"Southern Cross Matters is designed to help us stay in touch with key developments and our achievements as a University community."

Tyrone Carlin

Vice Chancellor, Southern Cross University

Southern Cross Matters

From the Vice Chancellor

Professor Tyrone Carlin

Professor Tyrone Carlin, Vice Chancellor and President

On Thursday May 12, members of the SCU team joined together with people from around the world to mark International Nurses Day. It was in that context that I had the good fortune to attend a celebratory barbeque at the Lismore campus and spend some time with Professor Jennene Greenhill and members of the Nursing discipline team.

It was delightful to meet again with colleagues who I had not seen in quite some time, and to meet others for the first time other than on Zoom! I imagine that this has been an experience that many at the University have shared in recent months. It underscored for me the importance, even as we embed a more flexible approach to working, of ensuring that we invest together in building a community and maintaining the liveliness of our campuses as hubs for engagement.

What struck me most about the events of the day, though, was the opportunity to meet with a number of our students. I found this to be enormously inspiring and I wanted to share this with our community as a whole because I believe that you will be similarly moved.

I first met Melissa and Bronwyn, two third-year nursing students normally based at the Gold Coast campus. During the height of the flooding, these amazing members of our University were so concerned for the wellbeing of community members that they decided to travel to Lismore and help out wherever they could in the evacuation centre that was at that stage home to many hundreds of people in deep need. I could tell as I spoke to them about this that their experiences in doing this had impacted on them to a very profound degree, but that they were so proud to have been part of a large team effort to respond to a terrible disaster.

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Their efforts, though, did not end there. Whilst volunteering in the evacuation centre, they became very concerned about their fellow students from Lismore who had lost everything, including their trademark Faculty of Health shirts. So, they worked to raise funds for the purpose of ensuring that our Lismore students who’d lost these could be provided with new ones. That money, matched dollar for dollar by the University is now being used by the Faculty of Health for precisely that purpose.

After spending some time with Melissa and Bronwyn, I met Jason – one of our Lismore based Bachelor of Nursing students. I asked him how he was travelling with his studies and his eyes lit up with passion and excitement. He told me how he often finds study daunting and challenging, and how much he has valued the support and mentorship of the academic team at the University – for who he expressed enormous respect and gratitude.

Jason is 48 years old. In the decade before he commenced our nursing program, he was a long-haul truck driver. He described his week to me. He told me that on a Sunday morning, he would be up before dawn, for a 45-minute drive to the depot. Then after a further 45 minutes or so of preparation time, he’d be on the road. If he was lucky, he would arrive back home by footy kick off time on a Friday night – but very often wasn’t home until Saturday morning.

He was proud of that work and proud of the discipline that he learned in doing it for so long. But he wanted something different. So, having not been in a classroom or engaged in any formal learning for two decades, he took a leap of faith. When he found himself beginning to receive distinctions for his academic work, he was enormously surprised, but also found a deep sense of affirmation and purpose. He wondered out loud to me as to whether he would in the end succeed in completing his studies. I told him without equivocation that I was absolutely certain that he would, and how proud he should be of what he is accomplishing – but perhaps more than that, what he will accomplish when he realises his dream.

When we boil it all down, we can perhaps say two things about our University. First, that we are blessed to work and study in a community that has care for each other so deeply rooted in its value set and in which that is lived out every day. Second, that we work together in a community that makes dreams come true as we transform lives through education and research. How many organisations can genuinely say that?

I hope you find the content of this month’s edition of Southern Cross Matters informative and inspiring and look forward to your continued feedback and suggestions for future topics for inclusion. Thanks for all the outstanding work each of you continues to do to advance our University.

Lisa Siegel named NSW Environmental Educator of the Year

Associate Lecturer Lisa Siegel

Associate Lecturer Lisa Siegel

Lisa Siegel, an Associate Lecturer and doctoral candidate in the Faculty of Education has been named the 2021 NSW Environmental Educator of the Year.

But the road to that accolade actually started in a concrete playground in California.

As is the case in many schools, Lisa’s early school breaks were spent in concrete surrounds. It wasn’t until a pivotal moment in Year 4, when a teacher took the class to a nearby stream for a hike, that something shifted in her. Walking through the creek she experienced contact with nature she hadn’t felt before.

Later, when she was moved into a class for gifted children, Lisa met another teacher who also inspired her; and whose approach to teaching she emulates to this day. This teacher began each class ‘shooting the breeze’, asking what the kids wanted to talk about, and then using this to guide the day’s lessons. He also taught the class to assess their values and led regular discussions about them. It was a student-led, but teacher-guided experience that harnesses students’ passion and curiosity – an approach Lisa now uses herself.

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“Environmental education at its core is interdisciplinary and intra-connected. If we feel connected to nature we have more of a desire to take care,” she said, “and I’ve seen it born out again and again.”

Lisa is on the leadership team of the Sustainability, Environment, and Arts Education (SEAE) research cluster at Southern Cross and on the verge of finishing her PhD, which examines how women develop into environmentalists. Her work even touches on the principles of quantum physics.

“Every moment that we meet is different, has potential, so that’s also what’s very exciting about environmental education. People can feel overwhelmed that we’re not going to be able to make the changes we need to in time, but quantum field theory – physics – says there’s potential in every moment for something to change, and that’s very heartening,” said Lisa.

Hemp research sows the seeds for future growth

Associate Professor Tobias Kretzschmar with hemp crop

Associate Professor Tobias Kretzschmar

Hemp’s formidable nutritional and fibre qualities are supercharging a recalibration of its reputation and research. Amid global demand for higher quality natural foods and medicines, Associate Professor Tobias Kretzschmar’s hemp research has Southern Cross University at the forefront of a growing phenomenon.

Based at Southern Cross Plant Science in Lismore, Tobias said hemp is “a crop of a hundred uses” and that Australia could lead its multi-faceted cultivation and development.

"Hemp has massive potential as a food and medicinal crop,” he said. “The seeds are rich in oils of a similar quality as fish oil, except they are vegan and do not have the smell. They also contain high amounts of essential amino acids. Like soy, hemp can be used as a protein crop. Like canola, it can be used as an oil crop. In addition, its flowers are rich in nutraceutical and medical compounds.

“Hemp also produces high-quality fibres that can serve as fabric for clothing or be used in composite materials to replace single-use plastic. As Hempcrete, it can replace concrete or other non-renewables in certain building applications. Developed correctly, hemp can help us reach zero waste goals and implement circular and sustainable economies.”

A plant geneticist and plant physiologist, Tobias’s career has ranged from studying pineapples in Townsville and rice in the Philippines to petunias in Switzerland, where he also did his PhD in plant molecular physiology. At Southern Cross, his research has covered passionfruit, coffee, mustard, tea tree and rice. He is currently leading a project into the drivers of nutritional quality in black rice.

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In supporting plant breeders to make better crops, particularly for nutrition and medicine, Tobias is also investigating how plants produce their plethora of specialised natural compounds that are healthy for humans. Despite years of over-regulation and stigmatisation, he said hemp was an ideal crop for Australia.

“Currently we are involved in two large cannabis projects. One is investigating the effect of agronomic and chemical interventions on cannabis productivity and the other is on genetic control of hempseed nutritional quality.

This will involve looking at seed size and nutritional composition. Importantly, the work will also link hemp’s genetic makeup to its visual or chemical characteristics and traits through quantitative genetic approaches. “This will help in making better hemp seed varieties for Australia down the track.”

New courses in 2023

International students at the Gold Coast campus, Building B

Students on campus at the Gold Coast

As we approach the half-year mark of 2022, some exciting new courses and course changes are on the horizon.

