Welcome families, residents, staff, and our Residential Fellows, Professor Kim Cunio, Ms Lara Nicholls and Professor Asmi Wood. It is an absolute pleasure to be here with you this evening and to welcome you to our annual family weekend gala dinner.
I would like to start by acknowledging that long before this country was settled by Europeans, it was a meeting place for a number of different Aboriginal groups, including the Ngambri, Ngarigo, Walgalu, Wallabalo and Ngunnawal peoples. These people would gather on this country, using it as a meeting place in accordance with their customs, just as we do now.
I pay my respects to the descendants of these peoples on whose lands we meet, and seek to learn more about their customs from elders now and into the future. I pay my respects to elders past present and emerging and extend that respect to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island people here this evening.
After two- and a-bit years of Covid unhappiness, it is so reassuring to see life returning to normal; and for College life to be returning to normal; I am filled with gratitude. You know it’s starting to feel more like Burg-normal when we win Big Night Out; congratulations Aiden, Thomas, Poppy, Zara, Bridget, Darcy, Sam, Lily, Jade, Josh, Tom, Ryan and Kirby!
You worked so hard – all those nights you were rehearsing in the Chapel – I was having a boogie in my kitchen to Beyoncé with my daughters, Margot and Ava - you really gave it your all.
BNO champions has certainly been a highlight. But I would be lying if I said this year has plain sailing.
For those of you I have not yet met, I looked – and felt – a lot younger at the start of this year. And for those of you I saw at the New Residents Program in February, it’s been a lot since we last spoke.
As some of you may know, about halfway through O Week this year, Covid decided to bless the College.
Because we started our programs earlier than the other residences at the ANU we got to demonstrate first what the other halls would be soon experiencing – and I have to say, we put on a great show.
In the ten-day period from 16 – 26 February, eighty residents got Covid and a further fifty-two were close contacts. A handful of residents returned home where they were able; but for the most part, the College supported 120 of the 132 affected residents onsite to quarantine, delivering food to their rooms and providing wellbeing support. I’m not sure if anyone has seen the movie that’s out just recently called, Everything, Everywhere, All at Once – but that’s how it felt.
The staff worked harder than ever and everyone pitched in wherever needed. Our Deputy Cris and Dean Charlie were running meals, our Director of Advancement Amelia was co-opted to do wellbeing support – the Housekeeping, Maintenance, Admin and Catering teams were working around the clock to ensure everyone got what they needed – I drove a bus at one stage, it was a very confusing time – and this was done all to support our residents, providing two food drops per day as well as maintaining our usual service for everyone else.
Given the volume of residents affected, we were not always able to add all the extra touches we would have liked, but we did manage a few sets of Lego, board games, play doh, bubbles, art supplies and home-made cakes and cookie surprises. A highlight was when the community rallied to celebrate a resident’s 21st birthday in quarantine by writing notes and delivering them to outside her door. These sorts of added extras brought joy in what was otherwise a very difficult and tiring endeavour.
So, while it was tiring, and a lot, we are still all here with big smiles on our faces because if you haven’t yet realised, the Burg Spirit is strong.
When I contemplate why this is so, I think it is our collective commitment to live in a community based on inclusivity, respect and egalitarianism. Committed to academics and education, but also to personal development, and to fun.
At one of our fiftieth anniversary events last year, ANU Vice chancellor Professor Brian Schmidt said Burgmann was the best practice for residential communities at the ANU – I tell everyone at every opportunity because it’s something we are just so proud of. My husband Brodie has told me I can probably stop mentioning it at breakfast now.
We believe deeply in the experience we offer. Living at College transforms your time at university from a mere step in career progression into a time of growth and self-discovery. We see how the residential experience equips young people with the interpersonal and intellectual skills that best serve them as citizens of the world.
Last year we launched our 2021 Master Plan. Key elements of the plan include the redevelopment of the Undergraduate Courtyard (which we intend to start at the end of this year), and in the longer term, the creation of BurgSpace: a student engagement and education space.
Our intention is to create a valuable and dynamic resource for not only Burgmann residents and alumni, but for the University and the wider community. In our vision, BurgSpace features a seminar theatre space, tutorial and study spaces, music, drama and art studios, and a wellness centre. It will accommodate distinguished guests and speakers in dedicated apartments, provide a large study common, and multipurpose spaces for meetings.
For our more immediate plans, this year we are turning our energy to expanding our bursary and scholarships program. Since we opened in 1971, Burgmann’s founding values of respect, egalitarianism and inclusivity have sustained a deep appreciation for diversity in our community, fostering a culture of care, support, and contribution.
We know it is the diversity of our community that provides the depth and range of cultures, perspectives and experiences that enrich this transformative period of residents’ lives. So, our goal is to remove the financial barriers to joining the Burgmann community and we are asking our alumni, friends and families to help us do this.
The Bursary Brochure on your table shares the stories of some of our bursary recipients and their reflections on the impact this has had on their lives.
I do love Family Weekend because residents are so excited to welcome their family members and show them what their life is like at Burgmann. I think it’s important to mention, that this weekend doesn’t come together by itself.
I would like to take the opportunity to warmly congratulate and embarrass, our BRA Vice Presidents, Eve and Will.
Eve and Will, along with a team of volunteers, have done a phenomenal job in organising this fantastic event and weekend; I work closely with BRA President Bas and it is heartening to hear just how highly he speaks of his team. Would you please join me in congratulating Will and Eve.
I hope you have a most wonderful evening and enjoy this special time with family and thank you for celebrating the Burgmann family.