VC’s Update – Royal visit, parliamentarians and O-Week

17 Feb 2023

Hi everyone,

Students and Summer have finally arrived on campus this week, and I am loving walking around and feeling all the activity. 

Orientation week has brought a buzz to campus. I always enjoy meeting new students and I've been out and about, soaking in the ebullience. 2,000 new students joined us at our annual Commencement Address. Our alumnus Kieran Pender, an Australian writer, lawyer and academic - delivered the keynote address - along with the student presidents with Professor Katerina Teaiwa,  our outstanding emcee.  And how good was Market Day!  Congrats to ANUSA for getting so many of us out onto University Avenue to visit a half a kilometre of stalls.  A wonderful atmosphere that showcased just how much our students can get up to here in Canberra.

Speaking of new homes, last week - the Chancellor and I, joined by Council - opened the newest residential student accommodation, Yukeembruk (The Crow in the local language). While known as SA8, it caused us a fair share of headaches, but what has emerged is a beautiful series of buildings, nestled between Sullivans Creek and the edge of Black Mountain. I got to cook a pancit with several of the students in their beautiful kitchens -  way better than the microwave I shared with 400 residents in my undergrad dorm. Yukeembruk's clothes washing machines are stuck on a boat, but we are doing all we can to bring clothes washing-relief ASAP.

As you may have seen in the media coverage, this week, ANU hosted Her Royal Highness, Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden, as part of her official royal tour in Australia. The Crown Princess was part of a very well attended event, focusing on the electrification of our society - and the challenges and opportunities that we will encounter as part of the green transition. It was a very special event for our students to attend and it was a great reminder that ANU, as the national university, attracts and facilitates conversations on a global scale with leaders from around the world. We have a responsibility to work with international partners to help solve the biggest challenges facing humanity. For me, it was nice to catch up with the Crown Princess and Prince - as she was my dinner companion when I received my Nobel Prize in 2011.

As I reflected on my first meeting with Princess Victoria more than 10 years ago, it seemed fortuitous that another Nobel Prize winner from the same year (and same ceremony!) as me, Professor Thomas Sargent, is also on campus. Professor Sargent has been working with Professor John Stachurski from the ANU Research School of Economics to deliver workshops for students and policy makers to learn about the evolution of modern scientific computing tools and how they can be applied to economic problems. I've used these programs in my own research, and it was great to see Thomas teaching a packed room of students. There are more than 70 lectures on the syllabus - enough for a PhD candidate! Thomas is also delivering the 2023 Goldsmith Lecture on 'Sources of artificial intelligence' on Tuesday 28 February in Kambri. I won't be able to make it as I'll be in India, but my family are planning to attend.

It was actually a huge week for VIPs at ANU. I met a group of visiting German MPs today with the European Studies Centre, Minister Luhut from Indonesia, Minister Lino Tom from PNG, and hosted Home Affairs Minister Clare O'Neil for her major speech at NSC. NSC had a particularly big week, also launching the NS23 program with Minister for Foreign Affairs Penny Wong and Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Birmingham. With more than 20 MPs in attendance, this is a breakthrough in regularly providing independent academic and practitioner briefings on security, foreign affairs and national interest issues for parliamentarians across the political spectrum, and reflects a high level of trust and confidence in the NSC and ANU. Congratulations to Professor Rory Medcalf and the NSC and Crawford team for your work on this.

Finally, the First Nations Portfolio launched their 'Murra Waarru' seminar series, focused on designing a new First Nations economic policy framework. I opened the first seminar, and am looking forward to the next five, which are being held across 2023. Congratulations to Professor Peter Yu and your team - it was great to see a mix of people attend to share their expertise and help shape this new framework. There is a feeling of growing momentum in the First Nations space and it's great to see these activities generating great discussion.

And there is more to come. In the coming weeks, we will be hosting two major events - with the Susan Ryan Oration on 2 March delivered by the Hon Katy Gallagher, and the inaugural Gareth Evans Oration on 14 March, delivered by Lord Chris Patten (Chancellor of Oxford, and the last British Governor of Hong Kong). I'm looking forward to the discussions - one focused on gender equity and discrimination, and the latter, on ensuring that liberal democracies are able to create a global partnership which does not exclude China and other authoritarians but ensures the survival and success of open societies. I encourage everyone to attend - it is these types of conversations that underpin working or studying at ANU. You can literally find interesting talks every day across campus.

Finally, I'd like to thank our Grounds and Gardens team for their work in ensuring our campus is looking at its best. Over at JCSMR, a small army were cutting back the lavender earlier this week  - along with maintaining and keeping up with the weeding, planting and general maintenance across campus. I always enjoy getting outside and we are lucky to have such a beautiful environment.

At the farm, berries galore, and my grapes have finally started to change colour. That means we have to put on the nets - not my favourite job I am afraid.

Have a great weekend,