Prof. Adam Shoemaker with Katrina Gubbins

Episode 34: Prof. Adam Shoemaker with Katrina Gubbins

Adam chats with the creator of this podcast - Katrina Gubbins - about where the idea came from, what she loves about VU and where she is off to next.

Show notes

In the latest People of VU episode, I am delighted to feature Katrina Gubbins – the originator of this podcast.

Katrina has been an invaluable member of our VU community for over eight years. During this time, she brought her expertise in communications to various roles – from her beginnings in the community outreach team to working with us in the Office of the Vice-Chancellor.

As Katrina embarks on a new journey in the not-for-profit sector, I wanted the opportunity to sit down with her and delve into her experiences, insights, and memorable moments at VU and beyond. There is no doubt that her care and creativity shines through very brightly all the way through.



Adam Shoemaker

Adam Shoemaker

Professor Adam Shoemaker has extensive experience in the Australian University sector and is one of Australia's leading researchers in Indigenous literature and culture. He commenced as the Vice-Chancellor and President of Victoria University in December 2020 after four years as Vice-Chancellor of Southern Cross University. He spent his formative years in a diverse range of fields, such as reviewer and columnist for The Australian, an ABC Canberra Radio programmer, serving as chair of the Brisbane Writers Festival in the mid-1990s and spending three years with the Delegation of the Commission of the European Committees.

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Episode Transcript

Speaker 0 00:00:00 Hello and welcome. I'm here to provide acknowledgement of country. For those who don't know me, I'm kj Karen Jackson, director of Moon Balletic. My genealogy tracks back to Moira Lakes in Barma Forest and Mount Hope in Pyramid Hill. Giving me my connections to Yorta, Yorta, and Barra language groups. There's a couple of things I'd like you to take away from my acknowledgement. The first is to remember the hidden history of Aboriginal people since invasion, our loss of language removal from country, and our new extinction from massacres and pandemics. The second is our strong and inherent connection to community and country. These connections have given us the resilience and courage to rebuild our languages, gain access to country, regenerate our cultural practices in acknowledging the traditional owners of the country on which you are now on. I'd like to sincerely thank them for their generosity and kindness in welcoming people onto their lands. Lands never seeded and lands that run deep into their being and spirit. I wish to pay my deep respect to the ancestors, elders, communities, and families of the Ang Wri on whose land I stand and who create connection and share knowledge with all of us. Thank you.

Speaker 2 00:01:18 Oh, hello, colleagues. My name is Adam Schumaker and I'm really delighted to be the vice chancellor of this great university, Victoria University. I'm also the ho host of this podcast, people of Vu, where we delve into the fascinating stories, the achievements of really exceptional individuals who make up the vibrant community of Victoria University. Now, before we start, I wanna thank deeply KJ for the acknowledgement of country we just heard. Can I echo that? And acknowledge and pay my deep respects ancestors to elders and families of the traditional owners on all of the campuses where we operate. We learn and research and extend that to whoever you may be listening to this podcast. Now, today we're changing things up a bit. The actual creator of this podcast is a very great view called named Katrina Goons, who's been working closely with many of us in the office of the Vice Chancellor for about three years, and before that, another five years at vu. So she's a communications professional in many different capacities. Started in the community outreach team and most recently as what's called the OVC and Katrina is starting a whole new adventure in the not-for-profit space, just in a matter of weeks. But since it was her idea and since she's made such an amazing contribution to the university, we could not, you know, hold ourselves back from wanting to invite her to be on the podcast. So, Katrina, here we are. It's wonderful to have you with us.

Speaker 3 00:02:41 Thank you, Adam. It's very interesting to actually be behind the mic this time.

Speaker 2 00:02:45 You have seen probably more Podcasts than anyone because you were the creator of the idea. So why did you think of it in the first place? What gave you this thought? Yeah. That, to do this in the first place? Yeah.

