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What a difference a week makes; debate still rages about the outcome of a major election – the ‘shouts loudest’ policy is still in full swing. Even more appalling was news of another spate of alleged election fraud – in New Zealand supporters of the pukupuku (spotted brown Kiwi) trying to subvert the polls. More locally, our Victorian colleagues are now celebrating multiple days of zero new cases, proving that lock down can flatten the curve. In contrast, numbers elsewhere on the planet are depressingly high and getting higher. We have much to celebrate as necessary restrictions ease and we are slowly released from the constraints which have protected us. 

Amidst all this turmoil, I was fortunate and indeed honoured to be a part of UNE’s NAIDOC celebrations on Wednesday – calm, respectful recognition and celebration. This year’s theme  ‘Always Was, Always Will Be’ prompted us all to reflect on a rich heritage which has and will define people, place and nation. Donna Moody – one of the speakers – gave us cause to pause, reflect and consider action. At UNE, this important celebration of culture extended across the whole day and included the launch of a creative cultural engagement in the Dixson library. UNE is lucky to have a small but passionate conclave of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander staff who are unremittingly generous in the deep and purposeful sharing of their knowledge and culture. 

The sound of the bells ringing their solemn peal on Remembrance Day also reminded us to reflect and honour those service men and women who have given up their lives in so many different conflicts over the past 100 years and more. Remembrance Day also prompts us to be equally mindful of those who were deprived of life and identity by the actions of others.  

A quick visit to Sydney split my week and provided reminders about the freedoms we have in the New England region. The State capital city is slowly reenergising as more people come back to work, and more shops open. Confidence can be measured by the number of face masks, I pondered the second coming of QR code technologies as the new tracking tool of choice. More interesting was the many different ways people have invented to not to actually wear a mask – not on the face covering critical orifices, but the brow, under the chin and hanging off an ear, if not indeed a finger! Exotically patterned versions abound giving testament to entrepreneurial and creative capabilities of the market place even at a time of crisis; my plain white N95 now looks very clinical and boring I fear! The incessant annoying jingles of seasonal music was another reminder of time passing.

With the year end now truly in sight, my desk is covered in lists of things yet to be done. I note with interest that my 2021 list is also going ever longer. There is no little pleasure and comfort to be had in noting how much has been achieved this year despite very difficult circumstances. With Time for Change final plans now published there is much to be progressed to support the implementation of the change program and bring forward the key benefits. Working through all of this will be no small task, but we now have a clear path forward. A draft of the new Strategic Plan will be considered by Council next week and with that in place we also have the map for our future. The 2021 budget made first pass through the Finance and Infrastructure Committee this week which means we are on track to complete budget setting and resolve strategic projects for 2021. 

Meetings with Ministerial officers and colleagues at State and Federal level consumed the rest of my time as we devoted effort and purpose to tidying up loose ends around the UNE Tamworth expansion plans and outstanding issues from the new Job Ready Graduate Reforms. A somewhat bumpy flight back this morning made me glad to be back in Armidale on solid ground! A meeting with some of our students about campus and residential plans for T1 2021 was a great reminder of what a wonderful bunch of engaged students UNE has. I forgive them for not bringing any Malteasers! 

The Armidale peony farm open day is on my list of must do things this weekend. That, and a walk somewhere to address Zoom fatigue! When I have refreshed mind and body, I must finish the care of soul bit – thought I might dig out a book and put my feet up… 


Professor Brigid Heywood

Vice-Chancellor & CEO