Dear Colleagues,

I hope you’ve had a lovely week. The weather report is looking ideal for getting out and about this weekend! As you know, the arts, community and cultural event scene were hit hard by lockdown, so throughout the coming months, please get out and support them as best you can. The Illawarra Mercury’s What’s On (or your local equivalent) is a great resource for keeping up with the latest.

In the news this week, international travel is back on the cards from November for fully vaccinated Australians. This is obviously very happy news, particularly for those with loved ones overseas! Distinguished Laureate Professor Nick Talley from the University of Newcastle and I are co-moderating a panel on this topic, with OzSage experts in infectious disease, indigenous and public health, data modelling, business, and economics. The discussion will cover both the opportunities and the challenges we face as we begin to open our borders. I invite you to register here for the discussion on Monday 8 November, 5:00 – 6:00 pm.

In university news, the Australian Research Council have announced their Indigenous Discovery Grants and I am pleased to share that UOW Researcher, Dr Marlene Longbottom, has been awarded a $1.2m grant. The grant will help investigate how Indigenous community-controlled organisations in the health, justice and child protection sectors develop and implement culturally and community grounded programs that can guide and improve the safety and wellbeing of young Indigenous people between the ages of 10-24. This is a critically important research initiative with the potential to address disparities and injustice.

UOW will be helping to develop artificial intelligence for geospatial use. Associate Professor Son Lam Phung, Senior Professor Salim Bouzerdoum, Dr Fok Hing Chi Tivive and several PhD students from UOW’s School of Electrical, Computer and Telecommunications Engineering, will share in $1.2m of funding as part of the Federal Government’s program to strengthen Australia’s geospatial intelligence capabilities. The project – ‘What vessel is that?’ – will aim to develop a machine learning tool that can detect and classify ocean vessels from satellite imagery.

We are sending our best wishes to the UOW student representatives travelling to Glasgow, Scotland for the upcoming 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26), where world leaders and climate activists will come together to discuss and agree on urgent climate action. Please take the time to read the story of inspirational UOW student Moemoana Schwenke, one of the student delegates currently flying the flag in Glasgow for the Pacific Islands and her country of Samoa. We are incredibly proud of Moemoana and all of our UOW students. If you’re interested in reading more on UOW’s climate change agenda, I recently wrote an article for the Illawarra Mercury here.

The 2022 Times Higher Education (THE) World University Rankings by subject have been released. I was incredibly proud to see UOW ranked among the top 100 universities for Law, and among the world’s top 200 for Education – both great examples of our world-class offering and the continued dedication of our academic staff. You can read more on these rankings here.

Congratulations to our Interim Nursing Co-Head of School, Adjunct Professor Debra Thoms, for her appointment as new chair member of the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC). As the nation’s leading expert body in health and medical research, the NHMRC champions scientific rigour and the pursuit of better evidence-based health outcomes for all Australians. This is an exciting appointment for Debra, who I am sure will be an invaluable asset to the council in the years to come. Well done!

Finally, we’re in the middle of Open Access Week (25 – 31 October), a global event that aims to give the academic and research community an opportunity to continue to learn about the potential benefits of Open Access. This year’s theme is It matters how we open knowledge: building structural equity. The Library have recorded a podcast for their Light On series that discusses strategic perspectives on open access, benefits for students and staff, and the trickier questions such as what really constitutes ‘free’. The episode is 45min long and makes for an informative and interesting listen!

Enjoy the weekend ahead and thank you, as always, for your continued dedication to our mission.