Dear Colleagues

This week, I have been extremely encouraged by the increasing vaccine uptake in Australia. As a country, we’ve been receiving up to around 300,000 doses a day, which is very promising.

The safest way to achieve immunity and bring the devastating impacts of this pandemic to an end is with vaccines. Every person who receives a vaccine is not only protecting themself from becoming seriously ill, but with about 50% less chance of catching the virus, vaccinated people are protecting the health of their loved ones and the broader community.

Again, I encourage you all to get vaccinated as soon as you can. In support of this, we welcome you to schedule your vaccination appointments during working hours without the need to apply for leave or provide evidence of the appointment. UOW is also providing up to one day of paid leave to recover from any adverse effects of vaccination, in addition to your current sick leave entitlements.

Paid vaccination leave will be available to all UOW staff (including casual staff scheduled to work) who suffer adverse effects after their vaccination.

So far during this pandemic, vulnerable people in our community (particularly the elderly and immunocompromised) have been our focus, but with the spread of this virus increasing among young people and children, government and health advice is strongly encouraging parents and carers across NSW to keep their children at home.

I acknowledge the significant impact this health advice has on staff with children, and their capacity to work from home. The lockdown is difficult for everyone, but many of you are tasked with the job of juggling work and childcare, making it even more challenging.

I encourage everyone to focus on their most essential work, which delivers on our commitments in the strategic plan and provides our students with the best possible learning experience. But especially for those juggling multiple priorities, I want to reiterate that you should talk to your supervisor if you need assistance managing your work priorities and times. We can’t know exactly what someone else is going through day-to-day, so please continue exercising patience, flexibility and understanding with one another.

Our efforts to arrange on campus health and medical services is progressing. A Students’ Health Help Line is now operational (02 4239 2300). Students will have their call answered by a friendly nurse who can provide information, advice and referrals to help them access appropriate care. In addition to this interim measure, we are also seeking input from staff and students to help us plan for sustainable long-term solutions. Please email your suggestions or thoughts to the taskforce at campus-healthservices@uow.edu.au

Last week I shared the incredible work of our Student Advisory Council, who had put together a UOW Youth Climate Statement. As part of our commitment to that statement, I am pleased to announce a newly formed group to advise me and lead sustainability initiatives across the University. The Sustainable Futures Committee (SFC) will be chaired by Professor Tim McCarthy, Director of the Sustainable Buildings Research Centre, and will guide the University’s campuses to a more sustainable future. The SFC will develop and oversee the implementation of a University Sustainability Framework, including a Sustainability Strategy, Action Plan, Sustainability Policy, and Renewable Energy and Carbon Neutrality targets.

On Wednesday, I had the pleasure of being a judge in the 3 Minute Thesis (3MT) competition, and my goodness, the quality of research and presentations was high! It’s a tough task to condense long theses into a 3-minute presentation, but the competitors did a great job. This event was a fantastic celebration of the UOW researchers’ critical thinking and cutting-edge innovation, and I congratulate all ten finalists on the incredible scope of research. From magnets used to ‘cook cancer’, through to tools for mindful parenting, there’s no shortage of ground-breaking ideas at UOW. I am thrilled to announce the winner was Aaron Hodges who will now represent UOW at the Asia-Pacific 3MT Final. Congratulations also to our Community Panel Award winner Alice O’Keefe and People’s Choice award winner Usman Khalil.

On another celebratory note, I’m delighted to announce the recipients of the Vice-Chancellor Awards. These awards aim to encourage and recognise exceptional performance from University staff members who demonstrate outstanding achievement in activities that are aligned to the University’s vision and strategic goals. Unfortunately, the award ceremony has been postponed, and though too many to list here, we are working on finding an alternative way to celebrate the achievements of these outstanding individuals. In the meantime, please visit the award page to see the list of recipients.

Thank you to all 150 players who joined me on Tuesday for our first ‘Trivia with Trish’. I hope we provided a good 30-minute break in your day for light-hearted competition. Our inaugural trivia champ is TRANG DAO! A big virtual congratulations Trang, you’ll be receiving a $50 Visa gift card soon. Honourable mentions go to: Felix Lanceley, Holly Hunt, Jodie Cleaves, Rebecca Wearne, Chris Tulloch, Guy Freer, Holly Tupper, Rusi Devendra, Kate Shreiber, Diana King, Rachel Nacilla, Michelle Harrison, Tania Brown and Jamiey Faccin. I hope you will join us next week for another 30 minutes of fun and mental stimulation. You can register here.

Today, I’m wearing my favourite purple shirt for ‘wear it purple’ day, celebrating ‘rainbow young people’ as the organisation likes to say – striving to foster supportive, safe, empowering, and inclusive environments for queer people everywhere. I encourage you to join me – during your exercise time outside, or even by placing a purple balloon or streamer on your mailbox. And remember, let’s stand as allies every day.

As part of ‘wear it purple’ day, we’re also encouraging staff to go as tech-free as possible, cutting down your time spent in Zoom meetings and Webex chats. Our lives are very device heavy at the moment, which can often feel overwhelming. So, take this as your much needed permission slip to make your Friday a little less digital.

Finally, I just wanted to again acknowledge that this is a difficult time, and we can’t expect to be the best version of ourselves. Adapted from something I read on LinkedIn the other day; It’s okay to: switch off your camera in zoom meetings, take mini fresh air breaks in your backyard, go for a walk while on a call, have a cry, have a less than ideal work day, make someone else’s day easier by taking a little longer to listen to them. It really is okay. Whatever you’re doing, however you’re coping, you’re doing the best you can, and we thank you for it.

Stay safe and enjoy cheering on some Aussie athletes in the Paralympics this weekend! I’d like to draw your attention especially to six Illawarra locals who are competing: Swimmer Jasmine Greenwood, Triathletes Jonathan Goerlach and Dave Mainwaring, Basketballers Brett Stibners, Tristan Knowles, and Jessica Cronje, and Boccia player Daniel Michel. Happy cheering!

 

Trish