Speaker 3 00:02:56 Look, I think it was all of the incredible people that we were meeting down the hallways on, on campus, and really just seeing that depth of diversity and personality and history that's amongst us as well. It's been many people that have been here for a long time and the the new faces coming along as well. We've had many incredible people to introduce over the years. But also I had a wonderful host at hand who I felt was the perfect person to, to be behind the mic, heading up people of VU and introducing the, the people that we are all working with. That is just an incredible way to do it. So that was the reason behind people of

Speaker 2 00:03:43 EU collaboration Plus, yes, you know, it's really, really great. But honestly, I'd never done it before. I don't know if you'd ever done it before, but it was something, the best things about universities out the experiment, they try things. And so thank you for thinking of the experiment. It's, it's like resurging tandem, isn't it? Yes. Yeah, it's really, really good. So let's talk about you. Okay. I know it's hard, but this is the best part of it. So, I know you've been at VU for around eight years, but let's go back in time. So did you grow up in country Victoria? So tell us a bit about this.

Speaker 3 00:04:14 Yeah, so I am a country kid. I grew up in Western District of Victoria. So my parents are farmers. I was probably couldn't have got out of there faster, but it's funny, you know, when you think about it, you know, I was always wanting to get away as quick as possible, but then now that I think back and now in Melbourne, I just can't get back there quick enough as well. I just love going back to where my parents are and to the open air in the country. But yeah, we, we were sheep farmers and really like, relatively isolated. So very, very small town called t. It's for those who aren't familiar with it, which are, which are a lot of people. Yeah. Probably between Warble and the Grampians that way.

Speaker 2 00:05:01 Yeah. Closer to the Grampians or

Speaker 3 00:05:04 Closer to Warble, closer to, so that would be our, a little hotspot destination for shopping and everything. So, wow. For the grocery shops, you know, once a fortnight.

Speaker 2 00:05:12 So, so when you're looking back, 'cause you said it's one of those places that you, you leave and then you're wistful about Mm. You know, in that way. So when you go back, does it feel different than when you grew up? In other words, how is it different?

Speaker 3 00:05:24 My appreciation, I think for the local area, for their history, for what my parents have found as well in, in the space, in, in the place that they're living now. They, they moved during Covid, so it was quite, you know, they, they left the family home of 30 plus years. And so I think it was a big shock for all of us at the time. We were really quite sad about it. But with their move and the happiness that I'm seeing with them, they're still in the region that, that I grew up in. So, going back, I think it's, it's just a really beautiful place. And it's also for my son as well, to be able to experience the country and the animals and getting the eggs from the chickens. You see it through a small person's eyes Yeah. At their lens. And it does change the perspective, I think.

Speaker 2 00:06:16 And there were lots of other animals besides sheep, were they not, I mean, I think dogs and other things as well.

Speaker 3 00:06:21 Yes. Dogs. Were lots of dogs, horses. My mom loves riding horses. Yeah. The, the sad thing about a lot of this is that I am allergic to many of, oh,

Speaker 2 00:06:32 Most of them are horses.

Speaker 3 00:06:33 So many of them. Most of them, especially horses. Oh. So that was probably why growing up it was particularly unpleasant for me. But now, you know, yeah. As an adult you manage these things and you manage it. I just just love just getting out there into the open air and it just feels like a big weight off the shoulders sometimes leaving the city.

Speaker 2 00:06:53 It is super, isn't it? And it's not really that far away from Melbourne. It's not, you know, know it's incredible in Australia how close the bush can be. Yeah. If you go in different directions, people think city, city, city. But really, you know, when you look at what's in between cities, it's enormous distances and enormous things. So did you have a, like where did you go to school? Like which school did you go to?

Speaker 3 00:07:12 I went to more Lake College. Yeah. So that was our closest little town. And then I went to boarding school towards the end of high school in Ballarat

Speaker 2 00:07:24 Ballarat's. Special in that respect, I guess. Yes. You remember it well. So, and you know, I know, I know that you're someone who's loved the arts and loves animals and also sport, I mean all these things. So let's talk about sport for a, for a minute. What was the thing you started with that you loved the most when you were younger?

Speaker 3 00:07:38 Oh, look, I, I was a netballer. I think as a, growing up in the country, that is very much part of a big part of people's lives. The netball, football weekends. So I was, I was very much into the netball for a good part of my, my youth. But I think as I was telling you earlier today, Adam, I, I went through one of those famous emo phases. Funny. And then, and I, I look, I dropped probably a lot of the sporting that I was doing as a result. Yeah. But I look, I also loved athletics at the time. There was a lot of great athletics programs, like little athletics and things that would, and

Speaker 2 00:08:17 You were a runner or a runner were you or

Speaker 3 00:08:19 More of the short burst type of thing. So sprinting Yeah. And long jump and that kind of thing. Yeah.

