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Inspiration and innovation at Lismore graduation


Adam Walters
13 December 2019

There’s been no shortage of inspiring stories at today’s graduation ceremonies on Lismore campus.

From ground-breaking research into the potential medical use of industrial hemp to the invention of technology for macadamia farming - and one student’s journey from street kid to a nursing degree - the 2019 Lismore graduates will be remembered for the variety of their high achievements.

The Chancellor’s Medal has been awarded to Matthew Welling for his thesis: Genetic Characterisation of Cannabinoid Composition in a Diverse Cannabis Germplasm Collection.

“I’ve always had an interest in the metabolism of plants, their chemistry and genetic components, so when I had the opportunity to pursue that by working with industrial hemp it was quite exciting,” Matthew said.

Matthew has been researching the development of cultures or varieties that can produce chemical compositions with a possible medical value.

In a historic day for Southern Cross, the university’s first mechanical engineering degrees have been awarded to two graduates, including David Stuckey. His studies led to the invention of an autonomous lawn mower for macadamia plantations.

One of the more remarkable student journeys was completed by Erica Finlay-Dingle, an Indigenous woman who was living on the streets of Sydney by the age of 13. She overcame dyslexia to study for the nursing degree she will receive today at the age of 41.

It’s also been a sentimental day for Narissa Phelps (pictured above), the daughter of former Southern Cross Chancellor, the late Lionel Phelps.

Narissa was wearing her father’s vintage graduation robes when she received her Master of Arts in Social Sciences, majoring in early Australian colonial history after studying 62 convict women who included her fourth-time great grandmother.

Teaching graduate Bridget Smith created her own history.

“I am an Indigenous education student and the first of my family to attend and graduate from University and I have been lucky enough to gain a permanent placement in a primary school next year,” Bridget said.  

Other teaching graduates include Elyssa Watt, whose family travelled to Lismore from as far as Dubai to celebrate her graduation as the first maternal and paternal grandchild to receive a degree.