Dear Colleagues,

It is hard to believe we’ve reached the end of another very busy week, but here we are continuing to navigate the ever-shifting COVID-landscape, the constant stream of advice and messages, not to mention the upheaval in our work and personal lives (and often the two combined). Many are facing disappointments – cancelled family events and the worry we have for our families who are vulnerable to infection. I want to acknowledge the undue stress this places on everyone.

It’s certainly not easy to cope with all of the uncertainty. Still, as the Premier has indicated, we must anticipate that ongoing restrictions will mean we will have to pivot our lives until approximately 80% of people in NSW are vaccinated.

We should take a moment to reflect on the mental-health toll the pandemic has had on all of us. Everyone has been impacted, yet everyone’s situation is different.

If you or people around you are experiencing high levels of stress or frustration, please speak to your supervisor or take advantage of LifeWorks, UOW’s confidential counselling service provided by the Employee Assistance Program (EAP). All UOW employees and members of their immediate family have access to qualified counsellors to assist with a range of work or personal issues.

Especially in stressful times, we need to ensure we look after our work colleagues and treat people with respect and courtesy. I ask that you take special care to ensure communication with your colleagues is carried out responsibly and respectfully – despite the challenges of the current environment. At the end of the day, we’re all in this together. And we’ll only get through it together, with kindness and empathy (and listening to the science!).

I am sorry that many of you have had to cancel trips away recently. I am also sorry that family school holiday plans have been hampered. And now, the upcoming SAL break won’t be what you had hoped for or perhaps the opportunity to rest and rejuvenate that you needed.

In recognition of this disappointment and all you do, the University leadership has agreed to provide staff with two additional concessional days before the Christmas period – 23 and 24 December 2021.

We acknowledge, that for some areas of the University, December is a peak operational time. For those that cannot take these additional concessional days on 23 and 24 December due to operational constraints, please take these days later in 2022, in consultation with your supervisor/manager. The leadership team hope this offers some solace to staff as we enter this extended lockdown period.

I know it may feel like the challenges and barriers are insurmountable, but we are making progress – everything is just that little bit harder. We’ll get through this together and come out the other side stronger. I am sure of this. I was so excited this week to see my old colleagues returning to work in the United States after over a year and a half of severe restrictions and lockdowns. However, they are still wearing masks and being vigilant. This gives me hope that as the numbers are vaccinated, we are moving more consistently to calmer waters.

The COVID-19 is a formidable opponent and we need to be vigilant. We have set up a Vaccination Information Centre and FAQ’s page for UOW Staff and Students to keep you updated on the latest vaccine advice and information.

The withdrawal of services by medical providers this week at UOW has been disappointing, but rest assured we are already working on a solution to meet campus health care needs.  We will be reaching out for consultation in the upcoming weeks.

While we navigate the challenges above, the wheels keep turning at UOW, and I’m proud to say we continue to produce vitally important and inspiring work. Just a sampling of our notable achievements this week:

  • UOW Professor Marijka Batterhamhas just been appointed as Director of the National Institute for Applied Statistics Research Australia (NASA) and leading UOW’s recently established Data and Decision Science Network (DDSN).
  • UOW Emeritus Professor Martin Tsamenyi has been recognised with honours from Nelson Mandela University for his work on global oceans law and policy.
  • Former UOW Professor Zaiping Guo and her team have received $3.26 million from the Laureate Fellowships scheme to design the next generation of batteries for use in portable devices, electric vehicles, and smart power grids.
  • UOW Philosophy Lecturer Talia Morag has just been announced as the winner of the 2020 Annette Baier Prize – awarded for most outstanding philosophical paper or book chapter published by an Australasian woman. While Glenda Lucila Satne, also a UOW Philosophy Lecturer, has been shortlisted for the 2021 Annette Baier Prize.
  • And as NAIDOC week comes to a close, the Jindaola Grant Recipients for 2021 have just been announced. Please visit the link here to see who will join this internationally acclaimed program led by Yuin man and UOW Lecturer, Indigenous Knowledges – Jade Kennedy.

Congratulations and kudos to all our current and former colleagues above!

I have also been extremely impressed this week while working with the Student Advisory Council and discussing issues such as graduation. The calibre and integrity of our students is commendable – we should all be very proud.

My sincere thanks go out to the small number of staff working over SAL to support our students and continue preparations for when we come back, and for those of you taking SAL, I hope you get some rest, in whatever form that comes. Importantly, try and have some fun.

Thank you for all that you do and please keep safe and well.