Professor Brian Schmidt AC reaffirmed the University's committment to the nation and its distinct national mission in his 2020 Foundation Day speech. Photo: Lannon Harley

Helping Australia rebuild after the pandemic

ANU Vice-Chancellor Professor Brian Schmidt reflects on the year that was and what we can look forward to in 2021. 

This year continues to sow the seeds of chaos. From fires, to smoke, hail and plague, we have faced massive upheaval here at ANU, across Australia and the world over.

But even in the face of these ongoing challenges, I am inspired by how we as a community have risen – banding together to care for each other and contribute to the immense challenge of rebuilding our nation and our world.

As I noted in my 2020 Foundation Day speech, ANU was established as the national university to help drive  Australia’s reconstruction effort after World War II. This still unique mission has never been more relevant. As we reflect on the year that has been and prepare for our 75th anniversary in 2021, I am reassured that in ANU, both Australia and the world have a powerful and trusted ally reporting for duty – again.

In the face of this pandemic our experts have helped lead the nation’s frontline health response and mapped out our path to economic recovery. Our staff and our students have been seconded to keep our community safe and stop the spread of the coronavirus.

This is the spirit and the mission that define ANU, our people and our work. To provide the long-term thinking and solutions our world needs. To consider the big questions from all angles—scientific, economic, social and political—and ensure short-term responses are informed by the best evidence.

Without the steady guidance of our researchers, staff and students our nation would be in a much worse situation than we are currently. I am so grateful to be part of this great University and its remarkable work.

This spirit is again reflected in the stories in this edition of ANU Reporter. We speak to our experts about how they have helped Australia and the region navigate the current health crisis, how the pandemic is reshaping language, and why even primates need protection from the coronavirus.

We also feature innovative work that will help detect bushfires before they become catastrophic and look at the new Water Futures Institute – established to ensure our long-term access to one of the most precious resources on
the planet, and which you can read about in our new ‘Digital Only’ section.

Finally, I want to acknowledge that all of this vital research and more was done while navigating one of the biggest crises our nation has seen and would be impossible without committed staff who have risen to the challenge – not just our experts, but those members of our community who support them and keep the national university operating day in and day out.

I wish you all the very best for the rest of the year. Let’s hope 2021 sees all of us facing easier days and a more certain future.

Professor Brian Schmidt AC
Vice-Chancellor and President