Update: ASAL2020 and COVID-19

The ASAL2020 organising committee is keeping a close watch on developments in the international efforts to control the spread of COVID-19. In consultation with the ASAL Executive, we are taking into account the Australian Government’s recent advice to limit gatherings to under 500 people, and we are conscious of the Government’s advice to limit non-essential travel, especially for critical workforces.

Over the last week, we have seen many international conferences, sporting events, and arts and music festivals cancelled. But, as we advised presenters this week, the ASAL2020 program committee will continue to plan for this year’s conference. Until further notice, we remain committed to delivering this important event in the calendar of studies in Australian literature.

Nevertheless, the health, well-being and safety of ASAL2020 attendees and their families is of the utmost priority. We continue to closely monitor health and safety updates and recommendations issued by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the relevant health authorities in Australia. We are also concerned for the small businesses in Cairns that will benefit from the conference, particularly our caterer, who must manage staffing and food preparation in uncertain times.   

The ASAL2020 program committee will meet this week to discuss the program and the challenges posed by the pandemic. We will develop an onsite readiness and reaction plan. Expect increased hand sanitizer stations, educational materials on ways to minimize risk, and more. We will continue to post updates on planning as information is available.

We are aware that other Australian universities are providing information on the pandemic and are now restricting both domestic and international travel. We will advise presenters and the ASAL membership as soon as possible if circumstances change and decisions have to be made about postponing, cancelling, or reimagining ASAL2020. But, for now, we look forward to seeing you in Cairns on 29 June.