2020 In Review: The Good, The Bad and COVID-19

In 2020, buzz words like ‘unprecedented’ became the ‘new normal’. We found ourselves and those around us baking, bonding online and buying lots of toilet paper.

We formed an uneasy partnership with lockdown, discovered some new skills and wrangled with a sometimes-overwhelming amount of change.

As border closures and lockdowns kept us apart, we found new ways to be together. A global pandemic may have disrupted our lives, but we didn’t let it get in the way of our goals and success.

Now, as we all look forward to a well-deserved break, we are reflecting on the year that was. A whirlwind of a year that no one could have predicted.

So here is our year in review – the good, the bad and COVID-19.

It was a year that started with flood, fire and drought. Some would wonder how is that possible, but hey, this is Australia.

Fast forward to March when a well-known beer brand became even more (in)famous and the first wave of coronavirus (COVID-19) hit. As borders closed, we all raced out to get the last roll of toilet paper, and lockdown was enforced. We never expected the lessons 2020 went on to teach us.

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Amongst all of the changes and challenges, we came together and focused on tiny moments. From artisanal baking skills to flourishing succulents and the multitude of completed puzzles, 2020 has provided a range of weird and wonderful lessons and opportunities.

Remember, take time to acknowledge the lessons you have learnt and to seek life’s smaller joys. Spare a moment each day to bring your attention to the simple things that bring us lightness.


This year has taught us the power of adaption and change. Change is not comfortable, but it is necessary. As we were all coping with change and trying to adjust to the new normal, our CQUniversity community adapted.

New language, who this?

Surprise, surprise – Aussies decided to alter the English language once again. In 2019, Corona was considered a beer and a Magpie a bird. In 2020, these words have taken on a whole new meaning with COVID-19 lingo now a part of every Australian’s vocabulary. The result was people referring to Coronavirus as ‘the Rona’ and a supermarket hoarder as a ‘magpie’.

My mate tested positive for the Rona, so now we are in Iso. Had to pop done to woollies for some sanny but it had been magpie’d. “

Let’s learn online

CQUni has been a leader in online learning for many years now but the full transition to online learning still required some rapid changes. Those who were used to studying at uni now had to stay home. Many students adapted quickly with some super cool study areas being created and shared with us.

Our pets also loved the company.

Events went virtual

As restrictions were put in place and lockdown enforced, we shifted our focus online and events like Orientation quickly followed. There was no shortage of entertainment, workshops and opportunities this year.

Skills & Thrills

With over 200 students attending 20 workshops throughout Term 2, the new online program Skills and Thrills allowed people to learn new hobbies and make new friends. Students were able to fill in the time and step out of their comfort zones, ironically in the comfort of their own homes.


Some were professionals and others had never thought about creating artwork before, but as lockdown continued, this was their opportunity to be creative.

The 2020 CQUCreates competition was hosted online resulting in a record number of entries. Students, staff and alumni learnt that if you believe in your ability, the end product will be a success.

2020 CQU Creates Art Award winner Bill Jewell with his digital image of the shipwreck SS Maheno.

View all of the other entries in our Flickr Album.


At CQUni, Orientation is all about giving new students essential information. Unfortunately, our on-campus events could not go ahead as planned, so online we went.

CQUni introduced Orientation Our Way, a combination of Orientation TV, online webinars, and Orientation Boost a range of extra drop-in sessions. This year’s Orientation focused on providing a personalised, online experience that helped students find their way to a successful first term.

We received some excellent feedback from staff and students, with the majority supporting the online sessions saying they were more flexible and accessible.

CQUni even won an innovation award for OTV!

Check out some behind the scenes photos from Term 2 and Term 3!

Virtual Graduation

Like so many things, our Graduation ceremonies were disrupted by COVID-19. However, our awesome team adopted an innovative all-digital virtual format that delivered graduates an opportunity to still celebrate their achievements.

CQUniversity celebrated the academic achievements of about 140 students from across Australia and around the world at its inaugural virtual graduation ceremony.

Graduation is a significant milestone for students and we were committed to ensuring all graduates had the opportunity to experience the joy of a graduation ceremony with family and friends. Our virtual graduation was an opportunity to reflect on each student’s hard work and dedication and to be acknowledged by the University and their family and friends.

