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Under a cerulean blue sky, Armidale is welcoming spring and I gather the same is true across the state as we emerge from under the Antarctic weather bubble; one feels joyous!

This week has prompted a range of reflections around the spaces which apparently exist between facts and assertion, and the process of respectful engagement. Yet again I have been dealing with a series of different reports that have been issued both internally and externally which basically assert that I have misrepresented certain critical facts. Not one of the authors of such materials sought any dialogue before publication, or commented in an open forum so that the ‘information’ provided might be checked, confirmed, explained, revised, updated, contextualised or withdrawn. Many colleagues have now shared the same concerns, and we ended up reviewing the purpose of ‘false news’ paradigms where ‘facts’ stand to forfeit.

At the other end of the spectrum, I have been generously bombarded with emails and texts from many colleagues who have participated in the recent Time for Change webinars and the associated Q&A sessions. They noted the effort expended to provide written answers to all questions; sentiment analysis suggests that colleagues truly appreciate the openness of the dialogue and the efforts being made to build the UNE Conversation, and engage openly and purposefully.

This builds into the work being done to address the organisational design challenge that a significant work force restructure requires. Much work has been done as part of an intense provisional design stage so that a draft plan can be published when we have resolved the potential impact of the Phase 1 EOIs for voluntary redundancy. The commitment of the staff in the Tiger Team to get their job done and create a draft framework for consultation is quite simply amazing, but is also driven by the energy of all to achieve something special and positive for UNE.

My time has not only been invested in the review of data and charts this week; the wider People and Culture dimension is deeply important and I am delighted that after much effort on the part of a team in HR we have a contract ready for signing which I think makes UNE the first Australian university to sign up with Udemy. The objective of this agreement is for UNE to be able to offer specific and tailed support to our staff as they progress through the upcoming transitions and what follows.

I have also been involved on a daily basis with various discussions at State and Federal level to consider different options for possible funding, grant supported projects and possible collaborations which will underpin current and future activities and stabilise our cost/revenue balance. Again, despite assertions to the contrary, UNE is committed to preserving jobs and securing institutional security; all possible options are being pursued across government, private sector and even NGOs to ensure we have crated the framework for opportunity and engagement. It is clear that UNE can offer a clear and defined value proposition; some elements of this was summarised in our recent budget submission to the Federal Government. We continue to be determined and engaged contributors to the various consultations which are occurring around the Higher Education Funding Reforms. Minister Tehan’s proposals provide the first major investment in regional universities in over a decade and we are, I believe, obligated to support and promote the initiatives which address the recommendations of the Napthine Review. Adjustment and repurposing is needed; painful but necessary.

As always, my life transitions across many different frontiers in a day. The distribution of Foodbank boxes to students in grave need of support was one priority, along with a catch-up with our lovely international cohort. They are standing tall in difficult times.

The launch of our 2020 ‘home’ graduation packages, which include the option to borrow/acquire a gown and hood and organise a safe ‘do it yourself’ ceremony with family and friends, was another highlight. Graduation ceremonies are without a doubt one of the biggest highlights in our normal calendar; the creation of an alternate model for the 2020 UNE Graduates is a small but significant part of the adaptive model we are now operating.

After a day of Council Committee meetings, I have a list of actions to address before I can tidy up my office and head off for the weekend. Plans? Well, I am consumed by the need to start preparing the vegetable patch for the new season, so digging is one option. Trevenna is enveloped in scaffolding still and the landscape around it is a building site. A long walk somewhere panoramic and inspiring is also on my list. Whatever your plans, enjoy a break over the weekend.


Professor Brigid Heywood

Vice-Chancellor & CEO