Wellbeing in focus; welcome Professor Leanne Holt; UNSW Business is BOSS... and more – 4 October 2023

04 Oct 2023
A group of people gathered on the Basser steps with a Progress Pride flag

Dear colleagues

I am pleased to have this opportunity to write to you in the Vice-Chancellor’s stead. It is a little over two weeks since I commenced as Provost and the tremendous honour of having this role is wonderfully evident. On my first day, I attended the launch of our new Institute for Climate Risk and Response, which will offer advice to industry on how to assess and respond to climate change. To me, this was the perfect way to begin my time as Provost – the new institute exemplifies UNSW’s founding and enduring purpose of societal impact: applying our expertise to help address some of the most pressing challenges that communities are facing, locally, nationally and across the globe.

As many of you know, for the past four years I have been Dean of UNSW Medicine & Health. I have been very proud to work alongside colleagues who have an extraordinary impact on people’s lives day after day, particularly during the pandemic and through programs like our Health Precincts. Their work, and that of our colleagues throughout UNSW, spurred me to consider the opportunities for our University to dramatically increase the positive impact we can have through our education and our research. I also had the opportunity to represent UNSW at the sod-turning event for the new Health Translation Hub, now rising out of the ground, and a development that will dramatically amplify our ability to improve health. I look forward to being able to contribute to driving impact across the whole University in the role of Provost.

Societal impact is in UNSW’s DNA. Our University was established in 1949 in response to great need for rebuilding in NSW, and we now have a global focus with world-leading expertise in so many disciplines. I am excited about the opportunities to work with each of you towards our vision of improving lives throughout the world.

A way in which I believe we can make a difference imminently is by having an informed vote in the referendum on Saturday 14 October. I wholeheartedly support the Voice to Parliament, but I acknowledge and respect that there are differing opinions, and I encourage a respectful, inclusive debate at our University.

If you do not feel you have a clear understanding of the Voice to Parliament, I implore you to seek out additional information – not being informed is not a sensible reason to take a position. A variety of resources about the Voice to Parliament, the referendum and the Uluru Statement, including insight and analysis from UNSW experts and links to a range of official campaign websites, is available through the UNSW Voice website.

Ensuring pay confidence at UNSW

Last week the Vice-Chancellor wrote to staff about UNSW’s ongoing engagement with the Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO) in relation to historical underpayments to casual academic staff, UNSW record keeping obligations and upgrades of UNSW payroll systems, and a broader compliance review of pay and entitlements of all staff.

UNSW has been engaging with FWO in relation to these matters since June 2020 when the University self-disclosed that it was undertaking a comprehensive review of payments to casual academic staff.

UNSW would like to be a leader in providing certainty and confidence in payments to all staff, on an ongoing basis. The University is continuing to invest significantly in systems and processes to ensure they are thorough and rigorous, and that staff receive the correct entitlements.

Once again, on behalf of UNSW, I extend my most sincere apologies to everyone who has been affected by this issue, and I express my thanks for the diligence of colleagues across the Faculties and Divisions who are working hard to remediate this issue and prevent it from recurring.

Welcome Professor Leanne Holt, UNSW’s inaugural DVC Indigenous

It is my pleasure to welcome Professor Leanne Holt to UNSW in her role as the University’s first Deputy Vice-Chancellor Indigenous. Professor Holt is a proud Worimi and Biripi woman, with extensive leadership experience in higher education and passion for Indigenous education and social justice. 

Leanne will be instrumental in helping us all take the UNSW Indigenous Strategy to a new level, including increasing the number of Indigenous students and staff at UNSW, and deepening our engagement with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. Importantly, this work is the responsibility of each of us, and Leanne’s role is to guide the University in these activities. Leanne will oversee the development and delivery of innovative Indigenous education programs, research excellence and community engagement that advances the strategy and helps embed cultural understanding and cultural safety throughout the UNSW community.

Please join me in welcoming Leanne to the University, and in supporting her stewardship of the UNSW Indigenous Strategy. We are all responsible for ensuring its objectives are at the centre of everything we do, and for ensuring its implementation and success.

Leanne reports directly to the Vice-Chancellor and is a member of the University Leadership Team. She will have close links with Director Scott Parlett and colleagues at Nura Gili, whose vital work I am proud to support as Provost.

October is Health, Safety and Wellbeing Month

Like the Vice-Chancellor, the health, safety and wellbeing of everyone in the UNSW community is a priority for me, and I’m thrilled to see the range of events and activities planned for Health, Safety and Wellbeing Month throughout October.