A new Bachelor of Clinical Exercise Physiology commences in Term 1 2023. This four-year degree enables registration as a Clinical Exercise Physiologist – one of the fastest growing allied health specialisations – and represents the evolution of the existing Bachelor + Masters pathway.

Other new health degrees in 2023 include the Master of Naturopathic Medicine, the postgraduate complement to the Bachelor of Health Science (Health and Lifestyle) introduced in 2022 for students interested in practising clinical naturopathy.

The suite of Engineering degrees will see some important new changes, with the extension to the Gold Coast campus for the Bachelor of Engineering Systems (Honours), the Associate Degree of Engineering and the new Master of Engineering Practice.

The Associate Degree of Engineering will be sporting a new name and a new structure, with two new specialisations in civil construction and intelligent machines. The new degree structure is suited to those looking to enter the civil construction or manufacturing and production industries in a supervisory management or technical role, or as a pathway to the Bachelor degree and accreditation under the Washington Accord.

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An expanding suite of pathway programs launches in Term 1 with two new Diplomas – the Diploma of Information Technology and the Diploma of Regenerative Agriculture. These join our current suite of Diplomas and Undergraduate Certificates as pathways into linked Bachelor studies.

Finally, the Bachelor of Business and Enterprise makes a welcome return to Lismore campus with a planned major in Entrepreneurship and Innovation.

Next year will also mark a significant milestone in our academic portfolio with the extension of the Southern Cross Model to all courses, including all Health and Law undergraduate degrees.

Pro Vice Chancellor (Academic Innovation) Professor Erica Wilson said the early data from the Southern Cross Model showed increased student success and pass rates. “It’s an exciting year ahead. We’re looking forward to seeing the Model roll out across all disciplines. These new courses and the Southern Cross Model are part of the evolution and innovation of our growing academic portfolio. These changes will enable even greater success for our students at university and beyond,” she said.

Team SCU gear up for Gold Coast Marathon

Isaiah Koopmans training for the Gold Coast Marathon

Student Isaiah Koopmans training for the Gold Coast Marathon

After two years of COVID interruptions, the Gold Coast Marathon is back on 2-3 July, with Southern Cross University a major sponsor for the 15th year running (pun intended).

You’ll be able to spot Southern Cross University from a mile away as our partnerships team go all out with merch, the starter gun, our converted electric Kombi, and the recovery hub. The 100-point recovery program is designed by our health experts and run by our Osteopathy and Exercise Science students, who get to apply their classroom knowledge in a real-world race setting.

More than 100 students and staff are expected to participate in Team SCU this year, where they reap the benefits of a discounted entry fee, colourful SCU branded singlets, and access to our team marquee with a healthy breakfast and post-race sports massage.

A notable Southern Cross student is Isaiah Koopmans, the current Australian 20-24-year-old National Champion of the standard distance triathlon event - involving a 1.5km swim, 40km bike ride, and 10km run. Isaiah, who hails from Coffs Harbour, said the Gold Coast Marathon has a fantastic vibe.

“Not only is the Gold Coast Marathon event a fast and flat course, but the atmosphere at this event is unreal from both an athlete and spectator perspective, and it allows me to meet with and compete against fellow SCU teammates as well, who study across all campuses or online,” he said.

“My personal best at this 10km event was the last time I competed in 2019, which was just on 34 minutes, so this year I am aiming to run around 31 to 32 minutes.”

There’s still time to register to be a member of Team SCU! Head to the Gold Coast Marathon website for more details or email unilife@scu.edu.au

Engineering Honours students focus on flood research

Diploma of Civil Construction graduate Tayla Preddey

Engineering student Tayla Preddey

This year’s Engineering Honours students are focusing their theses on an area of research that’s close to home: flooding.

“There was a really strong response from students when considering their thesis topics. After the floods hit at the beginning of Term 1, the majority of students were really keen to do something that they thought would help with the recovery and future flood resilience,” said course coordinator Professor Andrew Rose.

With a combination of civil and mechanical engineering students, topics range from building design approaches to withstand flooding, development of flood-resistant materials for more resilient roads, to machine learning to predict floods.

“The great thing is that they are really practical projects and there is genuine research to be done which the students are really excited about. They are coming up with solutions for real world applications and hopefully some will be adopted,” Professor Rose said.

“One student who currently works for the Richmond Valley Council is looking at the effects of heavy rainfall events within the Casino urban catchment during major flood events within the Richmond River Basin. So, the outcomes of that project will be directly relevant to their flood modelling.”

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Another student, employed by Transport for New South Wales, is researching the development of open-graded unbound granular materials suitable for base and sub-base application in Permeable Pavement Systems to provide flood-resistant and resilient roads.

“In theory they are just research topics and there is no obligation for students to have those sorts of connections with community. But in reality, a lot of students are involved by either working in the industry or with community groups. So, several projects already have a direct connection,” Professor Rose said.

Engineering graduates are required to complete a thesis to gain professional accreditation with Engineers Australia. According to Professor Rose, completing their thesis gives students the opportunity to develop a deeper understanding of “what it actually takes to generate new knowledge.”

“For students who go on to work in the industry, it’s crucial that they have that ability to innovate. If they can’t find the answer in a book, they’re not just going to get stuck and say ‘oh well, I can’t solve that problem’.

“By completing practical research at university, they learn how to generate knowledge, ideas, tools and techniques when they encounter difficult problems, and that’s a lot of what engineering work is all about.”


Professor Erica Wilson

Pro Vice Chancellor (Academic Innovation) Erica Wilson

Pro Vice Chancellor (Academic Innovation) Erica Wilson has been appointed as the new chair of Council for Australasian Tourism and Hospitality Education. The organisation represents the interests of higher education providers and individual members of tourism, hospitality and events education and researchers at Bachelor degree level and above in Australia and New Zealand. Congratulations Erica.

Welcome to the team

Steven Doherty, Research Fellow, Faculty of Science and Engineering
Simon Eldridge, Senior Technical Officer, Southern Cross Analytical Research Services
John Hancock, Stakeholder Manager, Office of Engagement
Danielle Jones, Project Officer, Financial Services
Nathan Kempshall, Project Manager, Soil Research and Carbon Neutral Economy Project, Office of Engagement
Ruben Luakkonen, Lecturer, Faculty of Health
Jodie-Anne Mak, Partnership Officer, Office of Engagement
Suzanne McDonald, Lecturer, Faculty of Health
Chris Medcraft, Postdoctoral Researcher, National Marine Science Centre
Neville Mott, Head Chef, Catering and Unibar
Simone Newman, Senior library Coordinator, Library Services
Fendy Santoso, Senior Lecturer, Faculty of Science and Engineering
Feifei Tong, Senior Lecturer, Faculty of Science and Engineering

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May 2022 edition:

From the Vice Chancellor

Professor Tyrone Carlin

Professor Tyrone Carlin, Vice Chancellor and President

Recently, I wrote to the University community and announced the Commonwealth’s commitment to support the University with $27.5m in funding towards the realisation of the next stage of our vision for our Coffs Harbour campus. This is a genuinely catalytic moment for us, achieved in an era in which many competing priorities for potential investment have drawn the dominant gaze of government from Universities.

In these circumstances, I have come to believe that what marked out our proposal was not the cleverness of the design or the allure of the economic activity that naturally flows from a significant construction project, but rather, how it spoke to our ethos as a University and our orientation towards ensuring that as we work towards our own success, we use as a yardstick the benefit that we bring to others.

This is precisely the ethos that runs through the profile of Damien Maher in this edition of Southern Cross Matters. As you read that material, I’m sure you’ll derive a deep sense of the motivating force that pushes him to explore new frontiers of knowledge and the enormous significance for him of seeing that work translated into impact and application.

