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The 'Lismore spirit' shines during campus lockdown


Sharlene King
18 September 2019

Dear Colleagues, I am writing this morning to provide you with a further follow-up in relation to yesterday’s traumatic events at the Lismore campus.

The cooperation and mutual support amongst all staff and students was just fantastic. While we never welcome such an event, the response to it from everyone was outstanding. I have received scores of texts and emails this morning paying tribute to the ‘Lismore spirit’ of togetherness and of mutual support. Thank you to all.

There were wonderful instances of community collaboration too. For example, our neighbours the Northern Rivers Bus Lines made their buses available to us at the drop of a hat, to ensure that everyone could be transported off the campus safely. I realise leaving vehicles behind last night was an inconvenience to many people but, as you know, we had no alternative. I really appreciate your flexibility.

There were also great examples of academic ingenuity. For instance, a Speech Pathology clinical supervisor was underway with a Zoom meeting from her office on the Gold Coast with two students in Lismore when the lockdown was called. She stayed online with them, expertly and calmly, for more than three hours during the whole process.

Some people have posed the question ‘was there a real threat to safety?’. I can state categorically that the apprehended threat by the police was real, concerning, focussed and tangible. Their rapid response—and the scale of response—was a testament to that fact, and their deployment was highly professional and necessary. In the end, dozens of members of the NSW Police Force attended the campus. This ranged from local police to specialist units, including the Negotiation Unit, the Rescue & Bomb Disposal Unit, the Traffic and Highway Patrol Command and the Tactical Operations Regional Support group.

As the Police have reported, we were incredibly fortunate in that there were no reported injuries associated with this event; there were no shots fired and—after an extensive search of the campus—no credible threat was detected.

While this was happening, many of you were placed in difficult circumstances during the lockdown. I want to emphasise how much I recognise and appreciate this. I also want to assure you that all of this activity—the lockdown and subsequent clearance of the campus—was under precise NSW Police instruction and for the benefit of public safety. The safety and security of everyone—from the children in the Child Care Centre to the swimmers in the pool; from library users to academic colleagues—was our paramount concern.  And that will always be the case.

Finally, I know that there will be colleagues who may have been impacted by yesterday’s events.  Please do not hesitate to contact the various counselling and support services available on campus and externally.  We stand by to help, just as we did yesterday.

With personal best wishes,

Adam Shoemaker, Vice Chancellor