Reconciliation Week, establishing a micro-treaty, and a shot in the arm for RNA – 29 May 2024

29 May 2024
Smoking ceremony

Dear colleagues 

National Reconciliation Week, 27 May–3 June, is a time to reflect on how we can all contribute to achieving reconciliation in Australia. I’m pleased to share that UNSW is committing to creating a micro-treaty with the University’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students, staff, alumni and our connected Aboriginal communities to keep working towards reconciliation. We proudly continue to heed the Uluru Statement from the Heart’s call for all Australians to walk together for a better future.

A micro-treaty empowers Indigenous communities by ensuring their involvement in decisions affecting them directly. Through this process, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students, staff, alumni and our connected Aboriginal communities are assured of a meaningful voice in shaping the dynamics of their relationship with the University now and into the future.

The Australian Universities Accord Final Report called for First Nations people to be at the heart of Australia’s higher education system. The micro-treaty exemplifies this intent, empowering Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples through self-determination in higher education, leading to real change and impact. Read more about the micro-treaty on the UNSW Newsroom. 

Uluru Statement leaders recognised

Pro Vice-Chancellor Society, Professor Megan Davis and Pat Anderson AO have been awarded Australia PeaceWomen Awards from the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom. The awards celebrate their work on the Referendum Council that led to the Uluru Statement and their advocacy as co-chairs of the Uluru Dialogue for the Voice to Parliament Campaign.

Megan and Aunty Pat were fundamental in delivering the Uluru Statement in 2017 and central in the dialogue surrounding the Voice to Parliament. As visionary leaders and activists for social justice, they continue to have an instrumental role in creating a better future for all Australians. This recognition is fitting testament to their exceptional leadership and advocacy for the justice and equity of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. Read more on the UNSW Newsroom.

A very warm welcome to Term 2

Above: Some of the many happy faces of T2 O-Week.

As Term 2 gets underway, I’d like to thank the Onboarding and Transition team, our friends at Arc and all the staff and volunteers who helped make O-Week and the welcome events such a great success. The term began with a Welcome to Country and Smoking Ceremony (Aunty Maxine Ryan and Uncle Matthew Doyle pictured top), followed by the student welcome events. The Official Welcome for undergrads and postgrads and the International Welcome for international students each attracted around 200 students. The faculty welcomes were also well attended. The Prepping for Success Fair and International Student Fair followed a different format this year, with fete stalls set up outside the Clancy Auditorium. I’m told the fairs and the International Student Meet Up events were a huge success. 

Making sure our students feel they belong here at UNSW is so important – thank you to everyone who made all these events possible.

RNA collaboration gives advanced therapeutics a boost 

Pictured L–R: Australia's Chief Scientist, Dr Cathy Foley; Senator the Hon Tim Ayres, Assistant Minister for Trade, Assistant Minister for Manufacturing; and UNSW Professor Pall Thordarson, Director UNSW RNA Institute.

On Friday I was very pleased to join UNSW RNA Institute Director, Professor Pall Thordarson, in welcoming guests to UNSW to launch the National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Strategy (NCRIS) Therapeutic Innovation Australia (TIA) RNA Products Capability, hosted by the UNSW RNA Institute. 

While RNA shot to fame during the pandemic with the spotlight on vaccines for COVID-19, the technology has long been researched for the development of therapeutic applications for other complex challenges including cancers, infectious diseases, rare genetic disorders and neurodegenerative conditions. The new NCRIS TIA RNA Products Capability is a collaborative network to support research, development and commercialisation of RNA vaccines and treatments. 

Through NCRIS and the NCRIS Support Program, the federal and NSW governments have demonstrated genuine support for world-class research facilities that have the potential to transform lives in Australia and throughout the world. UNSW hosts one of four such facilities that comprise the RNA Products Capability, together with the nodes at Monash, UQ and UWA. 

Special guests at the launch included Senator Tim Ayres (Assistant Minister for Trade, Assistant Minister for Manufacturing), Dr Cathy Foley (Australia’s Chief Scientist), Dr Darren Saunders (NSW Deputy Chief Scientist), and Dr Stuart Newman (CEO, Therapeutic Innovation Australia). Read more about the RNA Products Capability launch in the Newsroom.

Help shape our future campus

The Future Campus project aims to understand how UNSW’s space and facility needs have changed and how they’ll continue to change in coming years.

This project is a critical foundation of our next strategy. The work to date has identified changes in teaching, research and workspace use, and how some of the ways we engage with our broader community will change. All of this insight is critical to how we re-shape our campus for the future.

The draft ‘Space Principles’ that will guide future campus developments are now available for your feedback.

The Space Principles are designed to ensure we have a sustainable University and that we use our resources responsibly. To achieve these outcomes, we all need to be ready to adapt the way we use and share space.

I encourage you all to share your thoughts on the draft Space Principles and help shape the best possible UNSW campuses for years to come.

Switch to UNSW’s new safety app SafeZone

As you know, the safety of students and staff is a priority for me. UNSW’s new safety app SafeZone has replaced StaySafe. The new app’s features include a direct phone line to UNSW Security, a button for first aid assistance, a check-in timer for students and staff working alone at night, real-time notifications of serious incidents on campus and more.

I encourage you to download the SafeZone app. It’s available from the App Store and Google Play.

There’s more to read Inside UNSW…

I’m very much looking forward to the Vice-Chancellor’s Awards next month. If you would like to see an outstanding colleague recognised, don’t forget to vote for them in the People’s Choice Awards.

Best regards

Professor Attila Brungs
Vice-Chancellor and President