VC's Update - another busy week at ANU

11 August 2017

Hello everyone

On Monday I had fun sitting down for a discussion with author Dava Sobel as part of the Canberra Writers Festival. Her new book The Glass Universe examines the pioneering women from Harvard University who transformed the practice of astronomy between 1885 and 1927.

It describes a remarkable time where women, who were hired to pore tirelessly over glass slides to classify and catalogue stars, galaxies and nebulas, took the opportunity - and were given permission by the society of the time - to undertake amazing science. It's mindboggling to think this was more than 40 years before women were even given the right to vote in the United States. 100 years later, and we are just now catching up with what was achieved back then in enabling women to be world leaders in astronomy.

Here at home, Pro Vice-Chancellor (University Experience) Professor Richard Baker along with the SAGE Self-Assessment Team (SAT) are currently overseeing and preparing our application for the Bronze Award and I'm pleased we are talking about the ways we will achieve gender equity at ANU together.

The SAGE team have been busy collecting preliminary data that shows the current state of gender equality at the University and they now want to hear your ideas and initiatives, practices and opportunities for improving equity at ANU. You can contribute by emailing your suggestions to

This week was a busy week of exciting announcements, launches and new initiatives.

Today I was delighted to find out that Dr Kai Chan from the ANU Research School of Biology has been named 2017 ACT Scientist of the Year. Kai - who is also an ANU graduate - looks at the effect of drought conditions on plants and the ability of some plants to sense drought stress. A big congratulations on this prestigious award.

Another exciting announcement was the new partnership between Kimberley Community Legal Services (KCLS) and the ANU College of Law to innovate and extend civil law legal help for Aboriginal people in the Kimberley. While the Kimberley is a long way geographically from Canberra, our partnership with KCLS is founded on ideas, relationships, values and interests which we have in common to advancing the relationship with Indigenous Australia. It is also a great opportunity for our students to get real world experience in legal practice while simultaneously making a positive difference for society.

On Wednesday we launched the Centre for Philosophy of the Sciences which will build on the collaborations philosophers at ANU have developed between academics in the research schools of biology, psychology, economics, and political science and international relations. This new centre is a great example of how ANU philosophers are ready to engage with colleagues around the university.

Also on Wednesday I was delighted to announce a new scholarship to assist students facing disadvantage to study at the ANU Research School of Finance, Actuarial Studies and Statistics. This scholarship endowment, worth $1.35M, was donated by ANU alumnus Alan Dixon to honour his father, Daryl Dixon, and family friend, Max Walsh. Equity scholarships sit right at the top of the Strategic Plan for ANU because of their transformative impact, and this gift from Alan is a remarkable act of generosity.

I can't let you all go without mentioning that National Science Week officially starts this weekend. You may think I'm a little biased towards the subject but you're never too young (or old) to have your curiosity sparked by science. I hope you can get out over the next few weeks and enjoy one of the thousands of events on offer.

As part of the launch of National Science Week at Parliament House we had students attend from around the country as part of the Plan for the Planet program. ANU is taking a leading role in this initiative, and is helping secondary students understand the Sustainable Development Goals, by developing local actions to support these goals. This program is being rolled out internationally based on its success here in Australia. Congratulations to all those individuals involved in the development of this program.