Over the last couple of months the COVID-19 pandemic in Australia has reached a new stage. By a miracle of scientific collaboration and creativity – and sheer hard work by scientists around the world – we now have multiple reliable, effective vaccines against this coronavirus. In Australia this means government and institutional plans are focussed on achieving very high vaccination rates in order to end lockdowns and reopen borders while preserving life and health as far as possible.
In coming weeks the University Executive (comprising the Vice-Chancellor and the College Principals) will need to take decisions which support a full resumption of the University of Divinity’s mission of education, research and community service in 2022 – and which ensure a safe and healthy environment for all our staff and students. In relation to vaccination status, these decisions may differ slightly from College to College, based on denominational and occupancy requirements set by their owners, and the regulatory requirements set by different governments across Australia.
What will this mean for you as members of the University community for the remainder of 2021?
First, classes in Victoria and NSW will remain online for the rest of semester 2, though there may be a possibility of some post-semester gatherings depending on how and when restrictions ease.
Second, onsite gatherings and events will not be possible until mid-November at the earliest and most staff will continue in work-from-home arrangements based on restrictions applying in different states. This includes the December graduation ceremony, which will be held online.
Finally, a survey of staff in relation to vaccination is taking place across the University and its Colleges to inform decisions about next steps.
The rest of 2021 will be another period of change, with new rules and guidelines, as we learn to live with the endemic phase of this virus. Once again we will need to be resilient and adaptive, drawing on the University’s fourth and fifth Graduate Attributes, to “Engage” and to “Serve”.
We can begin to look forward in hope to the resumption of onsite education and graduation ceremonies for the 2022 academic year, to the return of students, staff, friends and family from beyond Australia, and to full enjoyment of being human together.
Our immediate task is to support as many people to get fully vaccinated as soon as possible, wherever you are in Australia. If you have not yet had your vaccine, please make a booking with your GP, pharmacist or mass vaccination facility as soon as possible.
Professor Peter Sherlock, Vice-Chancellor
On behalf of the University Executive
Professor Peter Sherlock is the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Divinity. He is a cultural and religious historian of Renaissance and Reformation Europe and an expert on governance and leadership in educational and church settings. A graduate of the University of Melbourne and the University of Oxford, his academic career has included an ARC Postdoctoral Fellowship in History at the University of Melbourne and four years as Dean of the United Faculty of Theology, Melbourne.