Dear Colleagues

We’ve almost reached the end of 2021, and what a year it has been. Albeit challenging, this year has shown me that light will still shine through any cracks. Most of us have been trying to juggle way too many balls, facing new challenges each day, all while needing to adapt to the countless disruptions we have encountered. Not only have you persevered and remained committed to your work, but you have shown great strength and compassion for one another and our UOW community more broadly. Being my first year as Vice-Chancellor of this great institution, I am proud of what we have achieved, despite – and in some ways, because of – the challenges we have faced. The thing that has stood out to me the most during these first months is the people that make this place what it is. I really couldn’t be prouder to work alongside you.

There is much to look forward to in 2022, and with the foundations we have established this year, I believe we’re all set for the challenges and possibilities a new year offers. With Campus Fest, the return of international students, and the flexible options now available with blended learning, I am very excited for what is in store. Of course, the excitement comes with some caveats. COVID-19 case numbers appear to be on the rise, so I encourage you to please remain vigilant, get tested if you have symptoms or are in close contact with a confirmed case, and get vaccinated if you haven’t already. Vaccinated staff will be able to return to campus from 11 January 2022.

COVID-19 impacted almost every facet of our lives, but for some small business owners, entire livelihoods were in the balance. During this holiday period, I encourage you to shop local as much as possible. Small businesses depend on your help and encouragement. This article lists a few local sellers to visit. And on that note, why not make room for all your new purchases by donating your pre-loved household items? Goodwill Hunting 2022 is seeking donations from December through February. Your contributions will go to domestic and international students who set up their new life as uni students. It’s a fantastic cause and makes the transition to University that little bit easier. For more information on when and where to donate, visit the Goodwill Hunting website.

If you’re looking for things to do over the summer, this list (originally created for students) is a fantastic place to start. The latest Outlook Magazine for 2021/22 will also provide wonderful summer reading, as it goes deeper into the stories behind a number of our most successful and inspiring graduates. And if you’re looking for ways to keep children curious and busy over the holidays, Early Start Discovery Space and Science Space have summer school holiday programs – noting, Dine & Discover NSW Vouchers are also now being accepted. Science Space will have you rocketing to the moon for their Destination Space program featuring space-inspired science shows, planetarium screenings and special activities. Their popular full-day Space Camps are back in January also. Discovery Space will have daily story time, all-day art sessions and a range of FREE play-based activities seven days a week. Plus, they are launching their new STEAM room with programs focused on Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics featuring Bee-bots, block play & Make-Do engineering kits.

On Tuesday, we held the UOW Vice-Chancellor Awards to recognise the incredible work and achievements of our staff. It was an honour to host the awards, and to be there together in person was another sign of things returning to normal. A big congratulations and thank you to each award recipient for going above and beyond in a year much harder than most. This was a really lovely way to reflect on the year that was and to see those rays of light shining through. A complete list of the award recipients is available here.

Another congratulations to Dr David Cortie from ISEM/AIIM-ANSTO, who was awarded the ARC Centre of Excellence Outreach Award 2021 earlier this week. This award is for an associate investigator within the center who has made the most contributions to engaging with scientific outreach, event organisation and presentations to the public. Well done!

On Thursday, we also said our final farewells to a UOW legend, Professor Joe Chicharo OM, upon his retirement. He leaves an incredible legacy behind, and his inspiring education and teaching journey, from being the first in his family to attend university, to becoming an executive, has been pieced together beautifully in this The Stand story – I recommend giving it a read.

Thank you to everyone who participated in the recent festive season competitions, Festive Pets and Gingerbread House Decorating. I am pleased to share we now have our winners. For most festive pet, Kelly Shorten won with her beautiful pup Molly, who passed away three years ago. And the gingerbread submission who #nailedit with the most votes was Laura De Vet with her house and train combination scene. I have truly enjoyed seeing the festive joy spreading across the organisation.

During these last couple of weeks, the campus has shown signs of returning to life. In particular, I have seen many graduating students visiting to take photos with their families and friends, adorned in academic regalia. Moments like these are so beautiful to witness and further remind me why we do what we do. Our University not only creates moments of pride and joy like this, but it also creates futures full of possibility, knowledge and discoveries, and importantly, it creates long-lasting connections with both people and place. I asked a while ago for your stories of connection and, my goodness, you delivered! In 2020 and 2021, we were cut off from friends and family in a bid to stop the spread of the virus. However, as Australia opens up and staff and students return to our University campuses, we want to remind our community about the social connections we make in higher education and how formative they are in all our lives. Launching Monday 20 December, #WeAreUOW will celebrate the lifelong connections made at UOW. I’m looking so forward to opening up this treasure trove of stories and celebrating the incredible people that make this institution what it is. We have podcasts, articles and videos full to the brim with these heart-warming moments. Thanks to the team who have pulled it all together and keep an eye on UOW social channels from Monday for our #WeAreUOW campaign. Or take a sneak peek here.

Finally, I thank you for the past year, for showing up and doing what you do every day. Given the uncertainty we’ve faced, I can’t wait to see what you do next with a clear runway ahead. I’d like to quickly note here too that some of you will continue working hard over the coming weeks to support our existing and future students, and I thank you for that. The University is a big operation, with lots of moving parts and it’s truly incredible that despite everything, it does just keep moving forward. In the final few weeks of every year, we celebrate the end of something and the beginning of something new. Of course, the year will change, and with it comes a feeling of a fresh start. After the year we’ve had, I think taking the time to rest, rejuvenate, and fill your cup properly, is going to be paramount to celebrating the emergence of a new year. So, with that said, bake some goods, hug your family, eat and drink in the warmth of the summer air, read a good book, go for a hike or swim. However, and whenever you spend this time off, know that you entirely deserve it. For those who celebrate Christmas, Merry Christmas to you, and for those who do not, season’s greetings.

For one last time this year, thank you for all that you do.

My best,