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Vice-Chancellor's Introduction

2019 was a year of significant successes and new beginnings at ANU. It is my pleasure to introduce our report on a year when the heart of the ANU campus was reborn, our researchers’ work continued to have global impact, and we made important progress in improving the culture of our University.

We began 2019 with several celebrations to mark the completion of major capital works projects. The Governor- General Sir Peter Cosgrove officially opened the new Bruce and Wright Halls, which provide on-campus accommodation for up to 800 ANU students. His Excellency was joined by Graham and Louise Tuckwell, whose generosity allowed us to create these outstanding residences that blend the contemporary and the traditional.

Bruce and Wright Halls were joined by Fenner Hall when we opened the Kambri precinct in February. The Kambri precinct is the most transformational single development in the University’s history. I am extremely proud of how Kambri so rapidly became the heart of our campus, providing space for our students to engage, study and socialise, and for our whole community to enjoy cutting-edge new cultural and arts venues.

The opening of these major developments has transformed the University Avenue section of our campus, creating a modern, welcoming and cohesive hub as a focal point for our evolving campus. Our Campus Master Plan outlines more such hubs, linked by promenades across the campus, and commits us to achieving our goals of sustainability while allowing us to better recognise our Indigenous heritage.

As we continue to renew our partnership with Australia’s First Nations Peoples, a solemn and significant ceremony took place in November when ANU returned more than 200 blood samples that had been stored on our Acton campus since the 1960s to their Galinwin’ku Country on Elcho Island in the Northern Territory. These samples were used for vital medical and health research for many decades, but with the guidance of First Nations Elders in the ANU and Canberra communities working closely with ANU researchers and Galinwin’ku Elders, this year I am proud to record that they made their journey home. The University’s work in genomic analysis has led to significant breakthroughs, but the models of conduct for human genomic research have been reshaped at ANU.

Earlier in 2019, ANU showed that it continues to fulfil its mandate by producing research of national and international significance. Professor Emily Banks led a study that demonstrated the effects of smoking, showing at least 17 Australians a day lose their lives from preventable heart attacks, strokes and other cardiovascular diseases. As part of the University’s commitment to translational research, this work was done in conjunction with the Heart Foundation and Sax Institute. Further afield, Professor Philip Piper from ANU was part of an international team that discovered the remains of a new species of human in the Philippines, a major breakthrough in our understanding of human evolution across Southeast Asia. Discovery of the remains of Homo Iuzonensis, thought to be more than 50,000 years old, suggests further work in the Philippines could help to unlock the secrets of human evolution. The ANU School of Archaeology and Anthropology will be deeply involved in this work.

Another international research project led by ANU found about 90 species of amphibians have become extinct in the last 50 years from the global fungal disease, chytridiomycosis. The team, led by Dr Ben Scheele from ANU, found the disease is responsible for the greatest loss of biodiversity due to disease in research that was supported by the Australian Government’s Threatened Species Recovery Hub. The work also showed Australia’s conservation programs had prevented the extinction of frog species here.

On 4 June, I informed our community that ANU had been the victim of a major data breach. The forensic investigation that followed discovery of the intrusion, conducted by our Chief Information Security Officer and Australian Government cyber security agencies, found that the breach had only affected a limited portion of the potentially affected data. In October, the University released the incident report, detailing the breach and recommending that ANU upgrade its IT security, triggering immediate work to address those issues. We are confident our actions reassured our community and helped other universities and organisations to better understand the cyber security risks we must all confront. Following the breach, we reaffirmed as a key University priority our work to strengthen and optimise our own systems.

Another high priority for ANU is our tireless work to ensure the culture of our University is respectful and safe. Last year, ANU opened its Respectful Relationships Unit to deliver on the University’s commitment to provide a safe and respectful campus for the entire ANU community. This year, the Unit released the Sexual Violence Prevention Strategy, after widespread consultation with student groups and survivor advocates. The strategy aims to create an ANU free from violence where all in our community can experience equality and respect in their personal or professional relationships; are empowered and respected where they live, learn, work and socialise; and are supported in their relationships to reach their full potential. The Strategy will be implemented from 2019 to 2026 by the staff in the Respectful Relationships Unit with the full support of the ANU Council and Senior Management Group.

I am determined that our culture is also equitable, so I was absolutely delighted to be able to announce to our community that ANU had been awarded the Science in Australia Gender Equity (SAGE) Athena Scientific Women’s Academy Network (SWAN) Bronze Award. This was a major milestone, and it keeps us on track to meet our commitment to receiving a Gold Award in due course. As the national university, we must set the benchmark for gender equity in academia.

Finally, this year closed with the departure of our Chancellor, Professor the Hon Gareth Evans QC AC, after 10 years in the University’s highest office. Throughout his service to ANU, Gareth showed unrelenting energy and passion for the University’s mission, and for the principles that underpin higher education in Australia. He hands on to his successor, the Hon Julie Bishop, an outstanding governing body and a University in very good health, marking another new beginning for ANU.

Brian Schmidt signature

Professor Brian P. Schmidt AC FAA FRS
Vice-Chancellor and President