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Principal Sally Renouf's reflections | Semester 2 2021

Congratulations, Burgmann Community—we made it! I am amazed and delighted that only two weeks ago we were able to celebrate our Valete dinner, at the end of what has been one of the most difficult year’s in our College’s history.

The three weeks leading up to Valete saw a dramatic turn of events, with restrictions easing, borders opening—an intense period of final assessments for many; recruitment for all our leadership positions; leadership team camp, casual contacts and Moosehead shenanigans, and then End Week, where we celebrated Burg Ball, Dawborn, Valete, Mental Health Forum, SPARTOS and Mega Luigi’s in a record eight days.

2021 has seen all manners of highs and lows. The pandemic wreaked havoc for everyone, and the experience of heading a 300-person household during a pandemic is something I never wish to experience again.

For me, becoming the ‘face of COVID compliance’ was a gloomy aspect of my role this year—my usual resident interactions were unhelpfully tainted by requests for people to put masks on or stand further apart—a far cry from the incidental chats about anything and everything which I know the College experience to be normally.

Valete is a time of celebrations but it is also an opportunity to reflect on the year we have had. It has been a difficult year for us all individually, and this has manifested at times into some disappointing behaviours.

I look forward to welcoming new and returning residents in 2022, and I hope we rise to the challenge of ensuring our culture is as respectful and inclusive as it possibly can be.

We would not have made it through the year without some extraordinary people. To our volunteers on Council, our Board members for holding emergency meetings while we scrambled to make sense of border closures and other COVID hurdles, we thank you. In particular, thank you to our Chairman Greg Mills for his stewardship of the College Council in this very challenging 50th year.

To the people who showed up every day, in our higher risk setting, to do the work needed to keep our community functioning—our dedicated staff—thank you to every single one of you for going above and beyond this year to clean our home, feed our residents, keep our buildings safe, and keep our residents supported. You are exceptional people and it is a privilege to work with you.

Congratulations, Vicki Guyer!

One particular staff member deserves our community’s acknowledgement this year. In our 50th year, Mrs Vicki Guyer celebrates 25 years of service to Burgmann College. An extraordinary achievement—Vicki has demonstrated unwavering dedication to our community through various roles in her time, most recently as Manager of Residential Services. Thank you, Vicki, for your leadership, passion and professionalism—our community owes you a great debt of gratitude.

Burgie spirit and leadership team

Although we had enormous challenges this year, our community responded with resilience, care and humour—the Burgie spirit prevailed and we saw that through, creative lock down events, hammocks, the kitchen team’s assembly line of love stuffing Jam Scones and Cream into takeaway containers, and finally, through our astronomical returner numbers. That is no accident. It is the hallmark of a community that is strong, of staff who go above and beyond, and of residents who care about something bigger than themselves.

Our community should be rightly proud of our work this year. We kept our vibrant community alive against all odds; finalised and launched the College’s Master Plan; firmly established a comprehensive Alumni and Advancement function of the College; and renewed our commitment to the Nous’s Cultural Change Action Plan through a concerted effort.

A highlight we should be rightly proud of this year was when Vice Chancellor Professor Brian Schmidt shared that that Burgmann College was the ‘best practice’ model for residences at the ANU.

Special Mention for Isobel Kuo, BRA President

It has been nothing short of an honour to work with Isobel Kuo this year. From the first day of Isobel’s Presidency she demonstrated unwavering dedication to our community; resilience, strength and grace. As President of BRA and as a member of the College’s Board, Isobel brought a considered and measured voice for our community and was a strong bystander for the wider residential community at the ANU. Congratulations Isobel on your strong leadership, and thank you.

Congratulations, Yasmin

Congratulations also to undergraduate resident Yasmin Poole who was recently awarded a Rhodes Scholarship to study at the University of Oxford. Yasmin intends to study a Master of Public Policy and a Master of Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies to ‘understand how we can create intersectional gender equality policy, which considers gender, but also race, class, sexuality and other factors’.

Some good news

One piece of news really put things into perspective for our community this year. One of our residents who is from Afghanistan recently explained that eleven of his family members were at the Kabul airport when it fell to the Taliban. They endured a horrific time of uncertainty and unsafety. At Valete our resident shared the very good news that he was able to obtain visas for all eleven of his family members, so they are now settled in Australia. This news was greeted by a standing ovation and cheering at Valete.

