At the start of this year, I reflected on 2020 and what was an extraordinary year. The challenges of 2020 stretched all members of the Griffith community, students, staff, alumni and our partners. Exceptional efforts were made by those at all levels of the University to deal with very complex issues, including protecting the health and well-being of students and staff; moving classes on-line; and deciding how best to support research and researchers. I am mindful too that our global alumni community will have faced countless challenges both personally and professionally. My thoughts are extended to our global community and I hope that, with the roll out of vaccines gaining momentum, 2021 will signify a brighter year for us all.

Despite the disruptions, I am proud that Griffith nonetheless made significant progress in delivering on the University’s strategic objectives last year.  Griffith rose in all the major global rankings and staff and students won prestigious grants, teaching awards and fellowships to carry out work across a wide range of areas.

At the start of 2021, we are renewing our focus to deliver on the ambitions of our Strategic Plan. We remain committed to supporting student success in learning and in transitioning to employment and to supporting our researchers to strive for academic excellence, innovation and delivering impact. As part of our commitment to students, I am continuing to actively work with both levels of government to plan for the safe return of international students to Australia and to Griffith University.

As I write this newsletter, Griffith will be holding graduation ceremonies for students – the first that we have been able to hold for over a year. We are thrilled to be able to congratulate our graduands in person through ‘catch up’ ceremonies. At these ceremonies, Kate Miller-Heidke and Warren von Bibra will be receiving the award of Doctor of the University.

Kate Miller-Heidke is an icon of Australian music, an award-winning singer-songwriter and composer, and an acclaimed performer and actress. A Griffith alumnus, Kate studied at the Queensland Conservatorium, graduating with a Bachelor of Music (Classical Voice) in 2002. During her studies, she won a swathe of awards including the Elizabeth Muir Prize, the Donald Pendman Prize, the Linda Edith Allen Memorial Prize and the Horace Keats Prize. This early recognition of her talent was a precursor of the brilliance that was to come.

Mr Warren von Bibra has been recognized for his distinguished service to the Gold Coast community and to the University; driven by his devotion to the Gold Coast community and more broadly, his desire to make a positive difference through service to others. Warren is a dedicated and generous patron of numerous charities and organisations that support vulnerable people and work to address some of our most critical challenges.

Our alumni are already making an impact this year. My congratulations to Queensland Conservatorium alumnus Joff Bush on topping the ARIA chart for Bluey: The Album.  Bluey becomes the first children’s album to top ARIA music charts, the music industry’s official benchmark for the Australia’s bestselling singles and albums. Bluey is a wildly successful children’s television show, created by Griffith Film School alumni, centred around a 6-year-old Blue Heeler dog. Joff is credited with introducing a new generation to classical music along with Bluey’s catchy tunes.

Given ongoing challenges and potential disruptions, our alumni program will continue to look a little different this year. While international travel continues to be disrupted, we recognise the importance of staying connected. We will continue to reach out to the Griffith community through an expanding suite of online resources, including through the A better future for all conversations series presented by Griffith University in partnership with HOTA, Home of the Arts. Last month we welcomed the Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk MP to the latest instalment of this leadership series helmed by master broadcaster and journalist Kerry O’Brien.

In March, the series continues with a conversation with the 2021 Australian of the Year Grace Tame; this promises to be another stimulating conversation and I hope you may be able to join me either in person, by livestream or by watching the stream at your convenience.

While it has become harder for us to meet in person, the Griffith alumni remain an important part of our community. We have learnt a lot about how to connect with you digitally over the past year and look forward to continuing to use these tools in 2021.

Professor Carolyn Evans

Vice Chancellor and President, Griffith University

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