Development of research at SCU

For 20 years, Southern Cross University has been conducting research and research training that has global and regional impact and relevance. It is has developed world-class expertise across a range of research fields, and in the 2012 Excellence in Research for Australia national report received the top rating of 'well above world standard' in six key research areas.

Here, we take a look back at the development of Southern Cross University's distinctive research capacity.


  • Building on the research activities of Northern Rivers College of Advanced Education (NRCAE) and the University of New England Northern Rivers (UNENR) - SCU established the Graduate Research College (GRC), under foundation Pro Vice Chancellor Professor Peter Baverstock.  This enabled SCU to further develop research in the areas of Research Science and Management, Education, Work and Training, Arts, Health Sciences, Business and Computing, Law and Criminal Justice and Teaching and Learning.


  • The key area of research in Health and Healing was established.
  • Associate Professor Bill Boyd was awarded a prestigious research fellowship at Cambridge University to continue his archaeological research in South-East Asia.
  • Professor Peter Saengar was awarded a prestigious fellowship by the French Ministry of Higher Education and Research to continue his work on Mangrove ecosystems.
  • Dr Garry Bell was awarded an Australia Korea Foundation Fellowship for research into mathematics education in Asia and the Pacific.


  • SCU's first major research centre, the Centre for Plant Conservation Genetics, was established under the leadership of Professor Robert Henry.
  • In the space of nine months, the Centre for Plant Conservation Genetics attracted significant funding for genetic research in tea tree, rice, barley and wheat. The Australian Tee Tree Oil Research Institute (ATTORI) was established on the Lismore campus. A new key area in Natural Plant Medicinal Products was established under the leadership of Dr Stephen Myers.
  • The GRC was a participant in three new Cooperative Research Centres (CRCs) - CRC for Sustainable Tourism, CRC for Sustainable Production Forestry and CRC for Molecular Plant Breeding.


  • External research income increased by more than 250 per cent.
  • Research publications increased by almost 100 per cent.
  • A key research area in Human Learning and Development was established by the School of Education.
  • Staff in the School of Contemporary Arts exhibited extensively in prestigious National galleries.  This resulted in the acquisition of Jan Davis's works by the National Gallery of Australia, NSW State Library and the Brisbane City Gallery.
  • The Environmental Analysis Laboratory became the first University laboratory to achieve ISO 9002 accreditation.
  • Professor Stanley Yeo was engaged by the NSW Law Reform Commission and charged with making recommendations for changes to the law of provocation and diminished responsibility.
  • Mark Baragwanath was the first to author manuals on employment law, establishing him as an expert in this field.


  • SCU grew its research profile with participation in four new CRCs, and the formation of a number of research institutes.
  • The Centre for Phytochemistry was established, complementing activities in partnership with the Australian Tea Tree Oil Research Institute (ATTORI), and the Australian Agriculture Research Institute (AARI). The activities within these specialist centres put the University at the forefront of developments in the field of plant science.
  • The Southern Cross Regional Research Institute was launched as a joint venture with the Northern Rivers regional community.  It quickly attracted considerable funding from government and private sector and its research impacted government policy relating to regional development.
  • The International Herbal Conference, held on the Lismore campus in June, signalled the University's vision to empower the region through research.
  • Associate Professor Michael Hannan was appointed as a member of the Music Fund of the Australia Council.


  • The Southern Cross Institute of Health Research was formed in collaboration with the Northern Rivers Area Health Service.
  • SCU together with University of New England secured a $12 million federal government grant to construct the National Marine Science Centre in Coffs Harbour.
  • Dr Anne Graham's Seasons for Growth Program was promoted as a success by the Centre for Mental Health in Sydney.
  • The Centre for Acid Sulfate Soil Research was established.
  • Dr Bradley Eyre was awarded the prestigious Cronin Award from the US based Estuarine Research Federation.
  • Ros Derrett received an OAM for her contribution to regional tourism.


  • The Centre for Economic and Community Development was launched.
  • The Centre for Plant Conservation Genetics sequenced all the active genes in grapes.
  • Australian Phytochemicals was established as a joint venture between the Centre for Phytochemistry and industry partner Bioprospect Ltd.
  • The World Purchasing Research Institute was established as a joint venture with the Singapore Institute of Purchasing Management.
  • A teaching program developed by Dr Anne Graham, from the School of Education, was implemented across five countries.
  • SCU enrolled more than 100 Doctor of Business Administration students making it the largest professional doctorate program in Australia.
  • A joint appointment was made between St Vincent's Hospital in Lismore and the School of Nursing and Health Care Practices.
  • A new species of coral was discovered and named after Associate Professor Peter Harrison.
  • The Centre for Regional Tourism was established in collaboration with the CRC for Tourism.