It is the same ethos that has informed the approach taken at the Lismore campus as we support the organisations and institutions that together provide the fabric that undergirds our community such that we protect and build upon our vitality and sustain our reasons to be optimistic as to the future.

I believe that the Southern Cross Model is also informed by this same approach – and that in our willingness to take risks and to expend enormous time and energy in the quest for a better way of learning and teaching, we will find our reward in the deeper engagement, intellectual development and success of our students and their subsequent contributions to society.

As we continue to prepare ourselves for our future, for our priorities in that future and for the challenging trade-offs that we will need to deliberate upon during that journey, it will serve us well to continue to remind ourselves of the power of looking outwards, of engagement with our communities and of the central importance of excellence through impact.

I hope you find this edition of Southern Cross Matters enjoyable and inspirational and look forward to your continued suggestions for matters of interest for future versions.

Professor Tyrone M Carlin
Vice Chancellor and President

Professor Damien Maher brings research into practice for flood recovery

Professor Damien Maher

Professor Damien Maher

Professor Damien Maher’s research has taken him from the Great Barrier Reef to the mangroves of Florida, small freshwater streams in Arizona, the Gulf of Carpentaria and even the Tibetan Plateau. But lately, it’s his research in our own backyard on the Northern Rivers that’s making an impact.

As a specialist in hydrobiogeochemistry, Damien’s work covers a range of topics from local water quality issues and solutions, to global biogeochemical and hydrological cycles. His research team have been working on a collaborative project with Rous County Council and the Department of Planning and Environment to monitor water quality in the Richmond River. Following the devastating weather events in February and March, the team have been busy investigating the chronic impacts of the flooding on the NSW North Coast, including the deoxygenation of the Richmond River catchment, resulting in extensive fish kill.

“My SCU colleagues and I are working with local and state governments to undertake regular sampling of water throughout the Richmond River, installation and maintenance of water quality loggers, as well as some experimental work to understand how the river responds to these kinds of massive floods,” Professor Maher said.
“We will use this information to develop and calibrate water quality models, with the ultimate aim of providing management options to government. As part of this project we are also looking to map out erosion in the catchment, which has been extensive. This will help inform government on where restoration works should be prioritised to reduce the long-term effects of soils being moved from the land to the waterways,” he said.

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Damien has always had a passion for the environment, in particular rivers, estuaries and the coastal ocean. He has been exploring these relationships for the best part of two decades and new discoveries keep inspiring him to find out more.

“One of the discoveries we have found is that there are microbes living in the bark that can transform nitrogen gas into nitrogen that the trees can use to grow. This is a really exciting discovery, and may change the way we view the global nitrogen budget, and how forest ecosystems will respond to climate change,” Professor Maher said.
Damien credits his collaborations with University colleagues, industry and government as the backbone of delivering research with impact.

“It’s important to realise that good research cannot be undertaken in isolation. Collaborating with other researchers and industry partners has not only helped shape my research focus, but has also provided pathways for translation of research into practice. It is extremely rewarding to see the research I have been a part of being applied to real-world issues.”

Lismore campus activity

Trinity College students learning on campus at Lismore

Trinity Catholic College students

Students and staff returning to campus this week, ready for Term 2, will notice some big changes. The evacuation centre is now closed but the campus is actively supporting the recovery effort of the region as a hub of education, health and community services.

Two schools are now sharing the Lismore campus with us and a third is on the way. Trinity Catholic College and the Living School are now housed in R and E block respectively, while the Rivers Secondary College will shortly be housed in temporary classrooms adjacent to the Military Road gatehouse.

A recovery centre continues to operate out of V block, distributing donated goods, food and clothing. More than 30 services are using or have used the campus as temporary or semi-temporary accommodation, including Centrelink, Service NSW, insurance and banking facilities, LegalAid, community services organisations and emergency services including the NSW Police. “It's a version of the concept of town and gown in a way, where you're really bringing parts of the town to the university where it makes sense to do so. That's definitely the way of the future and I think it’s good for students as it provides opportunities for them as well,” said Allan Morris, Vice President (Operations).

Head2Health, the new mental health consulting space is operating out of P block, providing space for mental health services alongside general practitioners and allied health professionals who are operating from the P Block Health Clinic, where pathology services are also located.

The Business Hub in A Block’s Enterprise Lab, set up by Business NSW, is also providing an essential space for people to reboot and re-imagine commercial activities. Regional Manager of Business NSW Jane Laverty said between 20-50 businesses were accessing the hub every day to access workspaces, wifi, support and business recovery information. “The whole goal of the hub for us to retain as many businesses in the Northern Rivers as we possibly can,” she said.

Southern Cross researcher to work with NASA and CSIRO to answer global carbon cycle questions

Professor Dirk Erler and Professor Brad Eyre at Lake Eyre

Professor Dirk Erler and Professor Bradley Eyre

Ever since he was a child Professor Bradley Eyre has always asked ‘why?’

“I’ve always been fascinated by science, with a real interest in natural systems and how they work, but these days I’ve expanded my view to ask how natural systems work at a global level – there are still many unanswered questions,” Professor Eyre says.

The biogeochemist from Southern Cross University’s Faculty of Science and Engineering will lead two ARC Discovery Projects in the same round, taking him from Australia’s flooded inland deserts to the shallow ocean floor along the Great Barrier Reef.

Professor Eyre said he was thrilled to be collaborating with NASA, who will conduct satellite work for the $456,000 project ‘Resolving the role of dryland flooding in the global carbon cycle’ and CSIRO, who will use the findings to inform global carbon cycle modelling.

“This builds on our previous work at Kati Thanda-Lake Eyre in remote Central Australia when it flooded in 2019. My colleague Professor Dirk Erler and I hired a helicopter to gather water samples and became the first scientists to measure greenhouse gas emissions from an inland salt lake and associated flooded river systems,” Professor Eyre said.

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“We’ll now prepare everything and wait for the next flood in the Kati Thanda-Lake Eyre’s catchment to do some more detailed sampling, as well as some sampling in the dry, which may lead to the discovery of some of the planet’s missing sources of methane.”

Meanwhile Professor Eyre’s $437,000 project ‘Shallow water carbonate sediment dissolution in the global carbon cycle’ – his latest on the Great Barrier Reef – will determine the amount of alkalinity and calcium released as sands on the continental shelf dissolve, which will also contribute to a better understanding of the global carbon cycle.

These grants are Professor Eyre’s 31st and 32nd ARC-funded projects, with three successful ARC projects in the past year, off the back of another ARC Linkage project awarded at the end of 2020.

Sharing experiences of the Southern Cross Model

Students on laptops at Coffs Harbour campus

With Term 1 of 2022 now complete, we take a moment to reflect on teaching and learning in the Southern Cross Model.

“Teaching into the new Southern Cross Model has been challenging, the fastest six weeks ever!” said Professor Bronwyn Barkla, who taught Plant Science in Term 1.

“Keeping to the rapid turnaround for marking is probably the most difficult task and ensuring students don’t fall behind on the modules. That being said, my students were very positive of the new model, and I like that my teaching commitment is over quickly so I can get back to a focus on research,” she said.

Responding to a survey about the Southern Cross Model on the University’s social media channels, students said they enjoyed having the module content ‘all in the one place’ as well as the more frequent breaks in the academic calendar. The ability to focus on fewer subjects and fitting study around full-time work were also a bonus for students.

The most frequent challenge students experienced was the amount of content to get through in six weeks.

