1999 - 2003
Throughout the 1990s, the University had increasingly used technological innovation to establish efficient and creative processes. In 1999, there was worldwide concern about the possibility of a Millennium Bug making widespread attacks on global software in 2000. At risk for the University were the computer-based systems that had become essential to enrol, monitor, teach, examine, pay, and communicate with our staff and students. In response to this concern, the University devoted considerable financial and human resources for protection against this danger. With some relief, the New Year for 2000 passed largely without incident around the world. These events remain as a reminder of the changed nature of a modern university, as well as the need for risk-management plans.
More generally, the University put considerable effort into consolidating and expanding its achievements in research. A highlight was the establishment of the Centre for Phytochemistry under the internationally renowned scientist Professor Peter Waterman. This complemented activities in partnership with the Australian Tea Tree Oil Research Institute (ATTORI), the Australian Agriculture Research Institute (AARI) and the University's own Centre for Plant Conservation Genetics. The University was at the forefront of significant developments in the rapidly growing biotechnology field.
In 1999, Mary Moody, a well know television presenter on the Good Gardening program produced by the Australian Broadcasting Commission, opened the School of Natural and Complementary Medicine's Herbal Medicine Garden, containing several thousand plants.
Mary Moody, a self-taught gardener and a self-proclaimed natural food fanatic, enthusiastically noted that the garden was the first of its kind to be established in an Australian university.
With more than 240 plant species and more than 3000 plants, the garden is a unique teaching resource and functioned as a living laboratory for students in the Bachelor of Naturopathy degree.
Creative opportunities were enhanced by collaboration. In partnership with the University of New England, the University acquired a prime oceanfront site on the northern side of Coffs Harbour. The intention was for this to become the home of this country's premier ocean and marine research facility, the National Marine Science Centre, and it was duly completed and opened in February 2002.
The University also worked closely with long-established institutions on health related initiatives. Thus the University Department of Rural Health was established in Lismore with the University of Sydney, a clinical school in Coffs Harbour was developed with the University of New South Wales, and a new Australian Centre for Complementary Medicine, Education, and Research in Lismore and Brisbane was created in partnership with the University of Queensland.
In order to more fully serve the northern New South Wales/southern Gold Coast region, work also commenced on a new campus located in Tweed Heads. This new campus was designed to include the latest in educational delivery technology, including high-level internet connectivity, interactive videoconferencing and desktop video technology. This enabled the close linking of the new campus with other parts of the University, as well as with scholars around the world. The Tweed Heads campus opened in February 2002, and initially concentrated on offering courses from the Business faculty. The management restructure of the University into three Divisions, accompanied by the appointment of a Pro Vice Chancellor Research, began in 2001 and was fully implemented in 2002. In part, these structural rearrangements were made to bring a more strategic focus to the Research and Research Training development at the University.
In 2002, the University was successful in no less than five Cooperative Research Centre bids. These were the CRC Innovative Grain Foods, CRC Sugar Innovation, CRC Molecular Plant Breeding, CRC Sustainable Tourism, and CRC Desert Knowledge. These successes brought an additional $50 million over the next seven years to the University and to its regional economies. To put this success into focus, these five CRCs ranked Southern Cross University, one of the smallest universities in Australia, as among the top three in Australia in terms of CRC income. This was an outstanding achievement for a small regional University. A new venture was the establishment of the Centre for Gambling Research and Education. Partly funded by Aristocrat, the Centre soon attracted considerable external funding.
The University was also successful in attracting significant funding from ARC Linkage Grants, funded by Australia's peak research funding agency, the Australian Research Council, to encourage Universities to collaborate with external organisations. These successes ranked Southern Cross University in the top eight universities in Australia in this area. The ARC-Linkage successes involved all three academic Divisions.
The Gnibi College of Indigenous Australian Peoples gained recognition for Indigenous research as a particular area of research strength. This opened the door for Indigenous and non-Indigenous students to undertake coursework and research theses at the postgraduate level. The College soon enrolled a group of six Indigenous postgraduate students focusing on Indigenous education/healing/health issues, and a group of eight non-Indigenous students whose field of research centred on wellbeing/health issues. The College commenced offering a Masters of Indigenous Studies (Wellbeing) by coursework.