A Message from the CEO/Head of College

by | Mar 27, 2020

Message from CEO/Head of College

Dear Members,

It is indeed a challenging time for our Members, our Association and our Graduate House.

No matter where you are in this world at this time, you will be seeing and feeling the devastation to communities everywhere.

We do so hope and pray that you are all OK.

Here at Graduate House we have been preparing for COVID-19 since January. We are very fortunate to have a global network that has kept us up to date with each development and provided us with informed suggestions.

Our staff here is incredible. Each and every one has adopted changes to our operations with alacrity and professionalism. We have been early adopters of deep and repetitive cleans of surfaces, screening protections and physical distancing – and all of these measures continue with vigour and rigour.

We are grateful, too, to all the organisers who were to have convened academic and professional development meetings here at this time. Thank you for postponing your events, and thus doing your very important part in helping to protect us all. We have been very touched and humbled also by your warm words of reassurance that you will be back later in the year or next year. We truly do understand how difficult it is to see these events not eventuate after so much hard work!

We welcome strong, swift and decisive actions by our federal, state and local governments to curb the transmission of COVID-19; and have been implementing each initiative in advance of its official rollout and have closed our doors to non-resident Members and the public until further notice.

This means that we are no longer able to welcome you for breakfast, lunch and dinner in the main dining room. All GU-Collegiate events are cancelled. We shall thus not be hosting Monthly Luncheons, College Tables, the Welcome BBQ, Italian Conversation Dinners, Bridge nights, Special Morning Breakfasts, the Women’s Forum and the Ramadan Iftar Dinner.

Our annual Influenza and Vaccination Day – originally scheduled for 28th April – has also been cancelled for 2020. In discussion with the CEO of the Influenza Specialist Group, it was agreed that the risks in proceeding outweighed the risks in cancelling. It was also acknowledged that the social distancing and other measures taken to prevent the transmission of COVID-19 have been reducing the transmission of influenza in other countries, and that we may see a similar reduction here.

Graduate House remains open only to residents. Their health and safety is paramount, as is the health and safety of our staff who are at the frontline of service delivery. As mentioned previously, we have been, and will continue to, adhere strictly to the guidelines from the Victorian Department of Health and Human Services.

Much gratitude is extended to our Resident Members. All are a long way from home, family and friends. All are not able to return home. They are living in an unprecedented time and with great uncertainty. As we implement change after change to try to protect them and thus to protect us all, they have responded with intelligence and calm. All are contributing to our ongoing solution finding. We know that this collegiality and this willingness to embrace a new way of living has made our community here at Graduate House as safe as we can make it.

The staff and I are giving our utmost care to our residents who are currently in-house. They are all in isolation in their rooms, with no gatherings or guests allowed in our premises. Meals are being delivered to their rooms.

You will all be reading and hearing about COVID-19, and thus also receiving many different opinions and pieces of advice.

It is very important to know that no one person is an expert on COVID-19. Our greatest scientists and clinicians are still learning about how it transmits, how to treat it and how to develop a vaccine. Above all however, we must listen to these experts. They are much closer to the truth of COVID-19 than any other members of our community. If they suggest physical isolation – we must all comply. If they suggest hand washing using a particular technique – we must all comply.

In your community – where you live, shop, exercise, etc. – we ask that you use your great collective intelligence and influence. If you see surfaces – such as in supermarkets – ask for appropriate processes to be put in place (e.g., very regular deep sanitising cleans) AND of course, try not to touch such surfaces at all. If you live in an apartment block, please insist that the Owners Corporation management are deep cleaning and sanitising all floors, doors, lift doors, buttons, handles, etc. very regularly.

If you cannot avoid hand or clothing contact with a surface, ensure that you wash the touched clothes as soon as possible (trying to not touch your face with this clothing when undressing) and deep clean your hands with soap as soon as possible.

Please train yourself not to keep touching your face – once inside your nose, mouth, eyes and ears, this virus quickly progresses into the lungs and causes pneumonia.

Key aims in preventing your own ill health and the ill health of others are:

  • to kill the virus before it is transmitted to someone else (e.g., deep cleaning of surfaces that are touched by many others or likely to be sneezed/coughed/breathed on);
  • to prevent the virus entering your mouth/nose/eyes/ears – don’t touch your face, particularly if you have not thoroughly washed your hands with soap;
  • to prevent the virus entering your lungs (if it has entered your mouth/nose/eyes/ears) by keeping your nose/mouth/eyes/ears clean:
  1.  clean and blow your nose regularly (discard tissue immediately and thoroughly clean hands afterwards; use handkerchief once and then wash with soapy washing detergent);
  2. clean teeth and use mouth washes (spitting out and rinsing thoroughly);
  3. cough regularly, firstly to practise this important action should it be needed if you get sick, but also to try to remove the virus should it have entered your lungs – again clean all surfaces that you have coughed on (within a 3 metre radius) and clean your mouth, face and hands thoroughly;
  4. keep your eyes moist and as protected as possible; and
  5. keep your ears clean with soapy warm water.

Keeping a physical distance from every other person is imperative. We now know that some people show no or minimal signs or symptoms of COVID-19 and that they may be transmitting this to each and every person that they contact.

It goes without saying that our intelligent Members are isolating themselves physically from other people. We do so hope that they are not isolating themselves totally from social contact – it is extremely important to keep in touch and communicate regularly through telephone, email, social media and any other indirect

means. Please let us know if you are experiencing difficulties in getting your shopping done or in feeling sad and alone – we cannot promise that we will be able to help everyone but we may be able to find someone within our membership or other friendship network who is willing to assist.

In these tough times, we ask for your support and hope that you will be able to make a financial contribution, however large or modest to assist us in keeping alive our Association and Graduate House. We are facing significant staff reductions, particularly for our casual and part-time staff, the majority of whom have families to support. Without staff to support residents and a return to usual operations once this pandemic closes, we face closure.

Please be assured that we are doing everything we can to avoid such – seeking loan relief, taking advantage of the government stimulus packages, cutting costs, etc. Part of this necessary expense reduction will be to printing and postage costs by not sending out newsletters and our Melbourne Graduate. We will resume sending our publications and other reports by post at a later date. This online message from me will be posted to those of our members who do not use computers.

Of course, you are all facing financial challenges with drops in investments and superannuation funds, loss or reduction in employment/income and loss and reduction of other supports, such as grants for your research or your enrolment. We do not want anyone who is experiencing financial difficulty to give – and we have willing donors who really must not give again at this time. However, our residents and staff are particularly vulnerable at this time and we are very much reliant on both to continue our operations. If you can help, please go to this donation page. [Link words in red to donation page.]

Since our establishment in 1911, our Association has faced a number of challenges, including two world wars and the depression. We have always emerged stronger and will be able to do so with the support and dedication of our Members. When we look back on this period, I hope that we will feel proud that we pulled together and that we tried our very best to help as many people as possible.

We will overcome this challenging time.

I look forward to welcoming you all back to Graduate House or to communicating with you through our website, email, telephone and social media in opportune time. Though the staff and I are extremely stretched at the moment, I do so hope to keep hearing your beautiful voices and seeing your beautiful faces as regularly as we can.

Yours sincerely and take good care,