New $12 million health building opens, transforming education and employment in Coffs Harbour

Published 20 November 2019
A state-of-the-art running track passes externally and internally through the new Health Sciences Building allowing students and researchers to capture data on synchronised movement.

With its stunning architectural facade, multi-purpose teaching and research spaces, high-tech labs and a state of the art running track, Southern Cross University’s new Health Sciences Building is set to transform the face of education and employment in Coffs Harbour.

The $12 million development at Hogbin Drive was officially opened today by Federal Member for Cowper, Mr Pat Conaghan MP.

Head of Campus and Dean of Graduate Studies at Southern Cross University Professor Leslie Christidis says the new Health Sciences building was developed in response to a growing need within the Coffs Harbour community.

“Our city is one of the fastest-growing regional areas in Australia, and recent research shows the future of employment in Coffs Harbour lies in the health and ageing industries,” Professor Christidis says.

“This new building allows us to further expand our popular Nursing, Occupational Therapy, Psychology and Exercise Science degrees, while introducing new courses including a double degree in Law and Psychology.”

“It’s an exciting time for Coffs Harbour; our region is set to experience a significant spike in health and ageing jobs and we are here to meet that demand.”

Designed by architects at Design Worldwide Partnership and built by Woollam Constructions, the two-storey building is inspired by the 'biomechanics of movement' and features a series of advanced laboratories including a movement lab, human performance lab, daily living lab, personal skills labs, clinical skills lab, simulation lab and clinical sciences labs.

A state-of-the-art running track passes externally and internally through the building which allows students and researchers to capture data on synchronised movement.

“This running track allows students to study movement in a very advanced way,” says Kate Tuck, Team Leader of Science and Allied Health Laboratories at the Coffs Harbour campus.

“It can be used to study the movement of a fast bowler or to improve a runner’s gait. The track can be used to help a disabled child improve the way they walkit allows our occupational therapy and exercise science students to conduct huge amounts of research and learning in that space.”

In addition to a range of technical laboratories and features, the new Health Sciences Building contains a number of Indigenous elements, including a traditional Yarning and Healing Circle, dual signage in English and Gumbaynggirr and a Healing Garden filled with local Indigenous medicinal plants.

Gumbaynggirr Elder and 2018 Coffs Coast Woman of the Year, Aunty Bea Ballangarry OAM, has been closely involved in the planning and construction of the new building, consulting with project managers and builders on the design of the space.

The ‘Aunty Bea Ballangarry Yearning and Healing Circle’ is named in honour of her and the local Indigenous community.

“As an educationist, this building is really special to me,” Aunty Bea explains.

“When I was a little girl my parents had to fight so hard for my place in state education; Indigenous children weren’t allowed in state schools back then. To think that now, at 76 years of age, I’m helping to build a learning space in a university—I can’t even put into words what it means to me.”

Manager of Built Infrastructure Projects at Southern Cross University, David Hadley, says he is very pleased with the outcome of the project.

“With $12 million you’re trying to do as much as you can and we’ve created a building that is both beautiful and functional; it’s been thoroughly enjoyable working with the local community to see it all come together,” David says.

“I really believe that a university should support your town and that’s what we’re doing here, providing courses that the area needs.”

Professor Leslie Christidis says the new building will become a health sciences training hub, drawing in students from across the Mid North Coast as well as Sydney and Melbourne.

“When we created this new building we made a point of really listening to the needs and interests of our local communities and as a result we’re looking to provide new courses including Speech Therapy and a double degree in Psychology, Sports and Exercise Science,” Professor Christidis says.

“This new development provides the people of Coffs Harbour with the chance to study locally before entering straight into our growing, health-centered workforce.”

Professor Christidis says he would like to see the Health Sciences Building expand further to become a comprehensive, multipurpose health precinct.

“A second stage of development would enable us to work more closely with the Coffs Harbour Health Campus and the International Sports Stadium, which are both located just a few kilometres away from the University grounds,” Professor Christidis says.

“Our vision is to create a collaborative centre which focuses on all aspects of health study, training and research.”

Media contact: Sharlene King 0429 661 349 or scumedia@scu.edu.au