VC’s Update – Election results and wicking beds

23 Oct 2020

Hi everyone,

What a big fortnight it has been in the ACT (and in New Zealand) with the 2020 Election held last Saturday. Not quite a normal election day with only a few "democracy sausages" on offer (though in Gungahlin, an enterprising P&C used drones to deliver sausages to meet social distancing guidelines and raise funds!). It was also an opportunity to trial quick counting to streamline the voting process and outcomes - noting things are still not completely wrapped up even with the new technology! From our own community, Dr Marisa Paterson, Director of the ANU Centre for Gambling Research, was elected to the Territory Assembly from the Murrumbidgee electorate. Congratulations Marisa. We look forward to continuing to work with all representatives as we support Canberra and our nation through the COVID-19 pandemic recovery.

Back in my other "home", the US is getting election fever with less than two weeks before the votes are counted. Already, Americans are showing up in great numbers to vote (28 million so far, which amounts to 20 percent of the 2016 turnout!) and they are waiting for hours in lines to have their say. It's a reminder to me of the importance of democracy, and giving everyone, regardless of their background, perspective or location the opportunity to shape their future and how lucky we are in Australia. The outcome of this US election will do more than most to set the course of the world, and many of you will be waiting for the outcome with great anticipation. A number of our ANU experts are providing commentary in the media, and I encourage you to keep an eye on our website for events discussing the outcome and potential consequences post-election. I will be casting my vote remotely in Massachusetts.

Here on campus, we're getting ready to launch the ANU Experience Accelerator initiative - which is designed for us to test ideas in real time about the student experience. This means we can tackle a problem, and test a solution before making an investment. We will use data to inform our decisions, driven by our students. This initiative is launching in Kambri, and the team are looking at the first problem, "how can students connect with each other and ANU to support a positive and healthy transition back to campus in 2021". If you have a suggestion or idea, please visit the website.

This week, I am sad to announce that Professor Terry Dunbar will be stepping down from her role as the inaugural Director of the ANU Indigenous Health and Wellbeing Grand Challenge to focus on family commitments. Terry joined ANU in October 2018 and has worked tirelessly in this role for the last two years. Over the next few months, Professor Keith Nugent, Peter Yu and Professor Lyndall Strazdins will work through the necessary arrangements to ensure the successful continuation of this Grand Challenge. Terry's last day will be Friday 30 October, and I sincerely thank Terry for her contribution to ANU and wish her well in spending time with her loved ones.

Also this week, Professor Si Ming Man was honoured with the CSL Centenary Fellowship, which recognises the best brains in medical research. Professor Man will receive a $1.25 million grant to advance our understanding of the immune system and find new ways to fight bacteria and viruses. Already, his work has uncovered how bacteria interacts with the immune system and is vital in understanding and treating serious cases of food poisoning and sepsis. Well done Si Ming!

In response to a concerned (but anonymous) emailer, I am pleased to provide an update that the University House koi are doing well in the Bob Hawke pond/swimming area, the ducks are keeping the lawns green, and the possums are healthy and up to their usual mischief.

Finally, I've been de-stressing in my garden. I've not had much success with vegetables in the past with me looking on in envy at Richard Baker's garden, but Jenny and I built wicking beds (for those not into gardening, this is a vegetable/herb bed that waters from the bottom, reducing evaporation) over the past nine months. For the first time in my Australian life I have a prolific crop of everything I am growing. My sugar snap peas have problematically grown in excess of 2.5 meters high. Let's hope the grapes fare as well this year.

Enjoy your weekend, and let's hope that the rain over the weekend has NO hail.