Vice-Chancellor, Professor Brigid Heywood at her desk

Notes from the VC’s Desk: Direct from the Vice-Chancellor, Professor Brigid Heywood this week

Published On June 12, 2020 | By Alana | General News, News, Notes from the VC's Desk
A week of mixed sentiments; a Queen’s birthday worth celebrating even when one might declare as a republican, watchful acknowledgement of the important global dialogue around Black Lives Matter, and engagement with the practicalities of opening the gates as Australia eases the constraints which have helped us navigate through the pandemic.

Despite these high level distractions, my daily life has been dominated this week by the multiple reports, assessments and policy engagements falling due as we race towards mid-year markers. UNE must decide on a submission to the National Redress Scheme and a large body of information must be reviewed to inform that decision and recommendation to the University Council. The Place Based Strategic Taskforce met to review progress with Sydney campus decisions and secure updates from the Tamworth expansion project on recent workshops we have hosted with industry stakeholders. Catch up conversations with several NSW Officers and Chief Executives from across New England also consumed time as we all shared details of COVID-19 survival plans and return to work programmes. I also dropped into NERAM and shared my experiences about ‘lockdown’ in the New England as part of their community engagement agenda.

The week also included opportunities to promote and develop the NEViHN, our pioneering virtual hospital collaboration, in a conversation with the NSW Minster for Skills and Tertiary Education, the Hon Dr Geoffrey Lee. A review of potential activities to support our alumni over the next six months given the limitations of current social distancing requirements also featured in my week. I was also an invited speaker on ABC local radio when asked to comment China’s statement about the safety of their students in Australia. I can report on the positive experiences and safety of students studying at UNE with great pride, but our own students do a much better job!

Margaret Olley ‘Home’
A significant element of the week was the 2020 University Council Retreat – this year it was held virtually over some five hours with various interactive sessions interrogating future strategic scenarios and supported by subject matters experts drawn internally and externally. The tally of my active Zoom minutes was also enhanced by invited participation in the Health Service Research Priority Setting roundtable on behalf of the NSW Ministry of Health and the three NSW Translational Health Research Centres. The focus here was on capturing learnings from the COVID-19 response across the sector and exploration of the implications across future planning and responses.

Another focus of effort this week was work done to review and confirm our new leave liability management scheme. With a leave liability of some $38M AUD making a challenging contribution to our adverse financial position, it is a time for action. I have appreciated the feedback from a range of staff around the launch 2020 incentivization programme and recalibration of UNE’s management of this resource.

My formal business week closed as it does routinely now, in teleconference with my fellow Vice-Chancellor colleagues from NSW; we catch up, share intelligence on key matters and engage with virtual visitors from various state agencies and government departments. This year the normal five meetings per annum of the group has been exceeded as we connected for our 19th engagement.

I take this opportunity to remind you to join the next UNE in Conversation event, which is being held virtually at 11:30am this coming Wednesday. Zoom details have been circulated across the various UNE channels, please connect with the Media team with any questions ahead of the event. I will be joined by the Chief Operating Officer, Director of FMS, Chief Information Officer and Dean HASSE to discuss the process of developing UNE’s Future Campus strategic position. The webinar will also be recorded and loaded to the UNE in Conversation webpage for those who cannot join live – recordings of previous events can also be accessed here.

With level five drought conditions still in play, the late autumn showers that have washed through the New England this week have been refreshing. The weekend weather forecast offers both sunshine and rain so we can all plan a range of activities; mine include a vitamin D uplift and careful stretching of those muscles not attached to damaged limbs. Given my chemistry background, it will come as no surprise to hear that I have logged time to catch the new film ‘Radioactive’ and given I have come recently to the wonder which is the terrestrial broadcasting of cooking competitions, I have plans to purchase an ice cream maker so that I can do interesting things with fruit, vegetables and dairy products –blackberry and gin ice cream, fennel sorbet…

Enjoy your time, whatever your plans may be, and stay safe and stay well.


Professor Brigid Heywood

Vice-Chancellor & CEO


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