Message from the Vice-Chancellor – 9 February 2009
Along with all Australians, the University community has been deeply shocked and saddened by the loss of life and devastation caused by the weekend’s bushfires across Victoria.
We know some of our 45,000 students and 7000 staff are in bushfire affected areas, so concern for their safety and welfare is the first priority. Human Resources, the Provost’s Office, Deans and Heads of Department are calling staff and students with postcodes in bushfire areas to establish whether they are safe and whether the University can provide any assistance.
Fortunately the University campuses at Dookie and Creswick remain safe. Any students and staff on field trips and camps in Victorian regional areas are being contacted, again to check on their safety.
Many members of the University community have been – and continue to be - involved in the bushfire affected areas working as volunteers in the CFA and SES, hospitals and other government organisations, and in the relief organisations such as the Red Cross and Salvation Army.
Sadly, we understand the University community has lost at least one staff member. Others will have lost friends and homes and seen their local communities devastated. I would like to remind colleagues and students that the University Counselling Service can offer support at this time. Just call 8344 6927/28, even if you just feel the need to talk to someone about your experiences.
The Provost’s Office is also establishing special financial arrangements for students suffering financial hardship as a result of the bushfires, and information about support services such as counselling. This information will be accessed through the Student Portal.
The University can offer financial assistance through the Staff Welfare Fund to staff in need who have lost their homes and belongings.
After discussion with Chancellor Alex Chernov, the University has donated $100,000 to the emergency relief effort. Staff and students may also wish to donate to bushfire relief - directions are available on the Bushfire Response website on the University homepage.
The wider University community is already rallying, with a range of offers of assistance.
The Faculty of Veterinary Science is providing free care for dogs and cats and horses injured in the bushfires.
Through the Victorian Department of Human Services, the Melbourne School of Land and Environment’s Dookie campus is offering 250 beds for emergency accommodation and catering for bushfire victims. The Dookie campus also has watered and well-fenced areas with some feed on hand for around 1000 cattle, 2000 sheep and around 100 horses displaced by fire. The Victorian Department of Primary Industry and the Victorian Farmers’ Federation will coordinate.
At this critical time, we must remember those who are injured and in hospital. Blood supplies will be stretched and staff and students wishing to donate blood can find the location of their nearest Red Cross Blood Service centre at http://www.donateblood.com.au/
In consultation with the Chancellor, the University has elected not to proceed with tomorrow’s planned installation ceremony, as a mark of respect to those who have died and suffered in the bushfires.
Over the next few weeks many members of the University community will continue to be involved as volunteers in the aftermath of the bushfires – with emergency organisations, relief bodies, hospitals, and giving expert assistance and advice to various departments of the Victorian Government.
Volunteers from the University community contribute willingly and tirelessly in such situations – and many will be exhausted. Our respect and admiration for those at the frontline is boundless.
Hearts go out to our colleagues and students suffering in the aftermath of this tragedy, and we will endeavour to keep everyone informed of developments as they unfold during the week.