Dear Colleagues,

Since I wrote last Friday, a lot has changed, with a great deal of the country now in lock-down.

However, despite our collective frustration, we’ve been here before, we know the drill, and we know that we’ll get through this together by being kind, respectful and empathetic.

Please remember, if you or a member of your immediate family are experiencing difficulty during this time and need support, please don’t hesitate to reach out to the University’s Employee Assistance Provider, Lifeworks, on 1300 361 008.

I remain optimistic that before too long, our wonderful and vibrant campuses, full of staff and students, will come back to life.

Let’s stay solution-focused over the next few weeks, with an aim to giving our students the best possible return to campus in semester two.

Another cause for optimism was my experience over the past 24 hours – in which over 150 of our UOW colleagues gathered (virtually) to help shape and drive the future direction of our organisation as part of the biggest and most inclusive UOW Strategy Event to date. The discussion has been open, honest and inspiring, and I look forward to sharing the results of this important UOW event with all staff in August.

The UOW Strategy Event won’t be the only opportunity to have an open dialogue with UOW staff throughout the year, as I was pleased to host the first meeting of the University Leadership Group on Monday. This newly formed group replaces the Vice-Chancellor’s Advisory Group (VCAG ) in UOW’s governance structure. It provides a monthly forum with broader membership, sharing information, discussing emerging issues, and providing an opportunity for open discussion and mutual support. I am honoured and humbled to work with such a wonderful and talented group of people.

Next week UOW is proud to be celebrating NAIDOC week (4-11 July). This year’s NAIDOC theme is ‘Heal Country’ which calls upon the nation to embrace First Nations’ cultural knowledge and understanding of Country as part of Australia’s national heritage. I wanted to share with you some words on this year’s NAIDOC Week theme from UOW’s Executive Director (Indigenous Strategy) Jaymee Beveridge;

“Reflecting and acknowledging the imposed devastation, damage and trauma to our lands, waters, air, animals and peoples, Heal Country is a call for everyone to stop, grieve and action work towards not repeating the damages of engagements.”

We all have a role to play here and I hope staff will take time to reflect on this year’s NAIDOC theme and contribute to this healing process. Please view a full list of NAIDOC week events here (pending covid restrictions).

I’m pleased to report that the University Council recently approved UOW’s first Modern Slavery Statement.  Modern Slavery encompasses forced labour, human trafficking, forced marriage and child labour, and here at UOW, we’re committed to combatting these practices in our supply chains and promoting practices that reduce the risk of modern slavery occurring within our local and international communities. Please visit UOW’s Combatting Modern Slavery website to access our Modern Slavery Statement and find further information relating to this issue.

I was thrilled this week to see Associate Professor Mirella Dottori announced as the beneficiary of close to $1 million in research funding, from the Federal Government’s ‘Medical Research Future Fund’ for her work using human stem cells to develop a curative treatment for Friedreich’s ataxia (FA). I look forward to watching Professor Dottori’s progress in tackling this rare genetically inherited disease.

I also welcome the latest round of Federal Government funding via the Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) Grants program, which will benefit two important initiatives that UOW is playing an integral role in delivering – the Marine Bioproducts Cooperative Research Centre and the Digital Finance Cooperative Research Centre. Both impressive examples of industry and the research sector coming together.

And as we come to the close of World Pride Month, I want to reiterate how important it is that every member of the UOW community feels welcome and respected. Diversity is an asset to any organisation as it correlates strongly to success and growth and is so much of the UOW story. I am proud to be a part of UOW’s vibrant and diverse culture that brings together people with different values, experiences and knowledge from across the globe, enabling us to learn from each other as we build collaborative relationships and drive our organisation forward.

Thank you for all your work this week under challenging circumstances. Please take time to take a breath, rest and rejuvenate this weekend.