Social Work and Community Welfare Course Coordinator Dr Darran Stonehouse, who taught his first Southern Cross Model unit in Term 1, said the balance between self-learning content and longer class hours required tweaking during the Term. “I had to make adjustments to the learning activities planned for the classes,” he said.

Place-to-place and face-to-face for the University’s International team

International team

Subhi Pradhan and Monty Singh with Australia's Ambassador to Nepal, Her Excellency Ms Felicity Volk, at the Australian Embassy in Nepal

After a two-year hiatus, the International team have been back reconnecting and strengthening relationships in our key student markets around the world.

These areas have a rapidly growing youth population and a high demand for up-skilling, meaning that advancing our relationship has never been more important.

Our representatives Subhi Pradhan (Country Manager for Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh and India) and Monty Singh (Chief International Officer), joined numerous events including the Gold Coast Education Destination Showcase Event and Networking Dinner in Mumbai.

The team showcased all the advantages of Southern Cross University and the Gold Coast as a study destination.

“We addressed our new courses, industry collaborations, employability opportunities for international students, and future partnership opportunities with Indian institutions,” Subhi said.

Other events included the Director's Meet and Networking Event in Nepal and plenty of agent reactivation visits in New Delhi, Gurgaon, and Noida.

Monty Singh met with Australia's Ambassador to Nepal, Her Excellency Ms Felicity Volk, at the Australian Embassy in Nepal and discussed strengthening overall relations. The International team has relationships with over 30 of the top colleges in Nepal for hospitality, finance, and management.

A new edition to the 2022 international strategy is the introduction of SCU Info Week, where the elected international agent decorates the whole office with Southern Cross branding and promotes the University for a week to prospective students.

So, what’s next for the International team? Sponsoring the biggest basketball league in Nepal, with an estimated reach of 1 million viewers globally!

Film enthusiasts move SWIFF-tly to Coffs campus for flagship festival

Student Ambassador at SWIFF Festival

Student Ambassador Chelsea with the interactive cube lightbox at SWIFF Festival

For the second year in a row, the Coffs Harbour campus transformed into a hub for filmmakers and enthusiasts for the Screenwave International Film Festival. As a proud sponsor, Southern Cross was involved in numerous ways for the two-week festival.

A highlight of the program, dubbed the ‘Oscars night for Coffs Harbour,’ was the Nextwave Youth Film Awards at the CHEC Theatre. The event saw a red-carpet arrival, live music, guest speakers, an awards ceremony, and a screening of finalists’ short films.

The Southern Cross interactive cube lightbox brightened the campus, with festival-goers invited to grab a piece of chalk and answer, ‘what is the most valuable thing you’ve ever learnt?’ Responses ranged from ‘bring a blanket into the cinema’ to ‘never stop learning’.

Another highlight was the inaugural Southern Cross Nextwave Accelerator workshop run by Digital Media Lecturer Uwe Terton. He led 30 finalists from schools across the region to create a short montage in the intensive three-hour workshop.

“I am very grateful to have been given the opportunity to facilitate one of the Nextwave Accelerator workshops around film montage. The event is important in nurturing creative talent within the Coffs Harbour community,” said Uwe.

Winding up two weeks of festivities was a panel discussion following the screening of 'Carbon: the unauthorised biography.’ The discussion featured many familiar Southern Cross faces, such as Associate Professor Christian Sanders, Environmental Analysis Laboratory Technical Manager Nadia Toppler, and Marine Science student Luke Austin, who was recently awarded the AgriFutures Horizon Scholarship.

The Solar Sunflower heads to Bondi Beach

The Solar Sunflower at Ocean Lovers Festival

The Solar Sunflower powers the stage at Ocean Lovers Festival

The Southern Cross Solar Sunflower took a road trip to sunny Bondi Beach to attend the Ocean Lovers Festival, a free festival of art, music, ideas and action. The Sunflower helped to offset power from the main stage of the festival, supporting entertainment, live music and talks to over 20,000 people.

Represented by our student ambassadors Max Den Exter English and Isobelle Gapp, the sunflower attracted a crowd of people interested to learn more about the mobile solar generator system, designed and built at our Lismore campus.

Carolyn Grant, Director of Engagement at Ocean Lovers Festival said the Sunflower was an attractive and engaging talking point.

“Bursting open next to our Sunshine Stage right on the beachfront, the solar sunflower symbolised our hope through solutions and science to improve the planet and particularly the ocean by doing our bit to reduce fossil fuel use and greenhouse gas emissions while promoting the adaptable ways to harness the energy of the gorgeous sunshine we enjoyed all weekend. Visitors loved engaging with the Southern Cross University team to find out more about how they powered our sound system which we were very grateful for.”

PhD Q&A: Katrina Campbell on mental health nursing

PhD candidate Katrina Campbell

PhD candidate Katrina Campbell

What are you researching for your PhD?
My PhD is about ‘Diagnostic practice in mental health nursing: Understanding the factors that influence clinical decision making for nurses who make a provisional diagnosis of borderline personality disorder in assessment/emergency settings’. It explores how mental health nurses make decisions when providing a diagnosis of borderline personality disorder within the emergency department or crisis context.

Borderline personality disorder is characterised by unstable interpersonal relationships, emotional dysregulation and frequent attempts to avoid abandonment. Often people with this condition will engage in self harm as a way to regulate their emotions or to show people how they are feeling.

What was your motivation to pursue research in this area?
My motivation to explore this topic stemmed from my clinical background. I started working in the emergency department with the mental health crisis team and a presentation we saw a lot of was borderline personality disorder. I began to see a pattern of the same patients presenting to emergency who were also contacting us directly for crisis support and did not appear to be improving, instead they were faced with being labelled as ‘borderline’, compromising the care they sought. Borderline personality disorder is not recognised as a condition which requires treatment under the Medicare system so although these people utilise a disproportionate amount of mental health services, they can’t access to right treatment. The aim of my PhD is bring to light how frequently these people were seen in emergency departments, to look at the entry point to health services, and to establish the nurse’s role in assessing these patients.

What are your hopes for the future of healthcare and mental health?
When I first started out, I had big hopes that I could change the world, but the more I work through this PhD, the more I realise little steps are needed. I would like to see a mental health system where people can access the appropriate treatment at an appropriate time. As it currently stands, mental health treatment is difficult for most to access and it is costly.

Where to next? What are your plans once you’ve finished your PhD?
I think my first step is to take a break from studying! After that, I would like to get into a research position. I have grown to love writing so if I can do that and make a difference through my research in mental health, that would be amazing!

Welcome to the team

Ramon Braga, Research Fellow, Faculty of Science and Engineering

Holly Dowie-Ballard, Marketing Manager, Office of Engagement

Lily Guo, Lecturer, Faculty of Health 

Brenda Happell, Professor, Faculty of Health

Rachel Hayes, Administrative Assistant, Southern Cross Analytical Research Services


Have some news to share?

If you have a story idea you'd like to share in an upcoming edition of SCU Matters email us at content@scu.edu.au.

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April 2022 edition:

From the Vice Chancellor

Professor Tyrone Carlin

Professor Tyrone Carlin, Vice Chancellor and President

When I wrote my introductory comments to accompany the February 2022 edition of Southern Cross Matters, I reflected on the importance and gathering pace and impact of our journey of reform and renewal, and my optimism for what we might achieve in the year that lay ahead.

Little could I have then imagined the events that would subsequently unfold in late February and throughout March. For all of us, the effects of these times will be long felt and remembered.

I have expressed to the University community on several occasions over past weeks my deep gratitude for the manner and spirit in which we have rallied together, looked out for each other and worked with incredible resolve and energy to play our part in helping our communities beyond crisis.