It’s terrific to see that mental wellbeing is a focal point, including in the webinar ‘Managing Psychosocial Risks in a University Setting’ on 30 October 2023. The challenges of the past few years certainly brought mental health into focus, which is perhaps a perverse positive from living through COVID. The Australian Mental Health Prize 2023, winners of which were announced last week, demonstrates the need for and impact of innovative work in this arena.

Health, Safety and Wellbeing Month is a great reminder, too, that we’re all responsible for keeping ourselves and our colleagues safe. One of the best ways to do this is to report hazards and near misses – prevention is definitely better than cure. Please make good use of the Salus system, UNSW’s simple, one-stop-online-shop for safety management.

And, I can let you in on a secret – you can register to attend tomorrow’s premiere of the Think Safe. Be Safe. Home Safe. video featuring nearly 100 students and staff, including the VC. Register now for 10am tomorrow (Thursday 5 October 2023) in the Council Chambers.

Thank you to our colleagues from UNSW Wellbeing and UNSW Health & Safety who have collaborated on a comprehensive program for the month. I’m feeling healthier and more energetic just thinking about it.

A reminder that our free Employee Assistance Program (EAP) can help UNSW staff and their family members achieve and maintain wellbeing. Visit wellbeing.unsw.edu.au/eap-benestar for details.

UNSW Business School is BOSS. Again.

Congratulations to our colleagues in the UNSW Business School, which has been named the AFR BOSS Best Business School in Australia for the second year in a row.

Close to 40 Australian business schools were ranked, with UNSW first overall, first for quality, second for reputation and second for career impact. This is a very impressive result that reflects the talent and quality of students, staff, alumni and partners of the Faculty, and its impact in both education and research.

It’s a great success story and a credit to all in the UNSW Business School, under the leadership of the Dean, Professor Chris Styles.

Diversity Festival celebrations

A heartfelt thank you to all who brought UNSW’s fifth Diversity Festival to life in September.

The festival exemplifies our University’s vision for societal impact, and for creating a diverse, equitable and inclusive culture where everyone in the UNSW community can feel safe and welcome to be themselves. It’s just amazing to see how many students, staff and external collaborators combined their expertise and enthusiasm to bring us this remarkable event.

The Division of Equity Diversity & Inclusion does a brilliant job of leading Diversity Festival. At the top of the page is a picture our EDI colleagues and supporters in front of the Basser Steps, with the newly unveiled Progress Pride flag design (I love the new design, but the stairs are still challenging to climb!).

Farewell Professor Louise Lutze-Mann

Last Friday we said goodbye to Professor Louise Lutze-Mann, who retired after more than 26 years at UNSW. I’m sure all who worked with Louise would agree that she is a dynamo, a passionate educator who values making authentic connections with those around her.

Louise was instrumental in driving UNSW’s Education Focused Program and a brilliant champion for the community of Education Focused academics as well as Education and Student Experience more broadly. I thank Louise for her excellent contributions to UNSW and I wish her a very fulfilling retirement.

Some remarkable moments and milestones

There is always a plethora of remarkable moments and milestones to mark in the life of UNSW. Here are a few more highlights from the past fortnight.

UNSW Gateway Year 11 Spring Program

I’d like to mention one more really special event before I sign off and leave you to browse another terrific edition of Inside UNSW.

Year 11 students gathered in a hall for the Gateway On-Campus Day
Students at the Gateway Year 11 Spring Program On-Campus Day on Tuesday 26 September 2023.

Last Tuesday, 447 students from 96 schools visited our Kensington campus for ‘On-Campus Day’, the culmination of the Gateway Year 11 Spring Program for 2023 (see the photo above). Among the group were 430 students from Gateway Schools and 241 students from low-SES areas. Forty-one students travelled to campus from regional or remote areas including Broken Hill, Narrabri, Moree, Griffith, Orange, Parkes, Wagga Wagga, Port Macquarie and Goulburn, 37 of whom attended as part of the concurrent Regional Residential Program. Nearly a fifth of the students who came to the On-Campus Day will potentially be ‘first-in-family’ to attend university.

For the first time, students were engaged in innovative multi-disciplinary experiences linked to real-world UN Sustainable Development Goals. These opportunities to explore degrees and industries, and to work alongside Faculty staff and current students are critical to supporting students to make informed decisions about their future study.

We hope that through the Gateway Program, many of these students will be able to join us at UNSW when they finish their Higher School Certificate (HSC) and discover the full potential of higher education. Thank you to our colleagues from Access, Equity & Inclusion in the Division of Equity, Diversity & Inclusion for another successful Gateway Program.

And while we’re on the topic of the HSC, my very best wishes to all who have an HSC candidate in their midst – only seven more sleeps until exams begin!

Best wishes

Scientia Professor Vlado Perkovic
Provost, Acting Vice-Chancellor and President