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Notes from the VC's Desk

 

Friday, 8 November 2019

This week has showcased for me the many different ways in which UNE interacts with the communities we are connected to, as well as those we have played a part in creating.

In discussions with a number of business leaders, I reflected on the fact that through a week-long roster of conferences UNE had contributed over 500K of new revenue in just one week; that is no small thing for our community when you think of the hotel usage, car rentals, coffee servings etc that contributes into the local economy.

I had afternoon tea with the ladies from the Armidale chapter (24) of ZONTA. They celebrated 100 years with shared memories of past members (many UNE staff included here) and the work done over many years to promote gender equality and provide support for women at times of severe challenge. UNE staff and students in particular should note their scholarship programme (https://blog.une.edu.au/student-opportunities/2019/02/scholarship-zonta/). I loved their reflections on the words of John Knox (1558) in debate around next English monarch, and their relevance to today. (Thank goodness for Jacinda Ardern (https://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/news/national/jacinda-ardern-lists-two-years-of-policies-in-two-minutes/video/68b1924ff78677169bbb148b3862f8d8) – there is some light at the end of the tunnel.)

I also visited BackTrack, who do amazing work to support education of young people. We discussed how UNE might better support such initiative.

I was fortunate to be invited to join over 50 young Aboriginal women from the region who were attending the Oorala Youth Leadership Camp (https://www.une.edu.au/info-for/indigenous-matters/oorala/high-school-students-outreach/youth-development-camps) and celebrate with Elder Colin Ahoy (a proud grandparent of two participants!), their exploration of fellowship and leadership, and their ambitions; so very inspiring.

My weekend was consumed by the various international events which UNE hosted with the generous support of the Armidale Regional Council and others. The engagement of over 14 different national groups in providing a feast of music, dance and food was truly wonderful. It seemed as if nearly all of Armidale was crowded into Curtis Park to join in the party. At a time when people around the world are forfeiting their freedom and in some cases their lives to secure a place in their chosen community, the joyful expression of multiculturalism in Armidale is something to be welcomed and celebrated. The warmth and generosity of so many different cultural groups who prepared the food and shared social elements of their culture says much about the welcome offered to those who travel from afar to be part of our community here in NSW.

UNE International Office hosted a brunch on Sunday for members of the refugee communities that have also made their home here. Again, one is humbled by reminders of the difficult journey many (young and old) have had in finding safe harbour – as someone who has travelled freely and enjoyed the hospitality of many different places around the world I am conscious when talking with the Yazidi refugees, for example, of my good fortune. I am also very proud of the work that UNE does to support and enable these opportunities for some of the most challenged members of our global community.

Across the week I have also joined over 200 very young Australians who were on our Armidale campus to participate in the Far Out Science Jamboree (https://www.une.edu.au/about-une/faculty-of-science-agriculture-business-and-law/school-of-science-and-technology/news-and-events/far-out-science). Their enthusiasm and energy were infectious, and it was a treat for me to share with them my life-long love for the element Calcium (what? you don’t have a favourite element…).

This week UNE also celebrated 40 years of AGBU (http://agbu.une.edu.au/) an amazing partnership with NSW DPI and others, that has seen the animal genetics and breeding capabilities of Australia advance to a sophisticated level and added over 1.8 billion dollars of value into the economy. It was inspirational to hear the many successes across beef, sheep and pig industries as well as recent work in commercial timber and honeybees. The fact that so many representatives from both agency and commercial domains turned up to confirm the value of the partnership speaks volumes.

At this point you will have concluded I have spent the week at one party or another! Not quite. Running in parallel with all of these celebrations have been meetings to advance Enterprise Bargaining (some meaningful progress), resolve the 2020 budget (we are almost there), establish the framework for a suite of Strategic Task Force projects for 2020, review the 2019 Academic Promotion recommendations and participate in discussions around business continuity planning in the context of an ongoing drought scenario. The Student Success team were my hosts for a discussion on matters relating to our support of students, and meetings with the Chair of Robb College Foundation, business meetings with several prominent alumni and representatives of key community groups also featured in my diary. On behalf of UNE, I hosted a visit from NSW Shadow Minister Jodi McKay as part of her in depth visit to the region.

When I have finished attacking the large pile of paperwork sitting in a threatening heap on the edge of my desk, my week will close with storytelling at Yarm (a good way to stay young at heart), participation in the memorial service for Murray Guest at TAS and attendance at a couple of social events (yes, more celebrations!). In a new exhibit (‘Town with Gown’) at NERAM, the work of the artists selected to portray our past Chancellors and Vice Chancellors will open and the Boilerhouse Project is having a party to celebrate recent funding announcements.

Looking back the week has been busy (nothing new) and enlightening in a number of ways. I have referenced above the many events and functions which UNE has hosted, organised, sponsored and supported. All of this reflect both the role of the University on community and the amazing purposeful contributions of so many of our staff.

At a time when the UNE Conversation is about People and Culture, it is noteworthy that the rich, strong and engaging character of our community is so very much in evidence. Imagine then my disappointment that the commitment of so many to respectful and constructive engagement is not carried by forward by one and all. The majority of contributions to the UNE Conversation around People and Culture have been positive, constructive and engaged; sadly, a quick visit to the ‘conversation wall’ in the Armidale Library reminded me that there is still much to be done when derogatory, disrespectful contributions, in what might be regarded at quasi-bullying language, are penned in a public place. I found solace in the collegial voices of the majority who acknowledged that much work is still required to re-build trust and create an environment where all are confident of support, and feel valued – they made it clear they want to be fully signed up participants in that process and not critical bystanders.

At Trevenna the ‘snake alert’ is still in force, my rhubarb crowns are gamely struggling to show meaningful growth and the packing up, in advance of the move to the cottage, has started. Enjoy the weekend one and all.

Sincerely,

Professor Brigid Heywood

Vice-Chancellor & CEO

UNE

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