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We are living through interesting times… With much of the planet beset by the threat of a fast spreading, highly contagious virus, the natural social dynamics are being challenged. Most of my effort this week has been around the processes needed to ensure business continuity whilst balancing public health interests and the safety of our staff and students. There are no easy answers in this and each decision, large or small, has scaled implications.

I am uplifted not only by a ready supply of Maltesers and the social chit chat about Vegemite, but the camaraderie of our staff and the great humour of our students. The various quarantunes which have appeared have also tweaked my interest – Bono (thumbs down!) but the ‘Wash your hands’ song is quite catchy…

UNE is making all necessary preparations for each stage of this pandemic and remains fully open for business. We have, as of writing, no reported cases of infected individuals in our community and of those who have self-isolated none have so far tested positive. We have prepared quarantine facilities for emergency use as a means of releasing pressure on the wider healthcare system. Other public health measures to prevent and slow the spread of the virus including social distancing (e.g. 1.5m physical distance, cancelled and deferred social gatherings, shortened meetings and distributed working models) are all in play along with additional soap, sanitisers, enhanced cleaning protocols and managed food distribution on our campuses.

It is our intention to remain open for business whilst making the technical and practical adjustments necessary to support all academic functions in these special circumstances. Both the Chancellor and I have been in teleconferences with Ministerial representatives and university colleagues from across the sector to ensure we hear all relevant information first hand. I am chairing the UNE Special Incident Group COVID-19 which meets daily to update and discuss practical issues to ensure we have addressed concerns being raised. The UNE COVID-19 website is now a rich source of up to date information and there will be daily bulletins.

In the middle of all of this I have been busy with the ballot processes for the Academic Staff Enterprise Agreement. I am sure all are aware that UNE strongly endorses this agreement and, as a final reminder, recommend all eligible staff to vote in favour before the ballot closes at 5pm today.

Other tasks this week included discussions around budgets as the 2019 Financial Statements are finalised, signing off the draft 2019 Annual Report and focused effort on our 2020 budgeting position given the impact of bushfires, drought, virus and other factors that are all making life difficult. Our student numbers are down and the current situation is going to require careful resource management.

My time was also committed to a review of the Madgwick Campus project where decisions around platform architecture are required at a moment in time where we are also framing the wider requirements for a holistic virtual campus model to better serve our domestic and international markets.  I also had a meeting with NRL representatives to discuss how we might progress an educational partnership for their athletes and supporters – I am quite excited about this new venture!

The opportunity to develop a large scale regional research institute model featured in my discussion with a group of peer colleagues from across the sector; this was good timing as the UNE Research Committee also invited me to join their meeting this week. We had a good discussion around the strategic drivers for research which UNE needs to embrace going forward. Other topics which commanded my attention this week included the development of our new academic workload model and the software support needed to systematise the process and ease the reporting burden on staff, our project management framework and what needs to improve here, and the development of a policies audit to assist in the framing of our response to claims of sexual harassment and sexual assault. The safety of our community must be the number one priority.

After a week sitting with headphones on I am determined to step out over the weekend and enjoy a walk, some fresh air and the colours of Autumn which are emerging. I have a forest of kale to harvest and with apples dropping, there is work to be done in making puree and pies to see my small family through the winter months. Having finally resorted to digging out my merino vest, I am also conscious that time must be spent organising some cold weather clothes. I hope you all have a relaxing and enjoyable weekend even if the physical spaces between you and your loved ones must be carefully managed.

And if you have nothing else to do:

1) Finish UNE cybersecurity training which has to be done by March 31

2) Try the Coronavirus quiz – it will come as no surprise that I scored 100%!


Professor Brigid Heywood

Vice-Chancellor & CEO