Southern Cross Matters

Helping us stay in touch with key developments and our achievements as a University community.

Southern Cross Matters
Professor Tyrone Carlin
Professor Tyrone Carlin, Vice-Chancellor and President

From the Vice-Chancellor

In my introduction to the March edition of Southern Cross Matters, I reflected at some length on the huge difference that the many talented and passionate people who comprise our University make each day towards the objective of fulfilling our purpose. That is something for which I believe we can all be enormously and ongoingly grateful for, and as will be evident in this edition, we continue to attract still more extraordinary colleagues to our University as we build into our fourth decade.

If there are core themes to be extracted from this month’s edition, reinvention and renewal come very much to mind. You will see this in the material relating to the Master Plan for our existing Lismore Campus, but also in the very exciting progress we are making in defining new and significant elements of our intended curriculum offer, in this case with respect to Physiotherapy. This is generating considerable excitement in school communities from the Coffs Coast all the way to the Tweed, to say nothing of the very authentic support and enthusiasm that we continue to see exhibited by the profession itself.

Of course, as we define new domains for our intended curriculum offer, we must also carefully reflect on how vital it is that our programs and learning experiences are accessible to and support strong learning experiences for all of our students, including those with disabilities and diverse learning needs. That is why the story in this edition on embedding Universal Design for Learning (UDL) principles into our curriculum is so significant, and indeed why this is a core element of the University’s educational strategy. Pleasingly, a project focused on embedding UDL arose out of last year’s inaugural SCU Bold Program, and it is fantastic to see this gathering further momentum across the University. It’s also great to know that even more SCU Bold projects are in the process of metamorphosing from idea to action, and that is also further referenced in this edition.

I think that the content in this edition speaks to an institution that has truly found energy around its purpose and values, and I hope that you find it truly enjoyable and inspirational. As always – I encourage everyone to think about a story from Southern Cross Matters that really stands out to them in a given month, and make that the basis for telling someone in your local community a little bit more about who we are and what we do. I find that when I do this, people are consistently very pleasantly surprised!


Southern Cross Learning Precinct - main entry

Bold new vision for Lismore campus

Picture this: You approach the Lismore campus entrance on Military Road. The sign Southern Cross Learning Precinct | Gnibi Wandarahn greets you as you make your way towards Goodman Plaza.

To your left is the new amphitheatre, with live music trickling down the grass hill. To the right, a new synthetic athletics field is hosting a school athletics carnival. You make your way to the yarning circle at Bundjalung Place, walking along the greenery under the covered footpath. The campus is abuzz with people of all ages embarking on their educational journeys.

This is the bold new vision for Gnibi Wandarahn, translated in Bundjalung language as Southern Cross Place of Learning: a thriving education, research and community precinct, with state-of-the-art facilities for research and learning at all stages of life, enterprise zone for regional development, and vibrant public spaces promoting inclusivity and cultural richness.

The ambitious redevelopment of the campus is guided by the new Lismore Master Plan, unveiled this month at a Town Hall meeting at Lismore after extensive consultation and planning.

The plan includes a significant redesign of the campus open spaces and the creation of discrete areas for the University’s teaching and research activity. 

Notable proposed additions to the campus include new student accommodation, a refurbishment and expansion of Goodman Plaza, upgrades to the Learning Centre, a new sports facility and synthetic athletics field, a new building for ReCirculator, establishment of Bundjalung Place and improved pedestrian networks. 

University operations will be consolidated to the new SCU Hub, spanning across A, G, L, N, O, S, T, and U Blocks. The SCU Hub will comprise of research and teaching labs, staff offices and an outdoor gathering space. 

Vice-President (Strategy and Implementation) Jack Williamson said the plan demonstrates a long-term commitment to the University’s Lismore campus and its research capabilities. 

“The main benefit for staff will be building that sense of community again in the aftermath of the floods and COVID. We want to create an environment that encourages human interaction, collaboration and fosters community,” Jack said.

