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As ever an interesting week; lots going on and much more to be done.

It will be no surprise that I am reflecting on a week when major announcements about the Time for Change programme, created to address our organisational design issues and the need for a workforce change to secure $20M recurrent savings, were published from my office with the approval of UNE Council. 

I have made presentations this week to over 1200 staff and drafted answers to over 200 questions posted on the Zoom work board. I hope that in committing to be open and transparent about the need for change, I continue to meet the commitment I made when I joined UNE around the sharing of information. It is important that the UNE community is appropriately informed to enable our staff and students to contribute to the decision making process when their voice needs to be present. Going forward my time will be spent meeting with individual faculties and divisions to explain the Time for Changeprogramme in more detail. Another focus is managing the release of the EOI documents to support the voluntary redundancy part of the workforce redesign process.

Artist’s Impression by Adam Humphreys, Castle Carvings, 2020
My other reflections about the week are largely focused on the interesting but weird connections between disparate pieces of information, the assumptions then made and placed in the public domain as ‘fact’. I remind myself that this is all part of the process but acknowledge a mix of frustration and amusement. 

Apparently, I have emptied the University coffers with the purchase of large pieces of sculpture for Trevenna, thus exposing UNE to some measure of financial distress. Interesting that people assume/are happy to infer that the VC can spend UNE funds ad libitum outside of normal business processes; when I work out how to do that I will let you all know! However I am delighted that the question does allow me to promote a UNE project supported by a generous benefactor to our Arts Fund. As part of working through the renovation of the Deer Park, once we can complete the humane relocation of our beloved kangaroos, we are in discussion about using these tethered funds to commission a sculpture (six foot high metal pieces) from the fantastic BackTrack. In one go we can recognise the wildlife who are part of the Armidale campus, create a valuable addition to our open landscape sculpture collection, provide skills development and employment for young people, and generate an interactive piece of art for those who visit the campus and New England more widely. This is an example of UNE working through ‘Town with Gown’ at its best. 

The topic of Trevenna has also appeared in the dialogue this week and caused me to reflect that I have not shared updates on its current renovation programme. Trevenna is a lovely landmark building and, in common with other areas of the campus, has been badly affected by the drought. It has been affected by critical structural subsidence in some areas, attacked by dry rot and suffers from a failed sewage system. Work is underway to remediate these major condition issues and resolve other age related concerns (e.g. failed and obsolete heating system, roof maintenance etc). Much of this work has been a long standing item on the capital register and when other major projects were deferred for 2020 to conserve resources, the resolution to continue with specific WHS repairs and progress the Trevenna renovations was considered along with other critical projects. The Council made a decision to progress, which was contingent upon the use of local providers (supporting the community) and considered the risk matrix for the care of this historic building given the consequence of longer term delays in resolving the structural and condition issues. It is not possible to capture the smell from dry rot and sewers to illustrate the issues being addressed but I offer images of fungus infected areas as the contaminated wood is removed in advance of new foundational structures being installed. 
My week will finish with a focus on end of cycle committee meetings across a number of frontiers and the tasks which relate to the next stage of our ‘return to campus’ plans. Each location is slowly shifting its activity, with more people back on campus and declaring they are happy to be so. We continue to monitor the wider COVID-19 situation in NSW and further afield with a view to maintaining vigilance and ensuring we determine how to respond across a number of scenarios.

This morning, the Chancellor and I visited the UNE food bank distribution centre to explore how the amazing team from the International office hand out the very heavy boxes to a steady line of students in need. As always I walk away with a deep sense of pride in UNE, in our staff and the wider community – the provision of these food hampers and other help on a weekly basis is no small matter. The difference it makes to our students who no longer have casual work in the community and few other options to raise funds for basic sustenance cannot be quantified – the sincerity of their thanks and appreciation is evidence enough (in the picture above, I am the short one!). 


Professor Brigid Heywood

Vice-Chancellor & CEO