Speaker 2 00:08:25 I thought you remember, you sing long jump. So have you ever been to a World Cup event or anything in athletics or seen the No. You know, the stars of the world in it?

Speaker 3 00:08:32 No, no. Look, I ha I have to say that my interest in sport these days is little to none. Even though know I've got, I'm surrounded by people who love sports, especially AFL's. Big, big hot topic in the office.

Speaker 2 00:08:47 It certainly seems to be, yeah, that's, that's for sure. And also, I mean, it's just a sports science university. Yes. So it's, you know, it's great to sort of see how that works. Yeah. Especially the women in sport and the talent that we're seeing with the type of research that's going on. It's, we've had a few of the people, in fact, in the podcast too. Yeah. So it's, you know, yeah, exactly. A great thing. So, okay, so that's one stream. The other stream is the arts. So tell me, did you act in plays? How did you get involved in the arts originally?

Speaker 3 00:09:11 Look, for me it was more photography. So I, i look, I'm not a big fan of public speaking, so even doing this had to have my arm twisted a little bit. Listeners, I really didn't wanna do it, but I'm here. And look, it was photography for me, especially, you know, in Ballarat there, when I was at, at the boarding school, we had great facilities for dark room, dark room facilities. So it was very much the film photography back in the day then. Yeah. And, you know, Ballarat's quite a historic little town re in regional Victoria that, you know, had many opportunities there. And, you know, I'll come back to this, but I quite liked going to the cemeteries, the historic cemeteries and taking photos around there to begin with, with back in the, when I was 15. So, yeah, look, I just loved the photography and the technical side of it with the darkroom. Obviously a little bit of a lost art and I don't have that available to me now. Yes. But that is where it all started.

Speaker 2 00:10:16 A lot of people who have had experiences in dark rooms never forget it. Like it's so creative, you know, like they, as it produced and you can actually alter images in midcourse and that kind of thing. It's fantastic. So, and also I recall up on North Stride Brook Andra Uba in, you know, southeast Queensland, you know, the cemetery there is really prominent too, once you get off the ferry and you can see the whole history of things like frankly pandemics, you know, typhoid and other things. It isn't just the people, it's the whole eras that they were in, you know, amazing stuff, isn't it? It's often forgotten. Yes. Just how much is there in those records. Yeah, yeah. You know. So you are interested in history. Yes. Did you study it?

Speaker 3 00:10:52 I did, yeah. Yes. When I was studying at university, it was arts history was my major and then, yeah, all through high school. Very interested in history and you know, the kind of, the books you'll see are my nightstand. It, it's, look, it's, it's fictional. Sometimes you get home from work and it, you just need a little something just to wind down with. Yeah. But they're always historical fiction isn't interesting. I just, I do love that.

Speaker 2 00:11:19 That's good. I, I had a feeling that was the case. 'cause you know, it's so relevant to learn from the past in different ways and to see where, where it's explored. So did you, let's just go back a bit. Did you only write any books yourself at any stage?

Speaker 3 00:11:31 Look, I didn't write whole publications like yourself, Adam, but I, I did like doing short stories. Yeah. And there was a one time that I did get a short story published as a 14-year-old. It was for those that are local to the warble area, might might recall Fun for kids. A little festival there that's run on an annual basis. And so I submitted a short story to a publication they were developing as part of that. And Andy Griffiths, the children's author, was the one of the judges. And so this short story was all about Cinderella, but it was an evil Cinderella called Colere. And I actually recently discovered a copy of that, that publication in an op shop in Camperdown just last year. And it was hilarious. I just browsing, browsing the, the books there and there it was. So it was

Speaker 2 00:12:30 That something

Speaker 3 00:12:31 Yeah, I, I'd completely forgotten about it, to be honest. So.

Speaker 2 00:12:33 Well, you know, sometimes other people bring these things to your attention Yeah. And say, did you know you're in this book or in this collection? And it's so wonderful when they, you know, they do. So, so that, I can just imagine that, that moment, you know? Yeah. Well we've been working together in some really interesting areas. But you've also done VU in the community and the CRA University town work. Yes. So maybe just say a little bit about that, because that was so important at the time with Mayor Ong and others. So tell us more. Yeah.

