From the VC's desk
As I write, the snap ‘circuit breaker’ lockdown that began last Friday has been extended to support management of the COVID outbreak in Melbourne. I hope you and your loved ones have managed to stay safe and keep your spirits up over the first week of the lockdown.
I hope you’ve been enjoying the magnificent Autumn weather we’ve been having across Victoria. Last week’s graduations in Wodonga – our first at-scale graduations since December 2019 – were held on a magnificently sunny day of perfect temperatures. It made for a joy-filled occasion – not just in celebration of our students’ achievements, but also of the fact that we are able once again to come together in public for large-scale events.
The start of the men’s footy season (not as good as normal footy, and takes much longer, but still quite good to watch) means that it’s also the beginning of Autumn. There have been some great projects around the University since my last blog, and I’d like to share a few of our achievements with you.
Welcome to my first blog of 2021. I hope you all enjoyed a relaxing break over Christmas and new year, and that – like me – you are rejoicing at the presence once again of students on our campuses. I hope you are also making the most of the opportunity to catch up with colleagues whose faces you may only have seen on Zoom for over a year.
2020 is the year we may all want to forget; but, whether we like it or not, it’s also a year that will live on in the memory: a year in which our normal lives went into suspended animation and brought new ways of doing things; a year that brought life-defining changes – and perhaps a sort of liberation – for some, but anxiety and desperation for others; a year that will leave its permanent mark in different, and perhaps unpredictable, ways.
It’s hard to believe that students finished their semester 2 exams yesterday. It’s another milestone in this extraordinary year. Once again, I’d like to thank every one of you for your amazing efforts to keep teaching, learning and research going so brilliantly since March. Whenever I have a chance to speak with students, they’re always keen to tell me how much they value the way their teachers and our support staff have gone above and beyond to help them study online during COVID-19. Once again, thank you.
After several long months in lockdown, I am sure you are looking forward to taking advantage of the loosened restrictions announced by the Premier last Sunday, modest though they were. The best news is that we now have more flexibility to ensure that our final year students can graduate; and the falling case numbers offer a glimmer of hope that the worst may now be over.
One of the effects of the stage four COVID-19 lockdown in Melbourne, and the stage three restrictions in regional Victoria, is the way they seem to distort the passage of time. There are periods when it slows down to a crawl, and others when the weeks feel like they’ve flown by. It’s a bit like the AFL fixture list this year – a long-delayed season followed by weeks of frantic activity.
It is hard to believe July is over already and that we are now in the second half of the year. Aboriginal people call this time of year ‘early spring’ and it’s easy to see why – the wattle is in flower, and daffodils and blossom are starting to make an early appearance.
As we reach the mid-point of the year, I’m sure you’ll agree that 2020 so far has been one of the toughest six months any of us have experienced. It’s likely that many of you are feeling the strain of adjusting to new patterns of life, new ways of working and managing the stress of the uncertainty that affects us all. I hope that the next few weeks will give you an opportunity to take a break and that, if you need to, you make use of the support services available to staff.
It’s been another huge month at La Trobe. At the risk of repeating myself, the commitment, spirit and care I continue to see across the University in these challenging times is just wonderful. There is no doubt that we face significant challenges, and I will touch on some of those in this message, but I continue to be heartened by the commitment our staff have shown, and continue to show, to the learning and wellbeing of our students. Once again, thank you.
It’s May, it’s getting colder, but there’s no footy – so while some aspects of life feel familiar, others don’t. I hope you are all doing ok and that the first wave of stress and effort in moving to online delivery is starting to settle down, and that this ‘new normal’ is starting to feel more familiar. I’m sure that you all face challenges of different kinds – but what keeps my spirits up is the strong sense of community and common endeavour that we have created. Again, thank you.
No-one expected this. In January, which seems like a lifetime ago, we were concerned about bushfires and the impact of climate change. How the world has changed – again.
It’s been a difficult year so far – first the terrible bushfires, quickly followed by the outbreak of the novel coronavirus in China. I will return to both of these below. If you’re like me, then the memories of time off with family and friends are fading fast – 2020 has announced itself with, literally, a bang.