But I have also encouraged everyone at the University to reflect with hope and optimism on the strong progress we continue to make in our teaching and research and on the enormous reserves of talent and excellence we are blessed to be drawing upon and building as we do this work. I think that shines through very much in the pages of this edition of Southern Cross Matters.

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This month, in addition to the written material, you will notice a link to a video that captures aspects of our experience of and response to the devastating flooding events of recent weeks.  I think you will find it captivating and evocative, particularly because in the stories it reveals about a number of our amazing colleagues and students it captures the spirit of so many others at Southern Cross.

In facing the worst, we have given of our best and we have learned much. If we continue to encourage each other, exercise our creativity, maintain our ambition for the positive impact we can bring to the lives of others and hold on to our hope and optimism, there is very little that has the power to hold us back.

Professor Tyrone M Carlin
Vice Chancellor and President

University steps up for flood-ravaged Lismore

Volunteers coordinate donations at Lismore campus evacuation centre

Volunteers coordinate donations and supplies for flood evacuees

Two major flood events in the space of a month, five weeks of mud and heartache. In the middle of it all are the stories of our staff and students who stepped up when their community needed it most.

Students like Christa Morrow said she just couldn’t sit and watch. She rang her friends and organised mud armies of students to help with the first clean-up. “I just trawled Facebook for addresses that were popping up that needed help, where someone didn't have as many community connections. We started there with a team of students and then we just didn't stop for maybe seven days. You just go and go, you don't even think twice about it,” she said.

Staff members showed up in so many different ways and shone, taking on responsibilities far beyond their day-to-day duties. Faculty of Business, Law and Arts faculty manager Cindy Harvey worked for more than two weeks straight at the recovery hub on Lismore campus, accepting the truckloads of food, bedding and clothing that poured in, making sure they got to the people who needed them.

“Many donations were from people who were flood-affected themselves, who wanted to give back the extra they had to other needy people, it was really inspiring,” she said.

Dean of Health Julie Jomeen was among the many volunteers at the donation hub and she praised the tireless effort of staff. “It’s been very emotional and truly amazing how people come together, how people support each other, even under really difficult circumstances and how resilient our staff have been,” she said.

   Read more and watch video

Together with the many health and community services now housed on Lismore campus are our colleagues in secondary education. Trinity College recommenced classes for all students on Lismore campus just two weeks after the first flood devastated their school buildings. Acting Principal Jesse Smith praised the University staff who had made the transition so easy. “It is wonderful to keep the education journey happening and alive for our students,” he said. Trinity School Captain Daniel Perreira (whose siblings are either past or present Southern Cross students) said the University campus had provided the calm they needed. “I think we all had a sense of relief just to know that we do have a place to be able to come together and still learn.”

Stories from the flood recovery at Southern Cross University

It didn't seem possible. Two major flood events in the space of a month. The dramatic scenes of people plucked from roofs. The sheer scale of the destruction. The cleanup. These are hard things to forget.

The second time we're better prepared. But after a month of mud and heartache it was a hard hit to take. The community pulled together in so many inspiring ways. From literally saving lives in the first flood to providing shelter, food, and a recovery where flooded schools and businesses could reopen and where essential services could operate. The university stood up when its community needed it the most. These are some of the stories.

When you first walk in you can't ignore the smell that's the first thing that you notice and then it kind of just clicks in that this is someone's life this is their reality.

We started there with the team of students and then we just didn't stop the adrenaline takes over and you just go and go you don't even think twice about it.

Yeah it's quite shocking. It's just seeing people with the whole world's possessions destroyed on the sidewalk so it's quite confronting. Uh yeah everyone's sort of working together and you know just pitching in because everyone just wants to help the community and help people get on with their lives.

We're taking community donations to actually provide to the community. We've had an outpouring of different regions come here and donate their products and goods for us to distribute out to the community. Some are even flood affected that have been given so many donations themselves which is really really inspiring.

I was born in Wee Waa and the flood drove us out in 74 I think it was and my family were affected by floods when I was a child so it holds strong to me so yeah.

They're doing such amazing work down here, I mean Cindy and all the people have been volunteering day in day out have just been truly amazing and the amount of donations coming in is also quite unreal.

I mean I actually over the last couple of weeks I found the whole thing quite emotional in so many ways how people come together how people you know support each other even under really difficult circumstances and also how resilient our staff have been.

Like the rest of the CBD and North and South Lismore, my was literally up to the ceiling. Business New South Wales in partnership with SCU is setting up this business hub we have hot desks we will be running Q&A sessions for insurance for commercial tenancies for the landlords for the tenants. There's a lot of very traumatised people in town but really the focus here is to actually get businesses up and running as soon as we can and to find out what businesses need to be able to do that I don't know where we would do this if the university wasn't here.

There was a lot of darkness that morning not just because the sun wasn't rising but simply because of the level of devastation so we had a total of eight classrooms on the third floor that did not have water in them. Uh the rest of the entire two campuses were inundated. It's wonderful to be here at Southern Cross University in wonderful facilities, working with wonderful staff from the university to keep the education journey happening and alive for our students.

I think we all had a sense of relief just to know that we do have to be able to come together and still learn. It's really great to just even see everyone and be around people that are going through things and we can really lean on each other.

SCU College celebrates 10 years of enabling access to university

English College students at Lismore campus

English College students

Let’s pop the bubbly – this year SCU College celebrates 10 years as a stepping stone into higher education for thousands of students.

Beginning with a small offering of associate degrees, an English language program, and the foundation course Preparing for Success in 2012, the College was born out of Southern Cross University’s drive to increase access and participation in higher education across our campus regions.

“It’s an important role that the College plays and it’s really transformative in regional Australia where we know there are lower rates of higher education participation and higher numbers of non-traditional students, who might be the first person in their family to study, or those who come from low socioeconomic backgrounds or students who identify as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander,” Professor Thomas Roche, Pro-Vice Chancellor (Academic Quality) and Dean of SCU College said.

He believes providing a pathway to tertiary studies for all students, regardless of their previous educational background or ATAR score is at the heart of the College.  

“What we do in the College is open up doors to study and future careers for students who otherwise wouldn’t gain admission to university,” he said.

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“We track our students as they go on to further study and results show that students who have completed an SCU College pathway program are actually more likely to succeed in their studies than their peers,” Professor Roche said.

Professor Roche and Associate Dean (Education) Suzi Syme have presented research on this topic: ‘Bridging programs transform students’ lives – they even go on to outperform others at uni’.

SCU College now provides a suite of courses, including six diplomas, five undergraduate certificates, domestic and international preparation programs, and two English language units which were awarded a prestigious gold standard NEAS rating in 2021. Behind their success is a team of passionate staff, dedicated to seeing each student succeed.

“Our curriculum and pedagogy are underpinned by a culture of care that helps students develop into confident, independent and critical learners. The College is their starting point to connect to Southern Cross and gain a sense of belonging. They share a powerful message with their families and communities that it is possible to succeed academically, creating intergenerational change,” Associate Professor Suzi Syme said.

Happy 10th birthday SCU College!

One researcher’s story working with nation’s most vulnerable young people

Associate Professor Lynne McPherson

Associate Professor Lynne McPherson

Working with vulnerable young people to improve their life trajectory is Lynne McPherson's life’s passion and work. She is an Associate Professor of Social Work and Community Welfare in Southern Cross University’s Centre for Children and Young People (CCYP) in the Faculty of Health.

When Lynne launches her ARC-funded project this year looking at practices in residential care that build trusting relationships and positive social connections, she will be working with some of the most vulnerable young people in the country.

