Dear Colleagues,

I’m sure I am not the only one who has found this to be one of the most challenging weeks of the pandemic so far. With the rapidly rising case numbers in NSW and our regions now in lockdown, the horrifying images coming out of Afghanistan and the earthquake and suffering in Haiti. This week has been especially testing – not least for those directly impacted by these events.

Now more than ever, we need to band together, lend support wherever possible, and celebrate those little wins, whether they be work, family or life related. Little wins are everywhere we look and can bring some much-needed hope and positivity to our day.

On behalf of the Senior Leadership team, we are making next Friday, 27 August, a low-tech, Zoom-free, Webex-free day. Wherever possible, we encourage you to avoid scheduling non-urgent meetings. If you need to meet with a colleague, why not do it over a phone call and a walk around the neighbourhood if possible.

I’d also like to thank everyone who has submitted suggestions for our UOW ‘Pump it up’ playlist this week. I have enjoyed seeing the connection and conversation this has generated and the happiness a stroll down music lane has created. This is exactly what I was hoping for! Music touches our souls in a very special way. What a great collection of songs for us to vote on. Keep an eye on Universe and the Webex chat for voting details.

Next week I’ll be hosting our first ‘Tuesday Trivia with Trish’ session, and I hope you will join in the fun. Keep your positive energy up and your brain and reflexes sharp with this new weekly 30 min ‘Have You Been Paying Attention’ style session. Packed with great questions to test your knowledge, vie to be crowned trivia champ and win yourself a $50 Visa gift card. Use the link to place this weekly event into your calendar and access the session. Hope to see you there!

Also please take a moment to visit the HR (PODS) section of the staff intranet, for some wonderful learning and mindfulness programs for staff. These are fantastic resources all year round, but especially now.

With staff currently away from campus, payroll deductions for parking on Wollongong and IC campuses is ceasing for all staff from 19 August until February 2022. I’m pleased to advise that, in addition, fees will be reimbursed for staff from the beginning of the current lockdown i.e., 26 June 2021. This reimbursement will occur in pays on 2 September 2021.

I want to take the opportunity to thank the work of Pro Vice-Chancellor (Students) Julia Coyle and our Student Mental Health and Engagement team who have been working with our Australian-Afghan students to offer support and counselling throughout this difficult period. Our thoughts are with these students and their families in Afghanistan at this time.

And I touched on it last week, but I wanted to bring to staff’s attention the incredible work of our Student Advisory Council, who this week have finalised UOW’s Youth Climate Statement, which we hope will be presented at the 16th UN Climate Change Conference of Youth this October. UOW’s senior executive has endorsed the statement and will work with the students to ensure UOW meets its commitments. Please support these students by visiting change.org to help them get to the 2,500 signatures needed to ratify the statement and for official consideration at the 2021 conference.

The senior leadership team and I meet weekly with the Student Advisory Council, and I always leave these meetings feeling optimistic about the future and inspired by the commitment and qualities of our students. They are the reason we do what we do.

It’s a pleasure to lead this organisation, and I look forward to the day in the not-too-distant future where we can come together on campus again. What a celebration that will be!

Stay safe and well and enjoy the sunshine this weekend.

Trish