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College Awards

It is my honour to share the following 2021 award recipients:

  • First Year Sportsman and Sportswoman of the Year awarded to Nicholas Bull and Greta Larkey
  • First Year Contribution to the Arts awarded to Joshua Ayton
  • John Dauth Award - First Year Contribution to College awarded to: Charlotte Young
  • Sportsman and Sportswoman of the Year awarded to Hugo Klimt and Laura Ferguson
  • Peter Garrett Award - Outstanding Contribution to the Arts awarded to two candidates as they were equally worthy and it was so difficult to judge between them: William Adams and Patrick Coleman
  • Glen Downey Award - Outstanding Contribution to College awarded to Lucy Coote
  • Brett Ringland Award - Outstanding Contribution to BRA awarded to Isobel Kuo
  • Cal Fryer College Spirit Award: the Callum Fryer College Spirit Award celebrates the life and contributions of Callum Fryer, a Burgmann resident from 2012 to 2014. Cal was a much-loved member of the Burgmann community, and during his time here particularly relished opportunities to involve himself in leadership, sport, and college culture. Cal was a BRA Sports Representative in his second year at the College and an active participant in every sport in which Burgmann fielded a team. An excerpt from his application for an RA role sums up his attitude:
    • "…..dedication and loyalty to the college are two of the biggest things. The respect for people, who keep coming to training when they’ve never played the sport before, is always high because they try their hardest, and that’s the biggest thing.”
  • The Cal Fryer College Spirit Award is accompanied by a financial prize and embroidered college jersey, and is awarded on the grounds of ongoing participation in College sports, demonstration of leadership within sporting teams, exceptional commitment to engage with other teammates, and enthusiasm whilst spectating others’ sporting endeavours. This year’s Cal Fryer College Spirit Award is awarded to Adelaide Hayes.
  • The Principal’s Award for Overall Excellence: this award annually recognises a resident in our community who has consistently been an outstanding individual, giving back to the college and supporting our ethos. Recipients often may not hold a formal leadership position but have proven themselves to be leaders within our community, consistently upholding the College’s values and contributing widely to the life of the College.
    • It is my pleasure to share that Kathy Reid was awarded the 2021 Principal’s Award. Kathy demonstrated three years of unwavering commitment to the College and is described by peers and staff as a proven leader in the College and a role model. A champion of inclusivity and respect and always a friendly face in the Village, Kathy facilitated exceptional academic support through her regular Shut Up and Write study sessions. Congratulations, Kathy!

Vale, Burgies, go well.

At Valete we celebrated the year and farewelled members of our community. Although our leaving residents may not call Burgmann College home next year, they remain an essential part of our community as Burgmann Alumni. We have introduced two new young alumni events next year in addition to our major Back-to-Burg weekend in August 2022 – we hope as many alumni as possible will join us.

At this year’s Valete dinner I wished our leaving residents farewell and good luck and said that I hoped Burgmann has played an important role in fostering lifelong friendships; that they will look back on this time fondly.

When I think about what Burgmann is about and what this time in people’s lives is about, if I can offer anything, it would be this: Life is not defined by high distinctions or internships. They’re fine things, but they’re not, the thing.

Life is defined by the strength and quality of your relationships, by the dedication to your purpose, and by the depth and genuineness of your service to others. It’s measured in the resilience you develop in the face of adversity and in the kindness you show to the people in your orbit. I think this is what Burgmann is all about.

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When Australia braced for its first lockdown in March 2020 confined to the limits of her college flat with her children, Residential Fellow Lara Nicholls dreamt up an idea that would bring together readers stuck in their various rooms all over Australia to read aloud passages from Virginia Woolf’s iconic feminist text A Room of One’s Own. Many lockdowns later and thanks to a chance meeting with the Director of the ANU Gender Institute, Professor Fiona Jenkins, fittingly at a Burgmann Arts and Social Sciences dinner, the project is in the can and about to be launched. Involving members of the ANU community from our First Australian female Prime Minister, the Hon. Julia Gillard, the Vice Chancellor, academics, alumni and undergraduate students, Reading the Room will be launched online by Dame Quentin Bryce on 24th November 2021 at 7pm. The project has involved many Burgmann readers including Principal, Sally Renouf, Residential Fellow Professor Asmi Wood and Burgmann alumni Ian Darling (1981-1983), Jessica Benter (2018-2019) and Ben Jefferson (2018-2020). Among other readers are postgraduate and undergraduate residents: Isobel Kuo, Poppy Thompson, Will Adams, Will Salkeld, Lara White, Charlotte Young and John Fitzgerald. A highlight of the project is the incredible logo design by two very talented Burgmann undergraduate women, Lara White, and Kate Rice. Lara Nicholls comments, ‘I love this avatar that Lara and Kate have designed – it is as though Virginia’s famous head is filled with words she can’t contain, and they are about to tumble out onto the page into one of her eloquent and witty essays or books’.
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