Dear Colleagues,

I’m not sure about you, but for me, the weeks seem to be moving slightly faster through lockdown now. Though I know we’re all still struggling, it’s nice we can begin to enjoy some easing of restrictions as more of us receive our second dose of the vaccine. Some of my immediate family members who are now fully vaccinated, and I will be meeting for a picnic this weekend, which I’m very much looking forward to. I hope that everyone can reconnect with family and friends in this way again soon. On that note, the Moderna vaccine (approved for anyone 12 years and older) is now available at the Campus Pharmacy Wollongong.

The Wollongong Vaccination Hub has also now been able to increase its vaccination capacity per day, accepting walk-in AstraZeneca appointments and online bookings for Pfizer. Our front-line workers are pushing it to their limit right now, and as the Premier suggests, we may not have experienced the worst yet. For our families, our healthcare workers, our supermarket workers, our neighbours, our small business owners, for everyone; let’s get it to 80% and beyond!

A big thank you to all staff who completed our COVID staff wellbeing check-in survey last week. Your feedback is instrumental in helping us to support our entire UOW community as best we can during this challenging time. I’ll share the survey results with you all in October.

In other survey news, our Pro Vice-Chancellor (Students), Professor Julia Coyle and her team, will be running our first ever UOW Student Mental Health Survey from 27 September 2021 – 29 October 2021. As with staff, student mental health is very important to us, and by conducting this survey, we hope to understand better how best we can support our students and their needs. As can be the case, bringing the issue of mental health to the forefront may cause some distress for students. As Professor Coyle has pointed out, we think it’s essential staff are aware of the survey and are prepared with staffing and appropriate training.  The team has put together this student distress resource to help you best respond to students in distress. It includes access to training, referral information, and tips for recognising and listening to students experiencing distress. I’d also like to remind staff that free support is available to them and their immediate family through LifeWorks, UOW’s confidential Employee Assistance Program (EAP) counselling service provider.

During this time of social distancing, it’s more important than ever that we stay socially and emotionally connected. This has had me thinking about the friendships, partnerships, and relationships formed among the UOW community and how formative and important they are to the lives of our students and staff. We want to tell some of these stories and share them with our community. I’m calling on you to submit your ideas for interesting stories that celebrate the diversity of connections, friendships or relationships that transpire at UOW. If you have a story of connection that found its roots in the gardens or virtual landscape that UOW has provided, we’d love to hear from you. Please email 100 words or less to brand@uow.edu.au.

I mentioned it in the Webex UOW Staff Community Group, but for those who missed it, as a small gesture to acknowledge our UOW staff who are juggling home-schooling, working, housework, pets, and all other challenges that come with lockdown, myself and some of the other senior executives will be hosting Storytime for your little ones over the next few weeks. This may only give you a brief reprieve to go and grab a cuppa, or find a sunny spot and take five, but I hope your children will join me next Thursday 30 September at 11.00 am as I read one of my most loved children’s books and that you’ll take the opportunity for some you time. Register here to join the fun.

And some more fun for the littlies, Science Space are hosting two free virtual Q&A sessions for the young space enthusiasts out there with many-a-question! Well-known experts in science and astrophysics, Dr Helen Maynard-Casely, author and ANSTO scientist, and Professor Lisa Harvey-Smith, award-winning astrophysicist and author, will be ready and waiting with the answers.

For anyone interested, I’ll be joining talented UOW journalism graduate and podcaster Lizzie Jack in conversation at 1 pm today, and from the sounds of it, we’re doing a bit of a deep dive into my career journey and ambitions for UOW.

The final Trivia with Trish is here, and what fun we’ve had! This week Jo Durtnell-Smydzuk has taken the crown as winner again with another $50 gift card coming their way! Next week will be our last trivia session, for now, so be sure to register here. Honourable mentions to our clever runners up: Heath Ecyoyd, Montse Ros, Ellie Taylor and Kate Schreiber.

Lastly, as a University, we’re proud to play an essential role in achieving the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Our research helps direct sustainability within our community, offering the next generation the skills and understanding essential to our sustainable future. The 17 SDGs go hand in hand with developing a fair and equitable world. Please take a look at some of the incredible initiatives from UOW staff, students, researchers, and our broader community, and I encourage you to add any initiatives you are working on.

Keep safe and well. And again, thank you for all you do.

 

Trish