“This is an exciting growth opportunity for Lismore. In particular, there will be an elevation of research as a core function in Lismore. Students will very much have a place in the Southern Cross Learning Precinct and we hope this proposed Master Plan is the foundation that allows us to grow student numbers at Lismore.

“For the Faculty of Education and Faculty of Health, we will start a detailed planning process for moving the Faculties to the SCU Hub in April and May. There will be opportunity for people to provide input into what the future facilities need to have and look like. That process will run over the course of the year.”

An archival photo of the Lismore Teachers College from 1970

Celebrating 30 years of SCU

Southern Cross University celebrates its 30th anniversary this year and a group of colleagues are keen to mark the occasion.

Arising out of the SCU Bold program last year, one team envisioned a variety of ways that the University’s significant birthday could be best celebrated.

The team of Laura Webb, Danika Head, Tania Goodman, Chris Corcoran and Ruby Dimmick proposed an ambitious 30 ideas for 30 years. Collaborating with the Office of Engagement, a program of initiatives is under way – maybe not 30 of them but still a good list.

Chief Marketing Officer Dean Gould said his team wanted to put their capacity to activate behind the momentum of the SCU Bold ideas. “It helps when Laura is a member of the Bold team and also our Alumni Experience Co-Ordinator,” he said.

“From day one of the program, our primary objective was to facilitate opportunities for alumni to connect,” Laura said.

“We have so many graduates with incredible stories to share and the 30-year milestone offers the perfect occasion to commemorate and unite, fostering meaningful connections among alumni, staff, students and the wider community.”

Some of the initiatives proposed include:

  • Celebrating 30 Notable Alumni chosen from the past three decades across disciplines. In-depth profiles of their achievements are being created as we speak.
  • Re-creating the iconic photo of first day of term in 1994 with the then Vice Chancellor Professor Barry Conyngham, with Term 1 2024 featuring this year’s students and current VC Professor Tyrone Carlin.
  • A gala dinner coinciding with our Alumni Impact Awards later in the year
  • Planting of 30 jacaranda trees on the Kellas Street entrance to Lismore campus
  • Some reflections of long-term staff on how the University’s purpose of changing lives has manifested during their time here.

Chris, a Project Manager with Technology Services, said he particularly liked the collective take on how to interpret the concept of turning 30. 

“Not necessarily the full 30 events but some that makes reference to it. Thirty is still a significant amount of time in a person's working life - and it is fascinating to see what some graduates have achieved,” he said.

“I also like the way that these ideas or events could be repeated at future intervals too. It'll be a fascinating set of snapshots once another 30 or 60 years have passed.”

Danika, our Property Services Director, and Tania, a Careers and Employment Consultant, both said they were pleased to see their concept taken up.

“I’m looking forward to seeing this all come to fruition,” Tania said.

HR Manager Ruby said it was wonderful to see so many opportunities for all members of the University community to unite in our 30th anniversary year to share ideas.

“The BOLD program brought together a diverse group of staff - and alumni and students through focus groups and the like. I appreciate the opportunity to participate and be involved in innovative ideas coming to life,” she said.

Vice-President, Strategy, Jack Williamson said the SCU Bold program was a pilot that empowered 10 different cross-functional teams to tackle particular issues across the University community.

“It has sparked ongoing discussions and different ways of working together which was always part of the intent,” he said.

Associate Professor Kathomi Gatwiri co-authors a new report after the United Nations Working Group of Experts of People of African Descent

Southern Cross expert co-authors response to improve African Australians’ support and opportunities

Associate Professor Kathomi Gatwiri adds another relevant contribution to her already impressive portfolio in the human rights space.

Associate Professor Gatwiri is one of the authors of the recently published report We Belong Here: Framework for Human Rights and Equity for Australians of African Descent, commissioned by the African-Australian Advocacy Centre (AAAC). The report was launched on 21 March in Sydney Town Hall and is a call to action for a more inclusive society, offering strategies for improved intercultural understanding and representation.

