VC's Update - Graduations and Canberra Moon Week

23 July 2019

Hi everyone,

What a week it has been with Graduations wrapping up and the 50th anniversary of the Moon landing celebrated on our campus, and around the world.  

Being part of seven graduation ceremonies may seem onerous - and in some sense they are - but they are also a very special part of University life where the enormity of our role in people's lives reverberates throughout the week. While graduations are a celebration of hard work and accomplishment, they also symbolise for many the start of something new and unknown. A time to go out into the world with new independence, but also with new responsibilities.

I am always moved to watch the stories unfold of our students who come from a wide range of backgrounds from across Australia and the world. Earlier this year, in my State of the University Address, I shared the story of Hmalan Hunter-Xenie with our community - a student who started at ANU but found that life sometimes get in the way, so she returned home without a degree. Now, 10 years on, she has not only finished her Bachelor of Science (Resource and Environmental Management) degree, she is staying on and doing Honours. 

Getting to meet our students' families and friends - and learning their stories and aspirations -are moments I savour as Vice-Chancellor. One last congratulation to our graduates. Do yourself proud, and in doing so, you will make our whole community proud.

Last week was also a global celebration of Apollo 11 landing on the Moon. With friends from NASA and Hollywood, ANU hosted a five-day suite of events and activities to celebrate and share this historic moment. I was blown away from the response from the local and national community - with more than 4,000 people coming onto our campus for the celebrations.

And our community delivered. From Graham Walker's 'Space School' demonstrations on University Avenue, to kids trying their hand at building rockets or student volunteers demonstrating the use of liquid nitrogen - this was an opportunity to show how science has evolved and changed in the last five decades but also the important role ANU has played in space exploration and research.

But it wasn't just the kids who had a great time. Along with Mick Gentleman, I hosted a table of NASA experts for Space Trivia at Badger & Co on Friday evening. We were the 'Buzzed Aldrins', and had our butts thoroughly kicked by 'Not the Australian Space Agency' (NASA), who actually were the Australian Space Agency! It is a good reminder that there are some amazing space enthusiasts in our community and you should always look up which animal has been to space the most times (55,000 jellyfish!?!).

I also had the pleasure of hosting Dr Andy Thomas, the first Australian to go into space, at a number of key Canberra Moon Week activities. Dr Thomas was incredibly generous with his time, not just to attend the public lecture, Space: past, present and future, but to host a 'space academy' where more than 500 kids were able to ask questions about being an astronaut.

After watching on the Kambri Cinema, Apollo 11 - a truly iconic documentary - I also had the opportunity to host my friend, Professor Ray Norris, who delivered a lecture on 'the astronomy and navigation of Aboriginal Australians' to close out the festivities. Astronomy has been embedded in Aboriginal culture for more than 60,000 years, and has been used for navigation and storytelling. It was an engaging presentation which flipped the common understandings of the night sky for our audience.

There were also some very special moments from Canberra Moon Week. Everett Gibson, one of our NASA guests, travelled from the United States with a certificate and flag for Professor Ross Taylor, who led NASA's analysis of the Apollo 11 Moon rocks in 1969. Ross' contribution to space research is unparalleled, and I was delighted that his role was internationally recognised as part of the 50th anniversary.

Also as part of Canberra Moon Week, the ACT Government unveiled a plaque at Honeysuckle Creek Tracking Station in recognition of the important role Canberra played in receiving the first images of the Moon landing, which then went on to be seen by more 600 million people worldwide. It was a very special moment to share with the veterans, some of whom travelled from across Australia to be at the unveiling.  A beautiful place to take a bushwalk, and steeped in history. I will be going back on a regular basis. 

Finally, I sent out an invitation to Foundation Day this morning to all members of our community. Foundation Day is an opportunity to reflect on the purpose of our institution, celebrate our role in Australia, and for me to share some exciting news for our community about what is coming next.

Enjoy this first week of term.



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Comment by John
1.15pm 1 Aug 2019

I used to bottle wine from casks under Univerity House (where I lived) with John Godard (?), who was one of the few researchers (School of Physics?) to receive a piece of moon rock from a NASA probe, for research purposes