VC's Update - face masks and new appointments to ANU Council

24 July 2020

Hi everyone,

Today I am taking some annual leave to spend time with my family and to relax a little bit.  It is important that we all take our leave - even if we cannot go on the vacation that we have planned, because the stressful environment that is part of 2020, hangs over us all. I know many of you are gearing up for Semester 2 so it might not be feasible for a few weeks or months, but I encourage everyone to plan out their breaks for the rest of the year. I have!  

Speaking of Semester 2, I am looking forward to a bit more hustle and bustle of students on campus next week. Many in our community are still unable to join us in Canberra, but it is important we learn lessons from Victoria about remaining vigilant at all times. One of the most concerning statistics from Victoria was that so many people did not self-isolate when showing symptoms of COVID-19 or while waiting for test results. I beg everyone in our community to stay home if you are sick, and get tested if appropriate.  The University will flexibly deal with your situation. If this is going to present a personal or financial problem, please reach out to our Community Wellbeing team who will work to figure out a solution.

We have been planning for the return of students and more staff on campus, and one of the robust discussions we have been having is around the use of face masks. At ANU, while community transmission in the ACT remains low, wearing a mask will remain a personal choice - but my guess is that they may well become mandatory sometime in the future. So I encourage everyone to start thinking about sourcing their own mask so it is not a panic when they are needed. For most of us, a mask's primary value is preventing us from spreading COVID-19 to others. A home-made cloth facemask seems pretty good for this purpose - they are re-useable and washable. This way, the medical grade ones can be kept in supply for those who need them also for protection, like particularly vulnerable members of our community, and especially our health workers.

Neither of my parents could sew, and so I didn't learn to either.  I made my own face mask using the viral sock trick from social media - it's pretty easy, but not a very effective mask on its own (but it's better than nothing!). Fortunately, my wife is very good at sewing, and we are going to work together to create our own fabric masks. I ask all of us to work together as a community and help out each other make masks. Just like ANU student Chloe Harpley. She, as part of the Books for the Bush Charity, is looking for volunteers to help make masks for people in fire-affected and COVID-19 hot spot areas, including the South Coast. You can find more information on their Facebook page and be sure to check out the other great work they're doing to have books donated to those regions too!  

Finally, I finish with some good news. Torres Strait Islander woman Tanya Hosch has been appointed to the ANU Council for a four-year term. Tanya brings a wealth of corporate and community experience to Council. She is the General Manager of Inclusion and Social Policy for the AFL, is a Director of the Australian Indigenous Governance Institute and the Indigenous Land Council. She is also a member of the Referendum Council. I look forward to Tanya's guidance and expertise on Council. It will also be the first Council meeting for newly elected professional staff representative Caterina Giugovaz. Current Council Members Natasha Stott Despoja and Doug McTaggart have also have also been reappointed for another year. Council meets again next Friday, the 31st of July.

I wish you all a safe and relaxing weekend.