University adds value to Coffs Harbour community

Published 19 March 2007

Helping the community understand the value of being a ‘university town’ is one of the first priorities for Professor Sue Johnston, the new Head of Southern Cross University’s Coffs Harbour campus.

Professor Johnston has a long record of achievement in the university sector. She was
most recently Pro Vice-Chancellor Teaching and Learning at the University of Tasmania and has held positions at the University of Canberra, University of New England and Queensland University of Technology.

She is taking up the position previously held by Professor Zbys Klich, who is retiring from the University.

Originally a pharmacist, Professor Johnston began secondary teaching before moving into the tertiary education sector.

“When I was working as a pharmacist I thought teaching would be interesting because every day is different. That’s what I have looked for in a job,” Professor Johnston said.

Now at Coffs Harbour she is keen to promote the benefits of living in a city with a university campus.

“I think this campus is a really exciting development. It’s almost unique in Australia, with the combination of secondary and tertiary education, and it has got huge potential,” she said.

“Other regional towns and cities would be fighting to have a university. It’s such a community resource and can add so much to the cultural, economic and intellectual development of the region.”

Professor Johnston is hoping to encourage greater participation by all sectors in the community not only in formal education, but also through activities at the Coffs Harbour campus.

“Increasing the educational opportunities provides a direct benefit to the community as a whole. There is research that provides evidence that a more highly educated community does much better in terms of its economic development,” she said.

“For the size of the campus, the range of courses is very attractive and is broader than many other regional campuses. The research strengths that are specifically identified with this campus, such as psychology, education and aged services, are also very exciting.

“I’ll also be looking at activities that will encourage ownership and a sense of belonging by the general community. We want to welcome students and parents to the campus, but also other members of the community.”

She will also be working closely with the partners at the Coffs Harbour Education Campus.

Professor Johnston has been in the region for the past 18 months, living on a macadamia farm at Hungry Head.

“We have owned the property for about 25 years and have always planned to come here to live. We left Tasmania 18 months ago and built our house on the property,” Professor Johnston said.

“When I left Tasmania I was working as an educational consultant, but I’m very keen to get back to working in a university environment and to get my ‘hands dirty’.”

During her spare time she and her husband, both keen cyclists and kayakers, have been exploring the beautiful waterways in the region.

“My husband and I used to do a lot of orienteering and we have represented Australia in that. Now we cycle and have kayaks for exploring the local rivers,” she said.

“We have paddled along Bonville Creek, the Kalang and the Nambucca. There is just an endless supply of rivers.”

Photo: Professor Sue Johnston is the new Head of the Coffs Harbour campus.

Media contact: Brigid Veale Southern Cross University communications manager, 02 66593006 or 0439 680 748.