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When I first experienced the New England, the burden of a long drought was evident. Now I am experiencing the amazing burst of bloom and bush that rain has nurtured. Rain featured particularly this week as the storms washed through the region on Wednesday, and I wobbled about in a small Qantas flight trying to weave its way between thunder clouds and land safely.

Clearly, I left Armidale; I spent two days in Sydney catching up on the details around various policy developments and issues (entrepreneurship, health education, STEM developments, career ready graduates) that are critical to our future planning. It was great to catch up in person again with NSW VC colleagues; especially just to re-connect in person and reflect across how we as a group have and are still supporting each other across these difficult times. We shared notes on load issues, new places to be released by the Commonwealth, research investments and, as ever, our respective and collective budget challenges. As a group we also spent no little time reviewing the support processes we need to maintain for our in-country international students as the year rotates through and summer holiday arrangements start to impinge upon the normal flow of business.

I also visited the farm at Tullimbah to discuss our emerging plans for developing the next generation STEM facilities at UNE for the region. This engagement highlighted the value of our partnerships with key agencies in NSW and across a wider landscape, as well as making visible the opportunities we might explore going forward. Our contributions to natural resource management and the sustainable production of food are rightly recognised the world over. 

In between these various engagements, I connected with a wonderful cross section of UNE students as they came and went to study, revise or just enjoy the campus. More staff were around this week and it was great just to catch up and check in, as we all made an effort to maintain appropriate caffeine levels. Sitting out in the sunshine enjoying the extended social area is one of life’s little luxuries. 

If I have created the impression that I survived a Zoom-free life this week – then let me disabuse you. This week some technical variety at meetings flipped across Zoom, Microsoft Teams and other systems. The tally of participating felines went up this week; my analysis suggests that these non-human participants are more likely joining across afternoon sessions rather than morning events. I am thinking now about a piece of psychosocial research on companion animal contributions to the quality and efficacy of video conferencing outcomes… Any collaborative offers?

Outside of committee meetings, nearly all the rest of my meetings this week were very much focused on various aspects of the consultation processes supporting the Time for Change agenda and workplace change proposals. This week alone we have offered 6 pan institutional events attracting over 1,303 participants. Some 85 individual group sessions have been offered since 24 September, and the team have answered 262 individual questions and queries. The Time for Change portal has been visited 39,344 times. There can be little challenge to a view that there has been a high level of engagement across all staff in this process. I am uplifted by the fact that so many of UNE’s staff are contributing to the consultation and are now pressing us to move forward – a big thank you, and a very loud well done. On the other side of the coin; Time for Change has to date received some 435 submissions as of COB, detailing ideas and options to be considered and the consultation is still running. Busy weekend!

Conflicting commitments was another issue his week, and I missed a few planned events; one being Academic Board – so I had a number of apologies and catch ups to deal with as well. With the end of year rush beginning to gather pace, there is a strong sense of people trying to get things done and dusted and the impact of that in my diary is beginning to create multiple clashes. Equally, it is great to see some major pieces of work coming to an end, and a number of both internal (Boilerhouse) and external (Tamworth, Sydney and UNE SRI) projects moving forward so that I know we have a good launch pad for 2021, or a sensible end point with agreed outcomes. 

And so to the week’s end… For those who like trivia – please note that today is National Mole Day – not the little furry creatures but a celebration of Avogadro’s number (6.0221409e+23 just in case you did not remember). Yep, once a chemist always a chemist! My music choices are still a matter of much comment – for those monitoring my offerings, I will own to engaging with a bit of a Stevie Wonder ‘Greatest Hits’ this week as I trekked around Sydney (no idea why?). And on the wider cultural front, I have joined the group voting for Ammonite to be on the best film lists for 2020 (and not just because it about fossils and women’s contributing to science). And for those who with patience – the amazing award winning wildlife photograph of a Siberian tiger hugging a tree has inspired me to think about motion capture cameras in our garden – who knows…

Professor Brigid Heywood

Vice-Chancellor & CEO


(Notes dated Friday 23rd October)