Dear Colleagues,

Spring is finally here! I’m thoroughly enjoying the scent of golden wattle on my daily walks and hope you are too. It’s essential to make time for outdoor exercise and a small dose of Vitamin D. I’ve just registered for the Lifeline South Coast Out of the Shadows Walk, held to coincide with Suicide Prevention Day on 10 September, raising awareness, remembering those lost to suicide, and supporting those still impacted. Perhaps you’d like to register too?

R U OK? Day is also coming up on 9 September. This year’s message is: Are they really OK? Ask them today. I’m pleased to announce that our Employee Assistance Program provider, LifeWorks, will be hosting an R U OK Day Live webinar for all UOW staff. This webinar will focus on burnout and reaching out. We’ll learn how to identify the warning signs in ourselves and others, and how to hold meaningful R U OK? conversations if we’re concerned for a colleague or loved one. Please, come along if you can!

With COVID-19 cases still consistently popping up, I wanted to remind all staff to please stay vigilant and up to date with the latest case locations and venues of concern. Again, vaccination is our way forward, so please get vaccinated as soon as you can, and visit our Vaccination Information Centre for further information.

I was extremely pleased to see the recent success of the Woolyungah Indigenous Centre’s pop-up COVID-19 vaccination clinic for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students, staff and community. This joint initiative between Woolyungah and the Illawarra Shoalhaven Local Health District (ISLHD) immunisation team showed incredible proactivity and community spirit, delivering vaccinations in a culturally safe space. Overwhelmingly, they were booked out within the first six hours of appointments becoming available!

Like me, you’ve probably been watching with great concern the unfolding humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan. While the way forward is unclear, the international community cannot turn away. I invite you to register for a free lecture we are hosting for the community next Tuesday, 7 September at 5.30 pm, on the rise of the Taliban and what that means for the future of Afghanistan. Professor Theo Farrell, our Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Education) and an expert on the Afghanistan conflict, will host the event. He has a unique perspective, having previously been involved in talks with senior Taliban.

Next week I will also be hosting an all staff update alongside the Senior Executive. This virtual event will update you on key areas of interest, including our Strategic Plan, online learning, the student experience, international student return, student numbers, financials, and research activities. You will receive a zoom link closer to the date, but please book time in your calendar for Wednesday, 8 September from 11 am – 12 pm.

Please join me in congratulating some very deserving colleagues who are finalists in the Eureka Prizes. Four UOW researchers have been named finalists for this year’s awards. Professor Justin Yerbury, for scientific research; the NSW Bushfire Hub team led by Associate Professor Owen Price, for applied environmental science; and Senior Professor Sharon Robinson for leadership in innovation and science. UOW Honorary Fellow Dr Dana Bergstrom, from the Australian Antarctic Division, has also been awarded for leadership in innovation and science. The Australian Museum Eureka Prizes are the most comprehensive national science awards, honouring excellence across the areas of research and innovation, leadership, science engagement, and school science. Well done to all!

Thanks to the many brilliant minds at UOW, we continue to increase our recognition as a world-class university. In the latest Times Higher Education (THE) World University Rankings, UOW was again placed among the world’s top 250 universities – and 13th in Australia. This marks the fourth year that UOW has been ranked among the top 250 institutions globally!

In more local news, thanks again to everyone who joined Alex and Nicole on Tuesday for ‘Trivia with Trish’. There was a fantastic turnout, with some very tough questions! Sending virtual applause to this week’s winner, Jo Durtnell-Smydzuk! Jo, your $50 gift voucher will be arriving in your inbox shortly. Honourable mentions go: Catherine Ross, Kate Schrieber, Ellie Taylor, Guy Freer, Tom Griffiths, Shelley King, Angelina, Samantha Avitaia, Laryssa Sutherton, Rebekah, Georgie Mason and Tania Brown. Next week, I hope to see you again for another 30 minutes of mental stimulation and invite you to share theme ideas or further suggestions:

Last week Lorraine Denny from UOW’s Professional and Organisational Development team organised the ‘How to Beat Resilience Fatigue Workshop’. Unfortunately, I couldn’t make it, but I did watch this ‘how to stay positive’ video she sent out afterwards. The host mentions that 80% of our thoughts are negative, and 95% are repetitive, which is probably good to be aware of. “As humans, we have a negativity bias and at times like this, that can flare and really not serve us well”. The video has some helpful suggestions for avoiding negative thoughts using the GLOW method (Gratitude, Laughter, Optimism, and Wonder).

For our colleagues who observe the Jewish faith, we wish them all the best as they mark Rosh Hashanah and other High Holy days over the next two weeks.

Lastly, it’s time to get baking! UOW’s Bake Off is underway, using hashtag #UOWBakeOff. I’ve been enjoying this content immensely on Twitter. This crumble cake from The Illawarra Cookbook went down a treat in my house, while UOW alumna, Katherine Sabbath, may offer inspiration for taking your baking to a whole other level!

Enjoy your weekend and thank you for all that you do.