Dear Colleagues,

I wanted to begin this message with a quick word of gratitude for our frontline health workers. I started my career as a nurse here in Wollongong, and I remain incredibly proud of the profession I chose all those years ago. Every day as a nurse is unique, frustrating, heart-warming, gut-wrenching, and more. You share in people’s deepest sadness and greatest joys. There is no single way to describe this work’s immeasurability, yet it is someone’s every day. For this reason, I have a particular appreciation, and more now than ever, an admiration for the people working to sustain, protect, and save our community. It is good to be reminded of the work being done for our benefit, and what we can do to show respect to our frontline workers, by getting vaccinated, staying home, wearing masks and physical distancing etc.

The rising case numbers in the Illawarra and Shoalhaven regions, as well as in Sydney, remain concerning. It can sometimes feel like a growing shadow is being cast over our future, especially for those enduring this pandemic at the coal face. However, it is on all of us to remain vigilant and bring this to an end. I hope that you, like me, will find encouragement in NSW’s increasing vaccination rates and the Premier’s promise of slowly easing restrictions for those better protected from infection and illness. It’s cliché, but we are in this together, and with vaccines, the finish line is very much in sight.

Thank you for your participation in the all-staff update on Wednesday. The executive team and I were very happy with how the session went. If you missed the live stream event, it is now available on YouTube. I was glad to hear staff enjoyed this new format which emphasised transparency and inclusion.

In his presentation on Wednesday, Professor Joe Chicharo mentioned the National Student Safety Survey which will be running through September. The survey aims to understand the best ways to support those who experience sexual assault or sexual harassment and inform university services, prevention methods and responses for student safety and wellbeing. The overall aim is to prevent sexual violence in university communities. I invite you to work with me on creating a culture of respect and safety for all at UOW.

The University of Wollongong values the participation of both staff and students in its decision making. Each year, the University hosts elections for staff and student positions on governance bodies, to ensure that all perspectives are heard and considered. The 2021 General Elections cycle has commenced, and nominations are now open for staff positions on University Council. I encourage those interested to get involved.

UOW’s graduation ceremonies will be celebrated online again this year. Of course, it was our wish and plan to hold in-person ceremonies, but we have had to pivot in the face of lockdown restrictions. The ceremony will be livestreamed at 6pm on Thursday, 14 October, and will endeavor to include the elements of traditional graduation ceremonies that we know are important to our students. I’m especially excited to announce Kumi Taguchi, host of SBS’s Insight and alumna of UOW, will host the event. And we will also have a special musical performance from Wollongong band, Hockey Dad. Our students have been through a lot in their final year of study and this event will be a chance to reflect on their tenacity and hard work. We look forward to celebrating alongside them.

I wanted to do a quick shoutout to our outreach and school programs team for the incredible work they have done, offering professional development courses, available for primary and secondary school teachers. The aim is to help educators gain a deeper understanding in key curriculum / subject based areas and broader educational areas. According to Campus Morning Mail, this is a national first and a great way to engage with our community.

Announced on Wednesday, I was honoured to receive a 2021 Advance Award, alongside UOW alumnus Dr Sameer Dixit. These awards celebrate the work of Australians and Australian university graduates making an impact on the global stage. I congratulate Dr Dixit on this achievement and the extraordinary contribution he has made through social initiatives in his home country of Nepal.

Thank you to everyone who joined me on Tuesday for another ‘Trivia with Trish’. This week’s winner is Kate Schreiber! A big virtual congratulations Kate, you will receive your $50 e-gift card soon. Honourable mentions go to: Catherine Ross, Michelle Phillips, Felix Lanceley, Matt Sheppard, Rachel Nacilla, Ellie Taylor, Ciaran Walton, Melinda Waterman, Justin, Sally Evans, Lance Barrie, Bailey Bond, Vinod Gopaldasani, Madeleine Dimitroulis, Celbert DMellow and Laura Mothersdill. Please join us again next week for more fun! You can register here.

On a similar note, if you’re a parent, you’re probably looking for ways to entertain the kids, and if you’re not a parent, you might be looking for something to do in your spare time. I came across this rock painting activity that looks to be lifting the spirits of adults and children alike! We’re all needing connection at the moment, so I encourage you to look for ways you can engage with your small pocket of community, while maintaining physical distancing.

As I said in the all-staff update on Wednesday, this is a challenging time and I commend your ongoing commitment. What we’re doing here at UOW – transforming people’s lives through the power of education – is important work. You are all making a direct contribution to our student’s experience, their education, and their future. In this capacity, you are all doing a fantastic job.Enjoy another warm weekend ahead and let’s keep moving forward, together.