The AAAC is the peak body that represents the African Australian Communities in the area of advocacy, research, and policy outcomes. It collaborates with a range of stakeholders including non-profit organisations, state and federal government, business, industry, the civil sector, academia and the philanthropic sector.

“The We Belong Here report gathers 10 key findings on issues related to discrimination, integration, policing, education, and health that show that racialised exclusion affects people of African background in both policy and practice and complicates experiences of resettlement and integration,” said Associate Professor Gatwiri. 

The report is a response to the United Nations Working Group of Experts of People of African Descent (UN WGEPAD) recommendations following their visit to Australia in 2022. During the visit, the Working Group assessed the human rights situation of people of African descent in Australia and gathered information on racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia, and related intolerance. 

After extensive consultations with the national community and government, UN WGEPAD wrote a detailed report identifying several key issues requiring urgent national attention. It comprised more than 100 recommendations to the government, including measures and mechanisms to prevent systemic racial discrimination and to protect victims of racism and responses to multiple forms of discrimination.

Following the UN WGEPAD's Final Report, “the AAAC took those recommendations seriously and worked with members, leaders, and academics from the African community over the past two years to conceptualise the most pressing issues and the way forward for the community,” said Associate Professor Gatwiri.

“This report is, therefore, one of the many outputs and evidence of the collaboration with community and government to foster positive integration for members of our community in Australia,” she added.

Kathomi is one of Australia's leading African-Australian scholars. In her role as the academic advisor for AAAC, she advises on research protocols, including helping to design research programs that matter to the African Australian community.

“At AAAC, we are focused on strength-based, solution-focused strategies that will foster positive integration experiences for members of the African community,” affirmed Associate Professor Gatwiri.

Associate Professor Andy Smidt

A Champion for Change

Andy Smidt holds the firm belief that education should be an equal playing field. For those with disabilities and diverse learning needs, their educational experience won’t necessarily be the same as other students, and a one-size-fits-all approach to learning doesn’t always work. 

This is where Universal Design for Learning (UDL) comes in.

An Associate Professor in Speech Pathology by trade, with a clinical interest in adults with severe intellectual disability, Andy’s university career has also led her to become an expert in UDL. 

So, what is UDL?

‘A framework for designing educational experiences that are accessible and effective for all students, including those with disabilities and diverse learning needs.’ 

Before joining Southern Cross University’s Faculty of Health earlier this year, Andy was a Disability Liaison Officer for the Faculty of Medicine and Health at The University of Sydney. In this role she provided guidance to ensure students with a disability or diverse learning needs were supported and had access to academic adjustments designed to offset the impacts their condition may have on their studies.

Her hard work and dedication in this space recently earned her a ‘Champion for Change’ award from Equity Practitioners in Higher Education Australasia.

Her nominator (who remains anonymous) describes her as someone who ‘always has creative ideas and solutions to support students to achieve their study and learning goals’. 

“An important part of achieving equal access to learning is supporting and educating academic staff to not only navigate academic adjustments for students with disability and diverse learning needs, but to create an equal playing field from the offset by designing curricula based on an inclusive learning framework,” Andy said. 

It was the ideal of designing a new learning framework that attracted her to work at Southern Cross University. 

“What you've got is a whole body of staff who have been given the opportunity to say, right, we're designing a new model, let’s use our expertise in pedagogy and content matter to design brilliant learning materials. If we can embed UDL within it, that would be amazing,” she said.

“One of the principles of UDL is to chunk things into small parts and make it accessible to people with a range of different learning styles. The Southern Cross Model actually allows students to concentrate on one subject at a time and not be pulled in five different directions.”

Associate Professor Smidt will be delivering two workshops for Southern Cross University staff on 5 June and 24 July on implementing UDL in the context of the Southern Cross Model. 

Education graduate Dulari Gonawala

Answering global demand for early childhood teachers

If a teacher is not having fun in the classroom, how can they expect their students to have fun?

Since last year, enrolment in Southern Cross University’s Graduate Diploma of Education (Early Childhood Education) has surged. The growth comes amidst a pressing need for more early childhood teachers in Australia and globally. 

