I am writing my last blog of 2020 - and unlike most years, this one did not go by quickly. From a record breaking 44 degree day, smoke closures, and mass destruction of our cars and buildings due to hail - and that was just January - to February; starting with COVID-19 border closures that kept our students from getting onto campus. And of course, March with our rapid transition to remote work and study that has only slowly eased in the second half of the year. I'm certainly looking forward to returning to a more normal campus experience in 2021, but the new COVID-19 outbreak in Sydney tells us we cannot let down our guard.
I don't think anyone will argue that this year has been tough - it has been the most challenging year that most of us will have faced in our lives - certainly true for me. I want to say thank you everyone at ANU for your fantastic contributions this year, despite stress and uncertainty. It has been extraordinary, and we have done things I couldn't have imagined to be possible 12 months ago. In particular, I'd like to thank all of our student-facing staff who shifted the University to remote learning within a matter of weeks. Without your efforts, we could not have kept our students - many of whom were isolated across Australia and the world - connected to each other, to their studies, and to ANU.
But this year has also been challenging for many of our staff, not just those who have said goodbye to friends and colleagues, but those who have experienced financial hardship. Under Matthew Colless' encouragement, we created the Staff Urgent Relief Fund, to provide a tax-free payment of $2,500 to those in need - and I am very proud that this has supported more than 90 of our colleagues. We also received more than $175,000, demonstrating the incredible generosity of ANU. This fund has now been fully expended, and although I hope 2021 will be better, there will still be tough moments. So I have topped up the fund, cashing in some additional leave, to ensure those who need our help can receive it. Providing dignity and support is one of the most important gifts we can provide to someone else - so if you would like to make a donation, please visit the website.
Finally, I will be heading on leave next week so I want to say my last final 'thank you' for this year. Despite the enormous challenge, I think we can be proud of what we have achieved across the year, and we are set to play our enormously important role for Australia no matter what 2021 throws at us.
To finish this year, we've recorded our annual end-of-year message with the help of people across campus. A very special thanks to Kim Cunio for the music, written specifically for this message, and to all of our staff and students who participated so willingly. I'm hoping at the end of next year we might be all in the mood for another Carpool Karaoke video.