak barrels - that's 3900 bottles. The wine will now sit in the barrels for the next 20 months before being bottled. We are now pulling in the nets - the least favourite job of vineyard year.

I'm off to Europe for a week to be part of the 100th anniversary of the International Astronomical Union, as well as some meetings in the UK.  If there is a hard Brexit on April 12th, I will provide an eyewitness account for everyone via the @VC_ANU Twitter feed.