Speaker 3 00:12:58 Look, it, it was such a great part of my career here at vu. I, I think back on it really fondly. It was a really great team, but the kind of events that we pulled together with numerous community partners were, were just amazing. They were just so much fun. We, we pulled together one night in Footscray, which is, which was a big artist one night event in Footscray. Lots of performances on the street. We also did some really fantastic activations for the 100 year or centenary anniversary of Victoria University. Yeah. So we had blue lights down the streets in, in all the windows of all the shop fronts and in the trees outside of our campuses. I also, the one project I'm particularly proud about is picturing Footscray, which was one that, it started for the centenary celebrations, but it continued every year from there for about five years.

Speaker 3 00:13:56 And it was an open call out to everyone to submit photographs celebrating Footscray to this open exhibition, a salon style exhibition. And why I found that to be such a fantastic project was we were really breaking down those barriers around who can have their art displayed, for example. That's something that I'm, you know, particularly passionate about. I think it should be for everyone, everyone should have that opportunity. And it was just, it brought everyone together. And this look, this is, it was pre Covid time. So we, we would have, you know, 200 people in the room celebrating, and we'd have families and young children and, and people standing in front of their photographs. So proud to see it there with, with all of those hundreds of other photos. Wow.

Speaker 2 00:14:43 Do you have a favorite photographer?

Speaker 3 00:14:45 Oh gosh. Oh, I can't, I don't think I call one out.

Speaker 2 00:14:50 I mean, there's so many greatest

Speaker 3 00:14:51 Strange photographers. Yeah. So many. Oh, there

Speaker 2 00:14:53 Really are. And it's, I mean, when you think, I mean, one of the people I've, I've always looked at in, in early days was Max PE and, you know, the kind of work that was done with First Nations communities and then also other aspects of that work. And look, there's so many great and often in, in what would could be described as black and white work. You know, that sort of silver jealous in print. Yeah. And did you work in that, that form at all yourself?

Speaker 3 00:15:14 Oh, look, many, many years ago. But not, not in a, in a public capacity. Just

Speaker 2 00:15:21 So what about online? Anything online? Any online?

Speaker 3 00:15:24 I used to, I used to be quite passionate about sharing photos, not it, it's really some, it's something I'd really like to pick up again. I used to take a lot of photos and I just haven't even had my camera with me lately. But one, one thing that is quite, quite cool I think, is that my husband's bands, they used a couple of my photographs for their records. Yeah. 14 nights at sea. They're no longer, they're not a band anymore, but, so that it's not really a plug anymore. Yeah. But we, one of the photos was from my, my grandparents' farm in Denmark and a photo, so now that, you know, it's immortalized on a, on a LP record. Yeah. And that's something that they thought was pretty special as well. My grandparents, my more, more amorphous. So

Speaker 2 00:16:11 Look, isn't that superb? I mean, I really love the fact you've opened up the Danish door. Yes. Just for a second here. Because if you think about it, it's one of the countries that's been the most interested in Australian culture and literature. Yeah. You know, there's others, France and a bit as well. And terms of museums and, you know, so forth. So tell us how important that relationship of, you know, the, the European or Northern European relationship has been for your life and and your career. Has it been important for you?

Speaker 3 00:16:35 Yeah, yeah. Look, really important. Look, and I, I'll be honest, I'm a bit being very privileged to being able to visit quite frequently in my early childhood. You know, my mom visiting her family. And the last, last, just last year actually was quite a pivotal moment for me visiting Europe. I was on long service leave. I'd been at VU for over seven years. So I was able to take an extended leave. Yeah. Take my son overseas to Europe for the first time. Yeah. And I was in Central Copenhagen. I was in borough, apologies if I botched that pronunciation. Don't speak much Danish. Right. And it right in the center of, of Copenhagen was little, little suburb and a stunning cemetery. Again, coming back to the cemetery topic was there and everyone was walking through. There was the peak of summer in Denmark, so that it was just full of, full of life. Mm. You know, cemetery. Yeah. People reading books amongst tombstones. Mm. People celebrating a birthday even. Wow. Like, it was just such an interesting thing to see. Mm. So it certainly has opened up, you know, different thoughts and views and ways to be,

