Dear Colleagues

As the restrictions on movements and activities begin to lift, many of us have conflicting emotions. Relief is undoubtedly one. As we inch closer toward life as we knew it, there is a recognisable air of hope and excitement filling my conversations with colleagues. But, many also feel anxious about some of the uncertainty we face. We’re not out of this yet, and we’re also very aware of the changing nature of this virus. As we come out of lockdown, we must move forward with caution and care for our fellow citizens. We are not okay until we are all OK – making special mention of our frontline workers and those in our community who are still vulnerable. Please continue to observe QR check-ins, masks, physical distancing – especially if you are going onto campus and even if you are vaccinated. We have come so far, but there is still a way to go and hard fought for gains can be easily lost. Be assured that the University continues to monitor a dynamic and evolving environment and our number one priority is the health and wellbeing of our people and community.

On a very positive note, last night, we celebrated the graduating cohort of 2020/2021, and what a special night it was!  I must admit I sat on the stage with some mixed emotions. Pride and exhilaration for our amazing students and staff, also in awe of the coordination and technology but still a sense that these are not normal times and many have suffered in so many ways. I thought about family members and friends who have lost their lives in the pandemic and not able to share the pride and joy of graduation.

I am sure in many houses graduation was a bittersweet moment. However, watching the stewardship of the ceremony by our stellar alumna Kumi Taguchi, our amazing graduates, the inspiration of our student speakers, and our latest UOW Honorary Doctorate awardee, Professor Fiona Wood AM filled me with an intense sense of optimism for the future. Our Chancellor Christine McLoughlin AM embraced her first graduation with pride and enthusiasm – what a great night.

Our graduation ceremony was live-streamed from our Uni Hall on the Wollongong campus with close to 1,000 students in over 20 countries watching on with their loved ones. We’ve been overwhelmed by the positive feedback, but the success of an event like this belongs to the students, staff and community who worked incredibly hard to make it happen. I am so proud of every graduating student and all those who worked tirelessly to make this event happen – a heartfelt thank you for aptly recognising the achievements of our students during a time like this. Do yourself a favour and check out the live-stream here.

On 8 October, University Council elected Warwick Shanks as one of UOW’s two Deputy Chancellors. Warwick replaces Dr Elizabeth Magassy who has been Deputy Chancellor since 2017. Dr Magassy is recognised for her substantial commitment and exemplary service to the University during her time as Deputy Chancellor. We thank her for excellence during her tenure, particularly in relation to the expertise she brought to the University’s community health and wellbeing initiatives. Warwick brings an impressive suite of experience, with 30 years in corporate governance, audit, and risk management. His expertise and knowledge will be invaluable in the coming years, and I warmly welcome him aboard!

October is Mental Health Month and National Safe Work Month. This is a fantastic opportunity to raise awareness around mental health, wellbeing and safety. UOW’s fabulous Workplace Health and Safety team has developed a calendar of suggested activities and online initiatives that all staff are invited to participate in. We’re only halfway through the month, with plenty of suggested activities still to go, so take a look and see if there’s anything that tickles your fancy!

Next week is also Global Climate Change Week. UOW and our community partners have developed a fantastic and informative schedule of events, activities and resources to raise awareness of climate change and drive action toward achieving a healthier planet. From discussion panels to nature walks, I’m really looking forward to getting involved and strongly encourage you to as well!

You’re also all invited to a virtual event hosted by the School of Medicine ‘Working and leading with values: perspective of a trauma surgeon’ on Wednesday, 20 October. Dr. Joseph V. Sakran is a former colleague of mine from Johns Hopkins in the US and is a world-renowned trauma surgeon and advocate for gun violence prevention. A survivor of gun violence himself, Dr. Sakran’s interest in medicine and trauma surgery began after a stray bullet nearly killed him during his senior year of high school. He has dedicated his life to treating the most vulnerable, reducing health disparities among marginalized populations, and advancing public policy that alleviates structural violence in low-income communities. Joe is an engaging speaker, and an inspirational leader in his field and I am very much looking forward to this event.

In more good news, Early Start Discovery Space and Science Space will reopen on Monday, 18 October! I hear staff from both Spaces are very excited to welcome children and families back for engaging, fun, interactive play-based learning, and STEM education! Of course, COVID Safe plans are in place so they can reopen with reduced capacities and updated conditions of entry to keep everyone safe and comfortable. Bookings are essential (even for members) at earlystartdiscoveryspace.edu.au and sciencespace.com.au

I hope you enjoy the weekend ahead and thank you for all that you do.

Trish