Before becoming an academic, Lynne worked for more than 25 years as a senior social work manager and practice leader in child protection and the wider child, youth and family sector. She has extensive experience as a senior policy adviser, including a decade leading a state-wide unit in the Department of Human Services in Victoria.

The three-year project will see her research team working in nine residential sites across NSW, with the aim of finding practices that create a better life experience for teenagers who have experienced abuse and neglect within their families or within the care system itself.

She was ‘over the moon with excitement’ when she found out she’d successfully obtained her very first ARC Linkage grant, in conjunction with the CCYP’s lead researcher, Professor Anne Graham, as well as Dr Kathomi Gatwiri who received the University’s Early Career Researcher of the Year in 2019.

“It’s a wonderful endorsement. With this project we have a host of local talent and we are drawing on the expertise of a global team of experts who have joined the project by invitation,” she said.

The project has won more than $875,000 in contributions including $429,569 from the ARC, and $446,005 in cash and kind from the Centre for Excellence in Therapeutic Care – a division of the Australian Childhood Foundation.

Strengthening research and the equity agenda

Professor Mary Spongberg Deputy Vice Chancellor (Research and Academic Capability)

Professor Mary Spongberg

As champion of research strategy and output at Southern Cross, Professor Mary Spongberg believes being a regional university provides an even greater opportunity to make a difference. From leading research to better understand our natural environment and address the impact of climate change and natural disasters on a local level, to supporting our children and young people, and building meaningful connections with our community and industry partners.

“I really love being in the region and being in a position to support amazing research that makes it a better place,” she said.

“In the wake of these devastating floods, it’s heartening to see that within our University we have the research expertise to support community and environmental recovery. Whether that’s Professor Damien Maher’s team investigating water quality in our river catchment, Professor Anne Graham’s work on processing of grief and trauma, or Professor Bradley Eyre’s research on stream metabolism and greenhouse gas emissions. All of these projects contribute to rebuilding the community, one way or another.”

In her expanded role as Deputy Vice Chancellor (Research and Academic Capability) Professor Spongberg will be focusing on embedding research deeply within each faculty and strengthening the University’s equity agenda.

“Research is critical to the future of the University and so it needs to be the bedrock of our strategy. We want to build and strengthen our research capabilities, make sure that we can attract and retain great staff and build a great community of higher degree research students across the university,” Mary said.

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So, what’s on the horizon for research at Southern Cross?

“The two big ticket items are really building research in health and education, and rebuilding our edge in engineering. In science, we are seeing new success in our longstanding areas of excellence such as marine science and biogeochemistry, but also in emerging areas such as aquaculture and agriculture.  We just submitted a large funding request for a Natural Products Hub, which would be unique in Australia, if we are successful. We’re doing well in both ARC funding as well as working more closely with industry,” she said.

“I think we’ve seen tremendous successes over the last couple of years despite some pretty big challenges presented by COVID and now the floods, but we’ve managed to continue building our capacity and even increase our HERDC (Higher Education Research Data Collection) income which is pretty incredible. I’m excited by what’s to come.”

Teaching in the Southern Cross Model: “We’re always thinking about students”

Johanna Nieuwoudt

Dr Johanna Nieuwoudt

As an international student from South Africa, Johanna Nieuwoudt was seeking a warm, subtropical climate where she could study exercise science when she found Southern Cross University. She had no idea she’d find herself, many years later, teaching in one of Australia’s most innovative academic models at the very institution where she completed her PhD.

Now in her seventh year as an academic at SCU College, Johanna teaches into the Preparing for Success program. She has seen firsthand the benefits of the Southern Cross Model for students. “We’re always thinking about students and how we can improve their experience. The Southern Cross Model gives them so much more control over the way they study and the satisfaction they gain from studying,” said Johanna, who has compiled an extensive set of data around time use as well as psychological wellbeing of students who are studying in the Southern Cross Model.

“Some stress is completely normal when you are studying and juggling different priorities, but what we have seen is a significant drop in the extreme or worrying stress and anxiety levels some people are experiencing,” she said.

Johanna credits the structure of the new model – where students are working on a maximum of two assessments at any one time and the ability to self-pace learning as critical. “I’ve been in the situation where I’ve taught in a session and a term concurrently and the motivation is just so different.

“In the Southern Cross Model, students are constantly testing their knowledge and receiving feedback and although the time commitment each week is around the same, the way they can organise that time is completely different. Healthy deadlines and manageable pressure can be extremely motivating.”

Read more about Johanna’s research here.

PhD Q&A: Colleen Rodd on the Great Barrier Reef

PhD candidate Colleen Rodd on the Great Barrier Reef

PhD candidate Colleen Rodd on the Great Barrier Reef

What are you researching for your PhD?
My PhD is about ‘The role of nutritional mode on settlement outcomes in coral larvae’. Basically, coral eggs are provisioned with a finite amount of energy to sustain them while they develop into larvae, search for a suitable habit to settle on, and then transform into a coral polyp. With funding from Southern Cross University and the Paul G Allen Family Foundation, I am exploring whether or not coral larvae are capable of using nutrients in the ocean water around them to supplement their own energy reserves. The idea is that if they can supplement their own energy stores, they may be more likely to survive their larval phase, transform into a coral, and grow into a healthy juvenile. At the moment most wild-spawned coral larvae die so, by increasing larval survival and coral settlement, we have the opportunity to enhance the effectiveness of coral reef restoration.

What’s your experience been like working on the Great Barrier Reef with Distinguished Professor Peter Harrison?
Incredible. We typically go out into the field with a large team and he takes great care in selecting team members. So, we all get along great. Coral spawning can be very intense! Late nights, a lot of anticipation, and a huge flurry of activity. Having a well-rounded, cohesive team makes all the hard work fun. We work hard, laugh a lot, and in the process do amazing, worthwhile research. And I love seeing the senior academics come alive with excitement at the sight of coral spawn. It shows me that the passion for our work likely won’t fade with time. Because, really at the end of the day, that passion for the reef is the driving force behind my work.

What are your hopes for the future of the reef?
It is going to take a combined effort of reducing carbon emission and human intervention to help turn the tide on reef decline. But I am hopeful for the future of reefs. The work Professor Peter Harrison is doing really does seem to be making an impact. The challenge now seems to be scaling up and reducing human input to streamline our larval restoration efforts. Getting more people involved, not just researchers but communities and local governments as well, will help make people aware of how each and every one of us can make a difference for the future of coral reefs.

A vision for rural and remote healthcare

Chair of Discipline (Nursing) Professor Jennene Greenhill

Professor Jennene Greenhill

The new Chair of Discipline (Nursing) Jennene Greenhill brings a wealth of knowledge about aged care and building a healthcare workforce for rural and remote Australia to the University. 

After fifteen years spent working in universities in South Australia and Western Australia, Jennene returns home to the Gold Coast, excited to take on a role that will make a difference in her community.

“I’m passionate about developing a distinctive difference in our research and education profile that focuses on rural and remote healthcare and getting our nursing graduates excited about these opportunities,” Jennene said.

“I want to link up with different communities to find out what their needs are for the healthcare workforce. We need hundreds more Indigenous nurse graduates, so I want to honour the Indigenous healing knowledge that goes back tens of thousands of years and build a program that’s integrated and attractive to Aboriginal people,” she said.   

With a strong research background in aged care and improving outcomes for patients with dementia, Jennene is also focused on preparing nursing students with the skills and experience for a rewarding career in the aged care industry.

“I want be part of developing a culture where aged care is less stressed. Our nursing students can be excited about the possibilities of working in this field. It’s sometimes tricky and sophisticated, but it’s such a great place to work when you look at the difference you can make in people’s lives,” Jennene said. 