  • SCU's major research strategy to forge strategic research partnerships with industry, the professions and all three levels of government led to successes in the Commonwealth-funded CRC Program and the Australian Research Council (ARC) Linkage Program.
  • The University made significant contributions to the national research and innovation agenda with several joint research centres established with other universities. These were: Southern Cross Centre for Whale Research (with the University of Queensland and the University of Newcastle), the Australian Centre for Complementary Medicine, Education and Research (with the University of Queensland) and the National Music Science Centre (with the University of New England).
  • Higher degree research remained strong.


  • The Centre for Regional Tourism Research, a partnership between Southern Cross University and CRC Tourism, was consolidated. The Centre for Gambling Education and Research was established and quickly attracted significant funding.
  • The Centre for Law, Politics and Culture was established.
  • The Southern Cross Institute for Action research was consolidated.
  • The Aged Services Learning and Research Centre was established at Coffs Harbour.
  • Gnibi College of Indigenous Australian Peoples formed a Collaborative Indigenous Research Centre for Education and Learning (CIRCLE).
  • 2002 ends on a high note. In December, SCU was successful in five CRC bids - CRC Innovative Grain Foods, CRC Sugar Innovation, CRC Molecular Plant Breeding, CRC Sustainable Tourism, and CRC Desert Knowledge - bringing an additional $50 million over seven years to the University and to its regional economies. These five CRCs ranked Southern Cross University, at that time one of the smallest universities in Australia, among the top three in Australia in terms of CRC income.


  • SCU was a core participant in nine CRC bids: Rice, Forestry, Rainforest, Biodiscovery, Drug Design, Environmental Remediation, Coastal Zone, Plant Biosecurity and Learning. All have major industry partner cash support.
  • The University formally established the Centre for Ecotechnology Research, to research innovative ecological solutions to sewerage management.
  • The Centre for Children and Young People was established.


  • The University was an active participant in the following CRCs: Sustainable Tourism, Grain Foods CRC Ltd, CRC Sugar Innovation through Biotechnology, Molecular Plant Breeding CRC and Desert Knowledge CRC.,
  • In December, the University became part of newly funded CRCs - Contamination Assessment and Remediation of the Environment, CRC Sustainable Production Forestry and CRC National Plant Biosecurity.
  • The GRC's research training program extended to a newly established Graduate Certificate in Research Management, providing opportunities for the GRC's higher degree research students to graduate with skills in research and practical experience in project management.


  • Southern Cross University continued to enjoy an international reputation for the strength of its research achievements. The Australian Regional Tourism Research Centre, the Centre for Cultural Diversity and Social Justice, the Centre for Children and Young People and the Aged Services Learning and Research Collaboration exemplify the diversity of the University's expertise.
  • A further indicator of the University's success was the level of CRC funding, with Southern Cross University placed seventh out of all universities in Australia, and ranked second compared with other regional universities for ARC Linkage grants.
  • ARC grants were awarded in areas ranging from music and arts to carbon sequestration and acid sulphate soil.


  • In 2006, Southern Cross University became the number one University in Australia, for its size, for research income from CRCs. The University was a participant in eight CRCs:  CRC for Contamination Assessment and Remediation of the Environment (CARE); CRC for National Plant Biosecurity; CRC for Innovative Grain Food Products; CRC for Sugar Industry Innovation through Biotechnology (SIIB);  CRC for Sustainable Production Forestry; CRC for Molecular Plant Breeding; The Desert Knowledge CRC; and Sustainable Tourism CRC.
  • Gnibi College of Indigenous Australian Peoples made a significant contribution in tackling the problems facing many Indigenous communities.
  • SCU's postgraduate research training rated number one in the country for overall student satisfaction.


  • Professor Peter Baverstock retired. Professor Neal Ryan was named as the new Pro Vice Chancellor (Research).
  • The University had a successful year in securing Australian Research Council (ARC) funding, drawing on its expertise in plant conservation and genetics to pursue research into biofuels; and phytochemistry and pharmacology expertise to contribute to research in plant and food science.
  • Southern Cross GeoScience emerged as a Special Research Centre, providing an international research platform in geochemistry and mineralogy, sequestration of carbon dioxide and the impact of rising sea levels. GeoScience's directors, Professors Leigh Sullivan and Richard Bush, established their credentials as national leaders in geoscience with major ARC Discovery and Linkage grants.