The University aired its inaugural virtual graduation ceremony via the University’s YouTube Channel.


University sporting events across the country were cancelled, but eSports increased in popularity and we saw our very first CQUni team making it to the finals in a national competition.

eSports has continued to be popular in 2020 with social nights occurring weekly throughout Term 3. If you are interested in participating, go and get your game on via the MyCQU Student Portal.

Global Voices

Borders closing did not stop our travel enthusiastic and policy mad students reaching success. Our two CQUni Semester Two, 2020 Global Voices Scholarship recipients, Dominic Mappas (UNFCCC Climate Talks Delegation) and Sarah Byrne (UN Commission on the Status of Women Delegation), along with other students from across the nation, discussed their chosen Policy Paper topic, through exclusive meetings with relevant subject matter experts and Australian Government Officials.

Festival of Change

CQUniversity held its biggest-ever Festival of Change, with online audiences tackling big issues and big opportunities for communities facing a range of social and economic challenges in the wake of COVID-19. More than 600 people from around Australia registered to attend the annual celebration of social innovation.

Big Idea

The Big Idea was hosted again this year, COVIDSafe and physically distanced, and our students were nothing short of amazing, making it to the semis and one of our teams taking out first place. 

Deeksha Rahanoo and Muhammad Ahsan Ahmed, are now one step closer to changing lives through high-tech motorbike safety.

Agata Adamczewska, Master of Sustainable Tourism Management student, made it to the semi-final with her idea to change lives with a bespoke picnic plan to support eating disorder survivors. 

What a wonderful way to cap of November. 


Putting the endless memes and variety of baking skills aside, one of our biggest learnings this year is that it’s important to take time for self-care.

Let’s be real, at certain times, it was difficult to think and feel positive this year, but our Counselling and Wellbeing team reminded us that taking the time to practice self-care and look after ourselves is how we overcome these stresses.

R U Ok? Day

Thursday, 10 September was national R U OK Day. With COVID-19 safe plans in place, some campuses celebrated on campus with others hosting online events. The day encouraged conversation, support and acknowledged the importance of looking after your mental health.

View more photos from the events.

As a university, we shared blogs and videos that highlighted how different people ask and answer the question R U Ok? Check them out!

Our Blogs:

Our Videos:

Any day you’re concerned someone’s struggling, ask, ‘are you Ok?’ Because a conversation could change a life. Visit the R U Ok? Day website to access advice and resources.

Australian Mental Health Week

Mental Health Week is celebrated all around Australia, with each state and territory adopting its own theme and holding their own events each year. 

Mental Health Week encouraged everyone to think about mental health and wellbeing. It provided the opportunity to understand the importance of good mental health in our everyday lives.

At CQUniversity, we adopted our own theme, Make Tiny Moments Big Moments. This theme invited students to recognize and embrace the tiny things in life that bring them joy.

Australian Mental Health Month

In October, we continued the theme Make Tiny Moments Big Moments and celebrated tiny moments. Tiny moments is about bringing our attention to the daily, simple things, that bring us lightness. 

We asked students to share their tiny moments. We were inundated with submissions which spread happiness across our CQUni community. 

No matter how busy you are, sharing tiny moments is a great way to spark joy. Continue finding and seeking life’s smaller joys! Remember to: 

  • Keep taking photos of the little things to look back on. 
  • List the tiny moments of your day before going to bed.
  • Use tiny moments in your daily conversations. You will find yourself feeling happier from just talking about it. 

Uni Mental Health Day

University Mental Health Day, on 5 May, aimed to raise awareness of the mental health and wellbeing needs of university students and staff. Our Counselling and Wellbeing team hosted a live webinar for where they launched Mind Waves, answered questions, announced the Self-Care package winners and hosted a live check-in. 

Student Counselling and Wellbeing team

The Counselling and Wellbeing team provides free and confidential support for all CQUni students.

Every year our counsellors can help with personal issues that may impede your academic progress and your personal development. They will also help you to acquire effective study skills like motivation and time management. The goal is to see students succeed in their studies and to promote personal resilience and wellness.