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In terms of the University’s research and education partnerships, Jennene believes developing connections within the Asia Pacific region is a critical step.

“International partnerships are really important. As we look towards a post-COVID world, we need to be developing stronger links with our neighbours in the Pacific nations, New Zealand and Indonesia to build regional connections, research and exchange opportunities,” she said.

Outside of work, Jennene is both an art and nature lover. “One of the first things I did when we moved back to the Gold Coast was join the Royal Queensland Art Society and do some art classes. I really missed the rainforest while I was living away, so I’m looking forward to bushwalks and nature paintings.” 

Welcome to the team

Brenda Allan, SCU Health Clinic Manager

Jared Aquilina, Technical Officer, Southern Cross Analytical Research Services

Shelley Barfoot, Technology Facilitator, Centre for Teaching and Learning

Ramon  Braga, Research Fellow, Faculty of Science and Engineering

Lisa Carey, Lecturer, Faculty of Health

Connor Clare, Data and Survey Coordinator, Office of Business Intelligence and Quality

Ellie Daley, Administration Officer (Quality), Office of Business Intelligence and Quality

Ernest Du Toit, Technical Manager, ReCirculator, Faculty of Science and Engineering

Janette Ellis, Educational Designer, Centre for Teaching and Learning

Amanda Evans, Educational Designer, Centre for Teaching and Learning

Rachel Findlater, Careers and Employability Consultant, Office of the PVC (Academic Quality)

Eric Holgate, Educational Designer, Centre for Teaching and Learning

Anuradha Khara, Educational Designer, Centre for Teaching and Learning

Isaiah Koopmans, Technical and Laboratory Officer, National Marine Science Centre 

Liz Mackinlay, Professor, Faculty of Education

Timothy Magoffin, Technology Facilitator, Centre for Teaching and Learning

Nirit Marchand, Technology Support Officer (Audiovisual), Technology Services

Michelle Metanoia, Technology Facilitator, Centre for Teaching and Learning

Ana Munro, Manager Quality and Compliance, Office of Business Intelligence and Quality

Michelle Neaumann, Professor, Faculty of Education

Rebeka Piggott, Transaction Services Officer, Financial Services

Justin Richardson, Chief Information Officer, Technology Services

Pasi Sahlberg, Professor, Faculty of Education

Susan Walker, Professor, Faculty of Education

Have some news to share?

If you have a story idea you'd like to share in an upcoming edition of SCU Matters email us at content@scu.edu.au.

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Professor Tyrone Carlin

Professor Tyrone Carlin, Vice Chancellor and President

With more than a month of the New Year now behind us, I sense that many of us are reflecting on the enormity of the possibilities that lie ahead of us in 2022 and how precious each day is as we pursue them.

If we were to choose words to describe the past two years, challenge and adversity would likely spring quickly to mind for many of us. And while we have come to appreciate that the consequences of the events of this period will be persistent and profound, we have demonstrated through our actions and achievements that we do not intend to let that set us back from fulfilling our purpose.

It seems right then, that we make it our business to think of 2022 as a year of great opportunity, and to set our priorities and choose our actions accordingly.

It is clear that a very substantial element of our journey towards the realisation of opportunity this year will be what we do in taking the Southern Cross Model to the next stage of its development and in the further maturation and growth of our research capabilities – particularly through our Research Impact Clusters.

But as important as these large-scale initiatives are, and although they touch on so many of us in very direct ways, it is the level of ambition and aspiration that each of us brings to the institution every day that will most influence how far forward we travel in 2022.

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This is not about dreaming the impossible and waking disappointed. Rather, it is about hard work, open communication, the courage to raise concerns when we see things that are not as they should be and the perspicacity to understand that often, our answer to a problem is better understood as an rather than the answer. Through these things, within the gift of each of us, we can keep our sights raised and elevate our University each day.

It is my hope that every member of the Southern Cross team thinks of themselves as an ambassador for our institution – and if you are looking for inspiration in relation to what you can tell friends, family and community members about us, you will find it aplenty in the pages of Southern Cross Matters.

We are leading curriculum innovation in Australia. We are asserting our place on the world and national stage with the incredible and impactful research that we do. We are strengthening our fabric and looking forward to making greater and greater investments to the benefit of our regions. We are changing lives for the better.

Finally, I hope that each of you will join with me in sincerely congratulating Professor Marianne Wallis AM whose outstanding contribution to nursing, higher education and research was recognised in the most recent Australia Day Honours list through being made a Member of the Order of Australia. News of this honour has been the source of enormous delight for those who know Marianne well, and is a source of deep pride for all of us.

Professor Tyrone M Carlin
Vice Chancellor and President

Leading the way with almost $2 million for innovative research

Associate Professor Lynne McPherson (top), Professor Bradley Eyre (middle) and Associate Professor Renaud Joannes-Boyau

Associate Professor Lynne McPherson (top), Professor Bradley Eyre (middle) and Associate Professor Renaud Joannes-Boyau

Our research team is showing just what strategic work can deliver, securing more than $1.94 million in Australian Research Council (ARC) funding for three Discovery Projects and one Linkage Project.

This is a sector-leading outcome, with Southern Cross University achieving a 27 per cent success rate for Discovery Projects, compared to the sector average of 19 per cent.

“This is a stunning result for Southern Cross. Our grants team focused strategically on supporting the applications we deemed to have the highest possibility of success and this paid off, with a couple of near misses as well, and generally positive assessments across all the applications,” Deputy Vice Chancellor (Research) Professor Spongberg said.

“These results suggest that while we are still performing extremely well in the science disciplines where we have always excelled, we are now building transformative research in the health disciplines where we continue to grow student numbers. This has been part of a deliberate strategy to better align research with teaching to ensure that our student experience is informed by cutting edge research across the university,” she said.

Our successful research projects include ‘Strengthening relationships for young people in residential care’ led by Associate Professor Lynne McPherson from the Faculty of Health, awarded $429,569 (supplemented by $109,500 from the Australian Childhood Foundation); ‘Decoding the geochemical record of early human fossils’ led by Associate Professor Renaud Joannes-Boyau from the Faculty of Science and Engineering, awarded $368,118; and two research projects led by Professor Bradley Eyre, also from the Faculty of Science and Engineering, worth a total of $893,000, for ‘Shallow water carbonate sediment dissolution in the global carbon cycle’, and ‘Resolving the role of dryland flooding in the global carbon cycle’.

Congratulations to these research teams and all those involved in the funding application process. We will hear more of the passion behind these projects in upcoming editions of Southern Cross Matters.

 You can read more about the Discovery Projects here

Celebrating our outstanding teachers

Associate Professor Steven Purcell

Associate Professor Steven Purcell

Central to Southern Cross University’s success are its teachers. The 2021 Teaching Excellence Awards recognise educators who deliver a level of teaching that goes above and beyond.

Over what has proved to be a challenging period, our teachers and educators have shown great determination, delivering a quality of learning that inspires and encourages students to continue growing their knowledge.

The Outstanding Teaching Awards category recognises current Faculty and College staff identified in the top five percent of teachers based on student feedback.  

Patrick Bruck from the Faculty of Education was one of the award recipients recognised for Outstanding Teaching.

“Perhaps the key to my teaching last year was to try and make the experience as interactive and collaborative as possible for all, whether the classes were online or face-to-face,” Patrick said. 

Another outstanding recipient was Warwick Fisher from the Faculty of Business, Law and Arts.