  • The Centre for Plant Conservation Genetics continued to strengthen its position as a major national and international research body. An important new initiative emerging from this Centre positioned SCU as a national leader in biofuels research.
  • The Centre for Phytochemistry and Pharmacology became a stand-alone Research Centre. This Centre was a significant contributor to research in plant and food science.
  • Participation in CRCs continued to be an important part of SCU's research strategy as the University participated in nine CRCs: Contamination Assessment and Remediation of the Environment; National Plant Biosecurity; Innovative Grain Food Products; Sugar Industry Innovation through Biotechnology; Molecular Plant Breeding; Sustainable Production Forestry; Desert Knowledge; Sustainable Tourism and Rail Innovation.
  • The Higher Degree Research programs had significant increases in both completions (10 per cent) and enrolments (25 per cent).
  • Two units were created in the Research Division: the Research Training Unit, administering HDR candidates; and the Research and Commercial Services Unit, overseeing grant and contract administration, and business development.
  • The BioEnergy Research Institute was established to develop biomass and matched conversion technologies.
  • Formal research partnerships were established with other universities, research organisations and industries in Australia and overseas. SCU was an active participant in eight centres in the CRC program including CRC Rail.
  • The University continued to support new research areas such as tourism, education and environmental science, providing infrastructure and resource support to develop these areas.


  • The major focus was developing and implementing a new framework for the University's research centres. This framework, involving SCU's two Special Research Centres and seven Research Centres and Research Clusters, enabled the strategic and sustainable growth of research expertise and set a solid foundation for extending research capacity over the coming years.
  • SCU coastal geomorphologist Dr Anja Scheffers was named as one of 200 Future Fellows, a prestigious national award for outstanding researchers.


  • Southern Cross University's research in the field of geochemistry received the highest possible classification of 'well above world standard' in the Excellence in Research for Australia (ERA) 2010 national report. The University received the 'above world standard' ranking in the field of earth sciences, and 'world standard' in forestry and nursing.
  • The  Centre for Plant Conservation Genetics merged with the Centre for Phytochemistry.  Following the departure of founding Director, Robert Henry, the Special Research Centre was renamed Southern Cross Plant Science.  The name reflected the broader discipline scope, under the leadership of Professor Graham King.
  • The University took full control of the National Marine Science Centre in Coffs Harbour, cementing marine science research as another key area of our activity.
  • The Marine Ecology Research Centre (MERC) was established, building on the internationally recognised reputation of marine science within the School of Environment, Science and Engineering. Led by director Professor Peter Harrison, it incorporated the former Whale Research Centre and the Coral Reef Research Centre, and demonstrated the University's focus on improving the understanding and management of the natural environment.


  • Overall research income through the Australian Competitive Grants increased significantly during 2011 and, as a result, SCU was in the category of a Research Intensive University.
  • The University was successful in its bid for funding under the federal government's Collaborative Research Network (CRN) scheme, receiving $4.64 million over three years. This initiative partnered SCU with the University of Queensland, the University of New South Wales and the University of Sydney.
  • SCU continued its participation in the CRC program in the areas of Rail Innovation; Integrated Engineering Asset Management; Wound Management Innovation; Remote Economic Participation; Contamination Assessment and Remediation of the Environment; and Forestry.


  • SCU was rated 'above world standard' - the highest possible classification - in six research areas in the Excellence in Research for Australia (ERA) 2012 national report. The top rating of five for 'well above world standard' was given in the specific research fields of geochemistry, zoology, crop and pasture production, and forestry sciences. Nursing research was rated as 'above world standard' and tourism research at 'world standard'. In the broader research fields, the University received the top rating of 'well above world standard' in earth sciences, and agricultural and veterinary sciences. This placed the University among the top two universities in the country for research in crop and pasture production, in the top three universities in the country for zoology, top four in agricultural and veterinary sciences and forestry sciences, and in the top five in the field of geochemistry and earth sciences. The University also received the rating of 'above world standard' in the broader research field of biological sciences, and 'world standard' in studies in creative arts and writing.
  • The University continued to grow its success in Australian Competitive Grants.


  • SCU continued to receive funding from the ARC for a range of projects and remained a participant in five CRCs - Rail Innovation; Wound Management Innovation; Remote Economic Participation; Contamination Assessment & Remediation of the Environment; and Capital Markets CRC.
  • UNICEF released a range of resources to ensure research conducted with children is ethically sound and that children's rights are protected throughout the process. The resources were released following a two-year international project 'Ethical Research Involving Children', led by SCU's Centre for Children and Young People (CCYP) in partnership with UNICEF's Office of Research, Childwatch International Research Network and the University of Otago.
  • The Regional Universities Network received $1 million through the federal government's Office for Learning and Teaching for a project to improve maths and science pre-service teacher training. The project was being led by Southern Cross University.