People first, people always

14/05/2020 | 2 mins

Callum Cowell, UWA Director of Global Engagement, discusses the importance of community in tackling COVID-19.

Amid the seemingly overwhelming challenges that COVID-19 is throwing at universities, I am heartened and emboldened by the way UWA and our partners around the world have responded to the pandemic with a clear focus on people, all people.

While we cannot deny, and will most certainly feel, the impact of the economic damage from COVID-19 for some years to come, we find ourselves in this moment, quite naturally, making choices that are consistent with our fundamental remit of teaching and learning, research and engagement.

Universities achieve success because of one thing above all…our people: our students; our teachers; our researchers; our professional, technical and administrative teams.

Callum Cowell

We all service the goal of creating better futures, not only for those directly involved in our university communities, but the local, national and global communities we serve.

The health and wellbeing of our community is the highest priority in these circumstances. As a place of rational enquiry and higher learning, we take an evidence-based approach to what we do.

Like it or not, physical distancing is how we must proceed for now, until such time as we have a viable treatment and vaccine available. The current restriction of movement in our societies is not a threat to our freedom – quite the opposite. It is about ensuring the security of our future health and wellbeing, which is a fundamental prerequisite for true freedom.

While our medical science researchers engage in the complex task of finding answers to COVID-19 treatment and prevention, our broader university community is working hard to address the practical and social challenges it presents to us all right now.

At UWA our first priority has been establishing a range of support measures for our students.

These include:

  • provision of financial assistance to support both our international and domestic students facing hardship due to the current circumstances

  • delivery of welfare packs or grocery store vouchers to students in need or isolation

  • access to IT equipment and data for disadvantaged students, including international students

  • students in vulnerable housing situations being assisted in the provision of accommodation at UWA or through community providers, and

  • wellbeing and mental health support in the form of provision of counselling and medical services through telehealth, welfare outreach calls to students, live streaming of wellness activities every day and the provision of wellbeing support through podcasts, online webinars and short courses.

To our partners around the world, we wish you strength and resolve, and we are pleased to share our thoughts on what we can all do as universities at this most challenging of times.

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