As we start the second semester, welcome to all of our commencing students, and I hope everyone else had a restorative mid-year break. It was wonderful to celebrate with our graduates and their families on campus last week, with the Chancellor and I presiding over seven ceremonies. It is such a joyous time for our students and their families, and as usual, I teared up a couple of times listening to our graduates' stories. Congratulations once again to everyone involved.
I am about to fly home from Toronto where the Chancellor and I (as well as VP-First Nations Peter Yu, and InSpace's Director, Anna Moore) have participated in the Australia-Canada Economic Forum. Canadian PM Justin Trudeau spoke - he really is an impressive speaker, with the Chancellor introducing him by reading from a letter unearthed by recent History PhD graduate Joshua Black, between PM Pierre Trudeau and PM Gough Whitlam, about Justin receiving a toy koala in 1973. Thank you, Joshua, for posting this on Twitter!
I had a chance to catch up with the University of Toronto President Meric Gertler, and we discussed the many challenges and opportunities we share in common. I was fascinated to see the giant geothermal field they are installing in their central oval to help lower their GHG emissions, something we should think about as we try to reduce our reliance on natural gas. We also talked about how we might work together to help our respective societies understand and navigate some of the geopolitical uncertainties we share, as well as increase our student exchange.
As an aside, I allow myself one doughnut per trip to Canada (and no doughnuts at any other time) and had to settle for a chocolate glazed at the local Tim Hortons, as they had no maple glazed ones available.
As I enter my last official semester as Vice-Chancellor everyone keeps asking me if I am looking forward to finishing. The answer is, yes and no. Yes, I am looking forward to returning to my professorial role at ANU, and not having every day planned out months in advance. But I will miss the satisfaction I get to do my best to serve the needs of the thousands of members of our community. Right now, the reality, is, despite the end of the year being less than 6 months away, it still seems well beyond the horizon - and each week is packed with things to do. One of those things is getting our next Enterprise Agreement in place.
Before travelling to Canada, I sat down with the NTEU's representatives and had a frank discussion about the remaining issues that are keeping us from reaching an agreement. It was a highly constructive conversation, and lead to the University proposing a new set of salary increases, and ways to avoid inappropriate casualisation of our workforce. We have worked with the NTEU to reconfigure the salary offer, including extending the time frame by an additional 6 months. This offer now amounts to a 18.5% (or 20% compounded) increase in salary over the 5 years of the agreement, but yes, still keeps within our budget envelope forecasts.
The NTEU should be in no doubt after our meeting about the University's commitment to ending inappropriate casualisation of our work force. ANU is prepared to make sector leading commitments to end most casualised contracts for non-students. It is therefore both surprising and disappointing to me that our discussions on casualisation remain the reason the NTEU intends to strike next week, and has now proposed a second set of strikes in August. As I have stated, ANU wants to be the sector's best employer, and our proposal is based on that idea, and is made in good faith. While we recognise the right of staff to take industrial action, I would hope it would only be used when there are genuine disagreements. I ask the NTEU to reconsider its proposed industrial action.
This week, Education Minister Jason Clare released the Australian Universities Accord interim report. It calls for bold thinking and new directions to make sure our universities can keep delivering for the nation and all Australians for many years to come. It was pleasing to hear the Minister pay tribute to our own Emeritus Professor Bruce Chapman for his many years of tireless work to improve access to higher education for all, describing him as a "national treasure". I couldn't agree more and think the Minister's words are befitting of an intellectual who represents the very best of what we do at ANU every day.
The interim report contains a number of ideas and recommendations, many of which, at first glance, I like, and a few about which I have some strong reservations. I will take the chance, on my flight home, to absorb the entirety of the 141 pages of content (You too can read the full report online). The ANU, the Go8, and Universities Australia will take our time to consider the report's ideas and engage with all of them in the consultation phase. This is important, as we have a once in a generation chance to evolve Australia's higher education system so that it is empowered to keep our society prosperous for the decades to come.
We have a really exciting event coming up on campus that is connected with the FIFA Women's World Cup 2023™. ANU will host Mana Wāhine: Celebrating the spirit, leadership and excellence of women with the New Zealand High Commission on Thursday 10 August. This event will bring together four remarkable women including our Chancellor alongside Jacinda Ardern, Rena Owen, and Bronte Campbell to discuss their experiences as women in leadership across politics, the arts, sport and beyond. This event has sold out (in 55 minutes!) but we are looking to release more tickets soon and live-stream. It should be a great evening.
Before then, ANU is hosting The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice: A Dialogue for Students on Wednesday 2 August at 5pm in Llewellyn Hall. Everyone is invited to this special event where we will bring the national student body together (we are being joined by 25 other universities) to discuss this critical moment in Australia's history with a panel of experts and political leaders. I hope you will come along and also submit questions for the panel to discuss. Students, I strongly encourage your engagement - let's fill Llewellyn Hall!
Have a great weekend,