In March 2020, a few weeks after the COVID-19 pandemic was officially announced, I found myself in lockdown, physically separated from my colleagues and students. Like everyone across the world, I struggled emotionally and mentally to understand the unfolding consequences of the pandemic and deal with the many things out of my control.
In the context of this unprecedented turmoil, I began writing to the staff community at John Hopkins School of Nursing every Friday. It was one way I could stay connected to keep our culture and bond strong, share highlights of the school’s essential work with our many stakeholders, and reflect on important issues affecting our society.
So here I am, my very first week as your Vice-Chancellor, writing my very first weekly update.
I want to start by again expressing my gratitude to everyone for the incredibly warm welcome and the candid engagement in expressing ideas about ways we can come together to rebuild and recover from the uncertainty and the stark financial realities that the pandemic has imposed on our University.
I have heard from many of you and recognise the challenging period that you have faced, and do not underestimate the lasting impact that these challenges will have.
I have already observed the resilience and strength of this institution and believe that we have the power to collectively chart a new future by seizing the significant opportunity to refocus priorities. I feel passionate about the fact that we can do this by staying focused on the needs of our students and communities while also supporting each other.
In my introductory meetings this week, with academic and professional staff, union representatives, media, local and state government, I felt optimistic and energised by the deep and enduring commitment we all share in our mission to drive positive social change.
Today I will be attending an event to celebrate an institute of the University that has been doing precisely that for a decade. I will join an event that recognises ten years of the Australian Health Services Research Institute (AHSRI), which over this time has played a critical role in improving health outcomes for consumers, supporting service providers, and stimulating innovative policy development and health system change. Please join me in congratulating AHSRI’s Director, Professor Kathy Eagar and her team for sustaining the vitality to address real-world problems and achieve evidence-based and policy-driven outcomes.
On a personal note, I feel compelled to remind you of the profound and deadly impact this pandemic can have if we don’t embrace any and all measures to fight COVD-19. I’ve experienced first-hand what could happen if we don’t. The cluster of the virus in Melbourne this week must be a reminder and a wake-up call to all get vaccinated as soon as we have the opportunity. As many of you know, I was personally involved in the vaccination program in Baltimore, and I firmly believe it offers us a way through to the other side of COVID-19 and the re-opening of international borders.
Lastly, I hope, like me, you will be joining some of the activities and initiatives taking place today and next week to build awareness, knowledge, and action for National Reconciliation Week (NRW). NRW is a time for all Australians to accept the truth of our histories and commemorate the suffering of Indigenous families. It is also a time to learn about our shared histories, cultures, and achievements and explore how we can achieve reconciliation in Australia. I was deeply moved and inspired when I attended and participated in a traditional Welcome to Country smoking ceremony at Woolyungah Indigenous Centre on my first day at UOW. It is an experience I will never forget. The wisdom and dignity of our First Nations peoples should be a guide to us all.
I am looking forward to being deeply involved in dialogue and strategies to readjust and recover. I am humbled to be leading the next phase of UOW’s great history.
Have a restful weekend, and thanks for all you do.