Speaker 2 00:17:56 I think it's so interesting and important. Right. Because there are, I can remember for example, once in the Netherlands when we were visiting, we came across a tiny town that had, you know, like those canals everywhere Of course. And this was like a mirror-like canal with, you know, still water still day and then an actual mirror, A real mirror next to it, reflecting the water. Yeah. And on that mirror was a recollection from World War II of the downing of a plane, which had come in that spot. And so it was the reflection of the reflection of the time and of the, of the era. It was really like a memorialization of history, but in an incredibly beautiful way. Yeah. You know? Yeah. So I think when people think about cemeteries, they have an sometimes a, a very narrow thought. Yes. But in fact it's very much a part of life to remember. And that is history too. And if you don't, you miss so much of what is going on in your own society. That's right. You know? Yeah. Amazing, isn't

Speaker 3 00:18:45 It? Yeah. And also thinking about some of the histories that may be missing from the older cemeteries, the more traditional ones as well. I think sometimes there can be quite a bit that's missing, but now moving forward, a lot is happening in the space. Yep. Whereas it's being re completely reimagined and those spaces are also being rethought Yep. As to how those histories can be brought back to the fore. Again,

Speaker 2 00:19:07 It's a really burgeoning field. Yes. I think, you know, one, one that, you know, we want to know more about too. So just to zip back to VU for a second. Yes. So then you had that amazing community involvement. Very, very important. Yeah. You spent some time in what was then the polytechnic or the tafe? Yes. And what did you do there?

Speaker 3 00:19:24 Oh look, it was a whirlwind. It was, I think I was there maybe three or four months. I was lucky to step into a maternity leave cover. It for me was a pivotal moment in my career that I actually, you know, really put myself out there. It was a big step for me. I had been very comfortable, very happy with this, you know, with the VU and the community team. It was, it was a fantastic time. But I had to, I had to make a choice at a point where I needed to really push myself to, to try new things. And this was the opportunity to do that. Again, it wast just such a incredibly supportive team. And we, I, I had the opportunity to chat with all of the, the dean, the, the deans or the heads of the colleges, the different training colleges and think about different ways we could represent TAFE to the prospective students and across the whole university.

Speaker 3 00:20:21 And since then, you know, there's been so much that's been happening in that space to really bring he and TAFE together. Yeah. It's been great. And yeah, really, really fantastic to see just by me, even just that little drop in the water, just being there for that little moment in time. But I got to understand so much about, about TAFE and the incredible people there and what they offer. So it was a really, really positive experience for me that has helped, helped me for the, for that rest of the career that I've had here at

Speaker 2 00:20:47 Me. And we have been so lucky to have you in the office working in the area of y bringing TAFE and higher ed together. Mm. Because like, that's what we're about. Yeah. You know what I mean? And not many people would've said, oh, I've been there. And you did. And you could. And so having that confidence I think was superb. You know, really, really added a lot to what we did. Yeah. And so if you're looking back, say the last couple of years, is there, are there two or three things? I mean, maybe things you could pick out as being two or three of your favorite projects or moments in the last two or three years?

Speaker 3 00:21:14 Oh gosh. Ah, there's been so much. We, that's the thing about this team. We move so fast through, you know, there's a lot of, a lot of work that gets done. I would have to say number one is that I, it is the team. It's the people that I love, I love working with with all of them. It's a really, really strong team of women, innovative women. But I've also, I really enjoyed working with you, Adam. What? But look, this is a little bit biased, but I do love this podcast people via podcast. It's been a really great way for us to really understand and delve deep into the people that make up the university. So that's been fantastic. And then I think another, another one is that we've really sat down and rethought how we do our all staff town halls. Yes. Yes. And I think that it's, it's been a really positive tra transitions that we've had. Mm. In doing those, they, there are a lot of work to put together, but as a team to, we've all come together and we've, I think we've done the real justice, I think so. And through it being able to gain different insights and get continuously improve, which is really what this team is all about. So we're constantly improving and, you know, taking it to the next level.

Speaker 2 00:22:35 Well look and you have, you have done so look, I was just gonna add one. Yeah. I just have this thing where I think that seeing you in outdoors planting trees Oh course is probably like in some sort of nirvana. You know, like the look on your face doing that was like pretty special. Right? Yeah. You know? Does that go back to your upbringing as well? Yeah. Or did you do a lot of, of, of that sort of thing? Oh no.

