At ANU, we take pride in our neat and lush campus environment. In years prior, our community would remember walking across our vast campus, people sitting on our park benches overlooking Sullivans Creek sharing laughter, debating world affairs, or just catching up. Our ovals filled with games of all manners of sports, from soccer matches to Quidditch practice. Our trees providing a home for the variety of birds that call our nation’s capital home. Our beloved ducks crossing the road – sometimes at the pedestrian crossing!
This year has been a very different story and due to the series of events that have unfolded, we have not been able to enjoy being on our campus as much as we all would love to.
Our community have demonstrated impressive adaptability this year as we have learnt to operate remotely throughout the smoke, then the hail, and now throughout COVID-19. We have learnt to unite and support our colleagues, broader than our local areas.
In the spirit of supporting the ANU under the most difficult circumstances, our Gardens and Grounds team have continued to look after our campus and make sure that it is ready for the community to return to and enjoy.
Like many, the Gardens and Grounds team have not had it easy this year.
This year started amidst a drought, with less than two millimetres of rain in December.
Then came the smoke and bushfires. Gardens and Grounds staff were stood down during this period, due to the hazardous air quality.
Mick Kelly, our Manager of Gardens and Grounds at ANU, said that “it was very difficult for staff to not come to work or leave early when they could see the health and presentation of the campus environment declining through drought stress.”
Mick also noted that during this time, they did everything they could to support the community including sourcing food for the koalas that were temporarily calling ANU home after being rescued from bushfire-affected areas.
That was only the first 19 days of the year!
On the afternoon of 20 January, a severe hailstorm swept through the ANU campus.
“The team quickly swung into action. Small teams spread out across campus to address the priorities of pedestrian and cyclist safety. The initial response involved extended working hours and weekend overtime.”
“Traditional roles were put aside as everyone picked up a rake or blower.”
“To put it into perspective, Gardens and Grounds recycle all green waste produced on site to reuse in the landscape. Over the course of a year the amount of raw material turned into compost is approximately 800 cubic metres. This amount and more was collected and processed within five weeks of the storm event,” Mick said.
This rapid response meant that students could safely enjoy the campus by O-Week.
As the spread of COVID-19 started to intensify globally, with the World Health Organisation declaring the virus had reached pandemic level, the University made the decision to close the campus in March to ensure the safety of our community.
However, as Mick notes, “working from home was simply not an option for an ANU gardener”.
The team again demonstrated their remarkable ability to adapt, moving to a shift work pattern to ensure that adequate social distancing was in place, whilst maintaining maximum presence on campus.
“The team has been able to capitalise on the reduced activity on campus by undertaking a range of tasks that are otherwise difficult to coordinate with minimal disturbance to the business of research and learning,” Mick said.
“The Gardens and Grounds team have maintained not just a presence on campus throughout all of this, but also an unwavering dedication to maintaining a high quality campus landscape for all to enjoy.”