Another week has passed in this our pandemic-shaped year, with Melbourne moving into a curfew lockdown and Queensland re-closing the border. To our many students, staff and alumni - as well as friends and family - affected by these changes, our thoughts are with you, and just reach out if there are things we can do to help. Here in the ACT, where we thankfully remain COVID free, it's an important reminder that we must remain vigilant and get tested if we're unwell, and if you are tested, stay at home until you get the results. I also plead with you to reconsider non-essential travel to those places where there is community transmission - the next few weeks will be critical for keeping Canberra and the ANU COVID-free.
Last week, we announced that wearing masks on campus is strongly recommended and this has caused some confusion. To be clear: you don't have to wear a mask, but if you can, please do. Wearing a mask is demonstrated to help to limit the spread of the virus; and although we don't think we have community transmission in Canberra right now, wearing a mask will help prevent community transmission from starting; and equally important, will help prepare us all for when and if it does become compulsory. I've been wearing mine when I am out and about, and I have to admit that it makes you feel self-conscious - especially when you are the only one wearing one. Mine's pretty comfortable, but my glasses fogging up is a bit annoying (and yes, I know about micropore tape, etc... but who carries it all the time?). You can make your own mask, or buy one at low cost that is effective (and in some cases, très chic). COVID-19 transmission is ultimately based on around probabilities. Masks appear to make a significant difference in suppressing transmission by infected individuals - hence why I am doing all that I can do, to keep it out of the ACT. I really want to avoid a lock-down here.
Last Wednesday morning we learned of the horrific explosion in Beirut. While none of our staff were injured, we do have alumni as well as students and their family who have been affected. If you know of anyone affected in our community, please reach out and given them some support. With seemingly constant updates of bad news unfolding around the world we need to look after ourselves. Take some time off, do something fun, spend time, even if virtually with friends and family. After the miserable weekend you might need some additional help - we have a number of services to help - don't try to make it through 2020 alone.
One member of our community who is making an extraordinary difference in mental health support is Rosemary Clifford, a PhD candidate from the Research School of Psychology. Rose's work has helped to develop and deliver education programs which have supported more than 6,000 people. I was very pleased to hear that she was recognised with the 2020 Young Canberra Citizen of the Year Award - a huge achievement and testament to her work in the community. Well done Rose!
Also last week, for those who missed it, the Chancellor and I delivered the Foundation Day Address. Much has changed since the start of 2020, but our mission and responsibility to Australia remains the same. ANU is here to chart a new future, to supply knowledge, research and train the next generation, as well as advising and informing our Government. It is going to be a very bumpy rest of the year, but let's remember that what we do is important. You can read my full speech here.
Finally, I want to highlight one of several quirky activities happening for National Science Week. ANU is co-hosting a "satellite selfie" to take a series of time-capsule images from space of Canberra and our surrounds. I'll be participating in the photos by lying down with my moon beanbag somewhere on campus - a literal "Where's Wally" at ANU. Once the images are released, I'll gift a bottle of my Pinot Noir to the first person (over 18 years of age) to tweet me with my location on campus. You can participate in the fly-overs from 17-21 August and I encourage you to keep an eye on Fellows Oval and University Avenue.