Dear Colleagues

I hope your week has been a good one. We’re in the lead up to the festive season, and as is always the case, lots is happening!

The final VC All Staff Update for 2021 is happening this coming Monday 6 December, 9.30 am – 10.45 am. Please join me and the Senior Executive as we provide an update on key areas including: our recent staff survey results, response, and actions; international student pilot return and international student recruitment; our COVID Safe return to campus for 2022; portfolio realignment and more. Use this meeting link and passcode: 040621. We look forward to seeing you there!

By now I’m sure you’ve heard about the new coronavirus strain Omicron. So far, the Federal Government have stated that we cannot yet know the impact this strain will have, but at this point, they are being very cautious. The current advice is to stay alert but not alarmed and remain vigilant. Please get tested if you have the slightest symptoms. With vaccines on our side, we’re in a much better position than we have been previously. However, if this news has been difficult to hear, I completely empathise. If you need to speak to someone about any anxieties you may be experiencing, please reach out using our staff mental health support services and remember, we’re all in this together.

In more community news, did you know that today marks the annual International Day of People with Disability? It’s an opportunity to celebrate and acknowledge people living with a disability and work towards ensuring equitable opportunities for all. It’s also a good opportunity to announce UOW’s reframe of our Disability Service for students. Our new strength-based accessibility service model will be provided by the recently formed Student Accessibility and Inclusion Team within the Pro Vice-Chancellor (Students) portfolio. We are so proud that substantial progress has been made in this area and look forward to a rollout of this new service model and the associated software platform in early 2022. This work really demonstrates the Universities unwavering commitment to disability inclusion. If you’d like to get involved, visit the student support services page.

The international campaign 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence is currently underway. It is an annual campaign that begins on 25 November, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, and goes through to 10 December, Human Rights Day. It is designed to call for the prevention and elimination of violence against women and girls. In support of this cause, and to get behind Domestic Violence NSW and the Illawarra Women’s Health Centre, I have created ashareable video highlighting some fundamental shifts that need to occur, calling for a better and safer community for our women and girls.

I have the pleasure of speaking at an upcoming film premiere capturing the power of hands-on enquiry-based learning that celebrates Aboriginal cultural fire knowledge. Cultural Burning for Resilience is an Aboriginal-led community project, bringing together Aboriginal high school students with Yuin Elders and cultural land management practitioners from the South Coast. The team have produced a compelling short film that will have its first live screening from 2-3 pm on Wednesday 8 December and will include a conversation with members from the community, schools, students, researchers and filmmakers. Please join us.

As part of UOW’s efforts to combat modern slavery, all staff are being invited to complete a short (25 minute), self-paced learning module intended to help staff develop an understanding of what ‘modern slavery’ is. You will gain an understating of how it is encountered in everyday life in Australia, how to identify the signs someone might be a victim of modern slavery and what to do about it. Well done to the Modern Slavery Working Group for pulling this together, and in particular Stefanie Memmott who developed the training module.

In very exciting news (and you may have seen a few headlines in the news about this) UOW’s going green! We’re set to use 100 per cent renewable energy at our Bega and Shoalhaven campuses, as our first step toward bringing the University to 100 per cent renewable energy across all our campuses. Professor Tim McCarthy, Chair of UOW’s Sustainable Futures Committee, is keen to show that it is possible to run a large organisation using carbon-neutral power sources. The energy will be sourced from a solar farm in Nowra (the largest in our region) but I’ll leave you to read more on this yourself. #UOWproud

ABC Podcast Ockham’s Razor have asked UOW’s Science Space to host a live event of on Wednesday 8 December 6.15 pm. Included in discussions will be five UOW researchers and a UOW alumna! They’ll mainly be discussing science-based topics, but will cover a huge array of areas with the podcast’s intention to platform scientific stories, insights, arguments or tributes – anything that will grip an audience for 10 straight minutes – sounds great!

To close out a wonderful year of collaboration with the Student Advisory Committee and others from our student cohort, I’m pleased to say that we have officially signed Students as Partners – formalising our ongoing working relationship. This is a very exciting opportunity for students to offer their insights and advance teaching, learning, and the curriculum at UOW. It has been a real honour to work so closely with our student leaders this year and I look forward to even more collaboration in 2022.

UOW has many clubs and societies for students to join. I’ve loved hearing about what they get up to. The UOW Cycling Club exists to gather the cyclist community at UOW and give them support and encouragement to ride their bikes as a means of transportation. On Monday, the club re-purposed some old bikes and gifted them alongside a helmet and lock to 10 students after they finished their Ride and Road safety course! This sort of initiative is so befitting of UOW and the generosity of spirit you find here amongst our students and staff.

On that note, another reminder to offer up some pre-loved items for Goodwill hunting this year. This initiative gives UOW students a great start to their year of study, offering them the opportunity to pick up free household items to set up their new lives. The initiative relies on the generous donations of UOW staff and the community, so please do get on board if you can. All the info you need for where, when, and how to donate can be found here.

As you will be aware, The Campus Clinic (a bulk-billing general medical practice) at our Wollongong campus closed earlier in the year and we have been hard at work to find an appropriate solution and ways to offer students and staff affordable and reliable health services. As an update, we are currently receiving expressions of interest from various providers who wish to pitch their services and once again offer students and staff this on campus experience. I will keep you updated on where we land.

And now for some awards recently announced. Congratulations to Professor Kathleen Clapham who won the inaugural Health Services Research Association’s First Nations Health, Wellbeing & HSR Award! Kathleen’s extensive health and social research focusses on Indigenous health, specifically health equity; safety and wellbeing of children and young people; community-based interventions; social and cultural determinants of health; and health services improvements. We’re very proud – what wonderful work you’re doing and great to see it recognised in this way!

UOW has been shortlisted for a Gartner innovation award in learning and teaching, from a global submission pool of 200 universities! Well done to Fiona Rankin and Colin Picker for their excellent leadership on this one. An IMTS-led initiative was chosen for its innovative use of technology, showcasing the Faculty of Business and Law’s implementation of dual-delivery. A worthy shortlist indeed!

And a huge congratulations to UOW researcher Professor Shujun Zhang has been announced as the recipient of the NSW Premier’s Prize. What a feat! This prestigious prize recognises excellence in science and engineering throughout NSW. Professor Zhang works within the Institute for Superconducting and Electronic Materials at AIIM, working on the development of new materials to improve medical technology and the storage and harvesting of green energy – incredibly worthy pursuits! To read more about Prof Zhang, the prize and his work, please visit the link above.

Lastly, I would like to thank everyone who contributed to our ‘Give a shout out to a colleague’ initiative. It’s been wonderful reading about our amazing staff here at UOW, which highlights the superb work and strong collegiality that continues to shine through our institution. If you missed it in Universe this week, you can view the submissions here.

Thanks for sticking with me through this fairly lengthy message! As you can see, a lot is happening around the Uni and we couldn’t be more proud.

Have a lovely restful weekend. Thank you for making this University all that it is, and for those celebrating, happy Hannukah!