UOW stands with community in the face of bushfire emergency

UOW stands with community in the face of bushfire emergency

South Coast campus closures, arrangements for affected students and staff announced


University of Wollongong (UOW) Vice-Chancellor, Professor Paul Wellings CBE, has reaffirmed the University’s support for local communities affected by the 2019-2020 summer bushfires and announced arrangements for campuses, students and staff affected by the crisis.

“Being a multi-campus institution operating in regions of NSW that have been devastated by bushfires, and as many of our students come from areas affected or under threat, the University of Wollongong stands with the community as we confront this unprecedented emergency,” Professor Wellings said.

Over the Christmas/New Year period, as fires ravaged NSW South Coast towns and villages, UOW’s Batemans Bay and Bega campuses have become additional places of refuge for displaced residents, students and holidaymakers alongside the main community evacuation centres.

Some staff at these campuses have worked tirelessly to serve their communities despite their own homes being under threat or lost in the blazes.

In Nowra, the University’s Shoalhaven Campus remains among the many homes, businesses, community facilities and infrastructure under threat from approaching fires.

UOW is proud of staff members who are serving their community as NSW Rural Fire Service or NSW State Emergency Services volunteers, or in any other volunteer capacity. Our bushfire experts continue to offer their expertise to assist the NSW Government and the broader community.

“On behalf of everyone at the University of Wollongong, I offer condolences and sincere sympathy to the students, staff, residents and visitors who have lost loved ones, homes, businesses or property during these devastating fires.

“I also thank all those serving with the NSW Rural Fire Service and other emergency services and supporting organisations for your courage and selfless dedication during this time. Your commitment to community in the face of such a prolonged and large-scale crisis is inspiring and much appreciated.

“Thank you also to the more than 100 UOW staff who have already committed to support the University’s Bushfire Appeal through our UOW Cares Workplace Giving Program.

“All donations made by staff via payroll deduction to the NSW Rural Fire Service will be matched dollar-for-dollar by the University.

“I encourage all staff who have not already done so to consider supporting our community in this way.”

South Coast campus closures

With a renewed state of emergency declared for seven days from Friday 3 January, the bushfires will continue to impact on operations at some UOW campuses.

Normal operations at the Bega, Batemans Bay and Shoalhaven Campuses will be suspended until at least Monday 13 January, 2020.

“As some staff and students have endured losses and cannot safely reach their campus, this temporary suspension of operations will allow for the immediate danger to pass and time for the community to adjust.

“A re-assessment of the bushfire threat will be made throughout next week to determine if any further postponement of normal operations is required.”

The Batemans Bay and Bega campuses will continue to provide additional places of refuge alongside the main community evacuation centres.

The Shoalhaven Campus will remain closed due to the threat of fires in the West Nowra area.

At this stage, the Wollongong, Innovation, Southern Highlands, Southern Sydney (Loftus), South West Sydney (Liverpool) and Sydney CBD campuses are currently unaffected. At these locations, classes, research, school holiday activities and other campus operations will continue as scheduled.

(Check updates below for latest campus closure information)

Arrangements for affected students

Arrangements are being made to assist students and staff impacted by the bushfires.

Students who were due to resume classes at the Shoalhaven, Batemans Bay and Bega campuses next week are being contacted directly. Planning is underway to address any longer-term impacts and further information will be released next week.

The University will also assist students—regardless of which campus they attend—who have been impacted through an inability to return for classes, or because of any personal or family trauma experienced due to these fires.

Academic consideration may be available for affected students according to individual circumstances. Students seeking this assistance should contact their faculty Student Support Advisor or contact Student Services on 1300 275 869 or +61 2 4221 3927 or askuow@uow.edu.au. Affected students can also access UOW’s student support services.

Prospective students can still get advice on UOW study options across all campuses by contacting our Future Students Team on 1300 367 869.

Arrangements for affected staff

Staff who are due to return to work at the Shoalhaven Campus are asked to stay away from the campus until it reopens on 13 January and to take all necessary steps to ensure their personal safety.

Arrangements are being made for those staff at the Batemans Bay and Bega campuses who have volunteered to open those campuses as a place of refuge. Other staff are not required to attend those campuses for work until 13 January.

Depending on their role, circumstances and IT access, affected staff may be able to work remotely or from an unaffected campus.

Other leave and support arrangements for affected employees will be determined according to individual circumstances.

“With more catastrophic and extreme fire hazard days ahead, the University stands ready to continue providing what assistance it can to our community during this crisis and the difficult task of recovery and rebuilding that will follow,” Professor Wellings said.