Speaker 3 00:22:54 Yeah. But in, in the reverse way in a negative, like, I don't know any other country kids that tree planting on the farm is, was the worst job ever. And you know, because you'd be out there the entire weekend. That was your weekend is out there on the tractor on the back of the, the, the ute picking up rocks. 'cause we'd have to pick up all the rocks to clear the, the land to plants the trees. Yeah. And then all of the, the in individual holes and everything. But, so it's a little bit easier than we do it now these days. It was absolutely a lot easier doing it at whereby campus. But yeah. Actually that's a really good call out. That was, we did that two years in a row. Yeah. And to have everyone coming out together to do that was really, really great. And just a really nice way to break up the day, get out of the office and get our hands dirty. So,

Speaker 2 00:23:46 And, and let's face it, you can see the evidence every time you visit. Yeah. A view in the community as it were, you know. That's right. And that's what I love about trees, you know, and al always have, but there's something very special about being part of a growing thing and having like a 2-year-old tell you what to do, you know, which is really good. You know, it's like it brings you down to that earth. Yeah. And I do hope we'll continue that. And every time we plant a tree, I'm gonna think of you as well, you know, when you're there. 'cause it was such a, such a big part of your life there. Thanks. And so what about, you know, where well look, what are you most, most excited about going forward? I mean, I know that, you know, if you look at the past history, creativity, visual arts coming together, is that always gonna be the case? Are you looking forward to more of that in the future?

Speaker 3 00:24:26 I am. I think I am looking forward to that. I'm looking forward to being a bit more grounded within community, I think. Yeah. Look, that's, I'm very much looking forward to, to doing that and to potentially get creative with a, a sector that is changing Yeah. Quite significantly. And has many opportunities to, to maybe be a bit innovative with the way that we're doing things. And so, but it has, it, it does have a lot of synergy with, with what I'm doing now. Oh yeah. I'm just, I think I'm just recentering and refining perhaps some of the things that, you know, really bring some of the passion to, to life. But I wouldn't have been able to discover that without vu Yeah. Behind me. Yeah. You know, it's, it's essentially grown me to be the person that I am today. And yeah. It's, it's just had such a huge influence on my life in so many different ways.

Speaker 2 00:25:31 I love it. I mean, the fact that we can be at a place where whenever, whenever it is in people's lives, it uplifts them, you know? But I would say this, no matter when and where, it's not as if the door is shut. Okay. Like, VU door is, I, as I of often say to people, is one which swings back and forth. And there's times people leave, sometimes they come back and sometimes you have to leave to go away to come back again. You know? Yeah. So I wouldn't rule that out, just to be clear. Yeah, yeah. You know, that is entirely possible. So just as we are sort of getting close to winding this up, is there anything special that you wanted to recall? Because for example, you know, any career advice you'd give to someone who's starting at vu, for example? Anything special to look for?

Speaker 3 00:26:10 To look for? Well, I mean, it's the people. I keep going back to it. I don't, I don's I'm sounding like a broken record, but I think that's why I've been so emotional, so emotional these past couple of weeks. Yeah. That's the hardest decision I think about leaving a place is the relationships that you, that you create. And there are some really amazing people here at vu. Yeah. I can't emphasize that enough. Yeah. You know, but it's also been the people that have helped me realize my potential. And so as I said before, I wouldn't have been where I am now and today without having that support system, without having people pushing me a little bit, giving me the confidence Yep. To step up. But also providing actual opportunities to step into, you know, there's, there's so many different incredible initiatives and projects and different things that you can put your hand up for to get involved with. And so that would be my main advice for someone joining VU, is to get out there, connect with people, and you know, if you see those opportunities arise, pick them up,

Speaker 2 00:27:23 Put your hand up, you know, it sounds like you saying put your hand up. Yeah. So just to summarize it, like you were one of the most creative, generous, thoughtful, and frankly amazing people we've had work with us. I'm so grateful for the opportunity and for you thinking of this series, but can we say this at no matter what, where anytime the campfire is still burning here for you, anytime you want. And it's the Vu campfire. We're so grateful. Katrina Govins. Thank you.

Speaker 3 00:27:46 Thank you Adam. I appreciate it. Yeah.

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