The CQUni Student Counselling service is available from 8.30 am to 4.00 pm (AEST), Monday to Friday. Counsellors are currently providing telehealth services, including appointments via phone, Zoom, and email.  


As some locations eased restrictions, others tightened, and for those in Victoria, the lockdown went on and on. Meanwhile, the CQUniversity community banded together to support those in crisis.

Here are some examples:

Recipes from Behind Closed Doors

While the majority of Australia’s COVID-19 restrictions slowly eased, Victoria’s tightened. As a result, passionate members of the vibrant Melbourne campus united to create a cookbook.

Recipes from Behind Closed Doors features 39 recipes contributed by staff and students, along with personal anecdotes about the importance of the dish, and how it has helped during lockdown.

Copies are available for purchase with all proceeds going to support CQUni Melbourne’s international students. Order your copy now! 

Perth International Support

In August, CQUniversity Perth staff teamed up with social enterprise 5000 Meals to provide meals for the University’s international students during the ongoing pandemic.

Associate Vice-President (WA) Professor Rob Brown said he was very proud of the commitment shown by University staff and to the many volunteers, particularly those from the Town of Bassendean and from the Cyril Jackson Senior Campus, who provided meals for CQU’s students. 

Over 1500 meals were provided to about 50 students, along with fresh fruit and vegetables, cakes, coffee, bread, butter, and other non-perishable items.

Read more about this initiative.

Grow Together

CQUniversity Melbourne students created small scale food forests at their homes, with a project to nurture community despite social distancing.

The innovative Grow Together CQU initiative distributed free herb seedlings to more than 100 students across May 2020, and connected them as they share growing progress, tips and produce.

CQUni’s Student Health Promotion Coordinator, Liza Costello, designed the project after COVID-19 lockdowns began, and said it gave students welcome relief from the screen.

Melbourne Food Relief 

In April, CQUniversity Melbourne partnered with food rescue charity SecondBite to provide meals to international students.

The twice-weekly initiative allows students to stock up on frozen meals prepared from fresh by FareShare, delivered to campus along with fresh food by SecondBite. 

Read more about this initiative.

Give Hope Appeal

We recognise it’s been a challenging year for everyone. Changes in study routine, work commitments, home and family life have impacted each of us in different ways. 

As part of the 2020 CQUniCares Appeal, CQUni is raising funds to give hope to students. Hope that next year will be better. Hope that the current difficult conditions will not derail the aspirations of future students. Hope for all students starting or continuing their studies at CQUniversity that the extra support they need will be available.

We can all play an important role in supporting those within our CQUniversity community in their time of need.

More support

These initiatives are just examples that highlight the range of university and community-based support that flourished this year. We saw more support communications than ever before, with services and campus teams reaching out across channels like email and SMS. In a time of great crisis, we came together. 

Remember, your University is here to support you. While you are studying online, you can benefit from expert advice and enhance your student experience. To find out more about services and support, visit Support during COVID-19.


Reawakening is a broad term. It can mean a change of mindset, reacting to a situation differently, or altering how we see things. 2020 reawakened something inside of us.

We no longer take for granted the ability to go for a walk around the block, go to the beach, sit and read a book outside, and so much more. It is the small everyday things that we often overlook that have become significant and meaningful. 

Social Distancing GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

This year goes to show no matter what, we can do anything we put our minds too. 

Take a moment to reflect on what you have accomplished in 2020.

What have you learnt? What were your favourite moments? What are you grateful for this year?

Speaking Season 3 GIF by The Simpsons - Find & Share on GIPHY

Share your stories with us by sending us a message on Facebook.

The lessons we learnt will stay with us forever, the online connections we made will remain strong, our self-care routines will continue to evolve and we will continue to strive for success.

That’s it from us. Thank you to all our students, staff, alumni and communities for your contributions and support.

Here’s to an exciting 2021!

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lucyastafford (https://cqunilife.com)

One thought on “2020 In Review: The Good, The Bad and COVID-19

  1. I loved this review and looking back at the year that was, and the resilience and initiatives that were created during 2020. Thanks Lucy.

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