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Reflecting on his inspiration to become an educator, Warwick said, “As a young adult I was heavily influenced by John Dewey’s assertion that teaching should be a vocation rather than a job. To that end, I care for all students irrespective of their ability and am passionate about my subject – what’s not to love about contract law? I also tell lots of dad jokes though I doubt Dewey had anything to say on that.”  

The Inspiring Educators Awards category was presented to colleagues nominated by the University’s Deans, recognising those who stand out and inspire others at Southern Cross for the quality and impact of their teaching.

Associate Professor Steven Purcell from the Faculty of Science and Engineering was one recipient recognised as an Inspiring Educator. Leading significant reforms to improve fundamental skills and student understanding was just one aspect of his teaching that was highlighted.

Congratulations to all our Teaching Excellence Awards 2021 recipients. A full list can be viewed here: scu.edu.au/staff/teaching-and-learning/teaching-awards/

Impressive early Southern Cross Model results as the University transitions

Lucia Miles Bachelor of Business and Enterprise student

Bachelor of Business and Enterprise student Lucia

One of the most innovative academic transitions in the Australian higher education sector hits full speed at Southern Cross in Term 1.

After a massive effort from work units across the whole institution, most disciplines are now well on the way to delivering their teaching in the Southern Cross Model.

The immersive Model will see most full-time students study up to two units in any one six-week Term, and study four Terms a year.

Selected pathway and undergraduate courses pioneered the Model in 2021 – the Bachelor of Business and Enterprise, Preparing for Success Program and SCU College Diplomas – with students reporting higher pass rates overall. Success rates for students in undergraduate units increased from 73.8% in 2020 to 82.5% in 2021, and pathway unit success rates rose even further from 56.5% to 73.3%. While satisfaction was already high in the units piloted in the new Model, in 2021 both unit and teaching satisfaction improved for International and Continuing students.

Academics have likewise reported greater satisfaction in teaching in the model. “It’s very gratifying as an education professional to see more students achieving their goals,” said lecturer Dr Liz Goode, who taught into the Bachelor of Business and Enterprise last year. “The shorter unit structure means students are achieving milestones quickly, and the more focused, active learning means they are more engaged with the material. I think this is really setting them up to succeed at university and beyond.”

With the exception of law, health and undergraduate programs at The Hotel School, all courses will be delivered in the Southern Cross Model in 2022, with the remaining courses slated for transition by Term 1, 2023.

Professor Marianne Wallis honoured for contribution to nursing, research and education

Professor Marianne Wallis AM

Professor Marianne Wallis AM

Professor Marianne Wallis, Associate Dean Research for the Faculty of Health, has been recognised as a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) for her significant service to tertiary education, to nursing, and to research.

Professor Wallis has been a chief investigator in numerous research projects aimed at improving the nursing care of hospitalised patients, those with impaired skin integrity, and improving health service delivery, especially for the frail elderly in the emergency department.

“My whole career has been at the forefront of bringing science and evidence into nursing. For 30 years I've been working in academia to not only prepare the next generation of nursing professionals but also to do the research that underpins practice and really provides an evidence-based for practice, which is all about improving the care of the health and wellbeing of our patients,” Professor Wallis said.

After winding down a rewarding career in nursing academia, Professor Wallis was compelled out of retirement following the COVID-19 outbreak.

“This was a worldwide pandemic and I really felt that I should be contributing, so I reversed my retirement and came back to work at Southern Cross University as the Associate Dean Research for the Faculty of Health,” she said.

She said receiving the Order of Australia Medal was really an acknowledgement of nursing and nursing academics.

“I was the person to receive this award, which is very humbling, but it's really not about me. It's about the great teams, the doctors, the nurses, the physios, and the dieticians that I've worked with for years and years and years to improve the care of our patients.”


Record number of visitors attend campus tours

Courtney Sousa ready to welcome visitors at the Gold Coast campus tour

Courtney Sousa ready to welcome visitors at the Gold Coast campus tour

Hundreds of future students have taken advantage of some innovative opportunities at Southern Cross already in 2022.

With the late release of ATAR results in NSW and a very disrupted 2021 overall, many prospective students responded to the campus tours and Q&A webinars held in January.

Across the board, there was a significant increase of visitors compared to previous years for the tours, with students reportedly travelling over eight hours to check out the campus facilities. Coffs Harbour campus hosted 50 attendees, Lismore had 35, the Gold Coast was showcased to 190 visitors, and the National Marine Science Centre opened its doors for the first time ever to seven guests.

Future Students Officer Ellen Fleeton said hosting the Coffs Harbour campus tours – under tight COVID protocols - was “a really lovely reminder of why we do what we do and the powerful role we all play at Southern Cross University in supporting our future and current students to achieve their dreams through higher education.”

Claudia Evans from the Future Students team assisted with the Lismore campus tours. Despite turbulent weather, many still toured the campus and enjoyed a barbeque by The Quick Brown Fox.

“The attendance and enthusiasm at the event are evidence that Southern Cross University’s reputation is building, particularly in the study areas of health and education,” she said.

The Q&A webinars had a combined total of 350 registrations. Interested students enquired about relocating, study options and pathways to university, orientation, life on campus, and accommodation.

Accolades for PhD candidate Thilinika Wijesinghe

Thilinika (Thili) Wijesinghe

Faculty of Education PhD candidate Thilinika Wijesinghe

Faculty of Education PhD candidate Thilinika (Thili) Wijesinghe has received a string of awards and acknowledgements for her contribution to the arts, sustainability, climate action and public speaking.

Thili was honoured to receive the award for Excellence in Fostering Creative Arts at the Study Gold Coast Student Excellence Awards, a merit achievement certificate and finalist award at the Gold Coast Women in Business Awards in two categories: Creating Change and Aspiring Young Leader. She was also named a finalist in the Southern Cross University Student Excellence Awards. 

Recently, Thili also represented Southern Cross University Toastmasters Club and is now competing at Division level for the World Champion in Public Speaking.

“I always loved the arts. I have always believed that the creative arts can truly change one’s life. Coming to Australia, my biggest dream was to combine my love for the arts and the environment and this I have been able to do through my PhD at Southern Cross here on the Gold Coast. I consider myself privileged and fortunate to be in this space guided by two experts in the field as my supervisors, Professor Lexi Lasczik and Professor Amy Cutter-Mackenzie-Knowles,” Thili said.

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As a PhD candidate and a member of the Sustainability, Environment and the Arts in Education (SEAE) Research Cluster in the University’s Faculty of Education, Thili is combining her love of drama and the creative arts, with her passion for climate change education and working with young people. Her PhD explores how speculative drama can be used to engage young people and understand their views and feelings towards climate change and the future.

Moving from Sri Lanka to pursue research at Southern Cross, Thili has found her home away from home within the vibrant international student community on the Gold Coast and among her research colleagues and fellow environmentalists at Southern Cross University. Thili is the leader of the University’s environmental club where she has developed new initiatives to promote sustainability; she is also a Founder of the drama club at the Gold Coast Student Hub, aimed at developing students’ skills in public speaking while fostering the creative arts and is also a 2021 Gold Coast Mayor’s Student Ambassador. 

She speaks about her research, moving to Australia from Sri Lanka and what it was like conducting drama workshops with children from across the world during COVID on the SCU Buzz podcast. Listen on SoundCloudSpotify, or Apple Podcasts.

Welcome to the team

Aspa Baroutsis, Senior Lecturer, Faculty of Education

Melissa Wolfe, Senior Lecturer, Faculty of Education

Marilyn Clarke, Academic Advisor, Faculty of Health

Jennene Greenhill, Chair of Discipline (Nursing), Faculty of Health

Mark Burtt, Business Intelligence Analyst, Office of Business Intelligence and Quality

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