Executive Dean of Southern Cross University’s Faculty of Education, Professor Amy Cutter-Mackenzie-Knowles, attributes the exceptional quality of the course to the University's distinguished early childhood teacher education program and its world-leading academics.

"The early childhood programs at Southern Cross University are led by world-leading academics who have extensive experience in early childhood settings, teaching early childhood students, and conducting research in this field," she said. 

Echoing this sentiment, students have expressed their satisfaction with the course, praising its comprehensive content and engaging teaching style.

“The course content is exceptional, providing a comprehensive and insightful approach to the subject matter. The teachers’ dedication to delivering high–quality education is evident in every class. Their teaching style is engaging, making complex concepts easy to understand,” one student said anonymously in a unit feedback survey late last year.

Within the Southern Cross Model, the program strongly emphasises professional experience, ensuring that students are well prepared to confront real-world challenges in early childhood settings. 

“Students engage in professional experiences, including 10 days in early childhood settings for two theory units, and two 20-day placements in preschool rooms for 3–5-year-olds, infants, and toddlers aged 0-3 years," said Professor Cutter-Mackenzie-Knowles.

Southern Cross University graduate Dulari Gonawala recently won a prestigious National Excellence in Teaching Award (NEiTA) for her role as Educational Leader at GoodStart Early Learning in Berwick, Victoria, as nominated by her centre director. She has since been promoted to Teacher Mentor, supporting other up-and-coming early childhood educators.

“Southern Cross really went beyond my expectations, with unit co-ordinators who were easily accessible, flexible, and helpful while maintaining strict standards within the units,” she said. 

Dr Maria Constantinou

New Professor designs the region’s first Bachelor of Physiotherapy course

In developing Southern Cross University’s new Bachelor of Physiotherapy course – the first in Northern New South Wales – internationally respected healthcare professional and academic Dr Maria Constantinou aims to create a legacy far beyond the local region.

The University’s first Professor of Physiotherapy is excited about the course that will help address one of the region’s, and nation’s, most pressing skills shortages.

“Being able to design a course and to work with local communities to develop health professionals who will service that community is a legacy that I would love to be part of,” said Maria.

With an extraordinary career behind her that has included working with sporting greats, such as tennis titan Serena Williams and a host of Olympic athletes, Maria is just as excited to open the eyes of future Southern Cross University Physiotherapy students to the global impact their skills can have.

“In my career, it has been important to look at how I can make a difference. It’s all about the power of education,” said Maria.

When working with host nation medical teams during Olympic and Commonwealth Games in Sydney, Athens, Melbourne, Vancouver and the Gold Coast, Maria became aware of the inequitable access to physiotherapy services among competing nations.

She went on to be elected to the Board of the International Federation of Sports Physiotherapy in 2011 and has since been developing training pathways for sports physiotherapists internationally, including rolling out physiotherapy training programs in small Pacific nations.

Her mission at Southern Cross is to help students see the gift they can give to people in their own community and around the world – the gift of remaining active and living their best lives.

“I tell students, it’s important to learn to give because quite often you will get more back,” she said. “The rewards you get may not be tangible, but they are immense, and they will be with you for the rest of your life.”

Pending approval, the Bachelor of Physiotherapy course will be offered at Southern Cross University’s Coffs Harbour campus in 2025 and Lismore campus in 2026.

Your Future Fest in the Clarence Valley

Inspiring Clarence Valley youth through Your Future Fest

Grafton is one of the biggest towns in northern NSW but often misses out on the attention given to the likes of Lismore and Coffs Harbour.

Our Future Students team is seeking to change that and frequent the Clarence Valley and its 55,000 residents more often. Grafton has a low proportion of Bachelor (or above) degree holders – at 10.3% of the population compared with the NSW average of 27.8% (Census 2021). So there is important work to be done.

One of the most recent gigs was Your Future Fest – Clarence Valley, a collaboration between the Regional Industry Education Partnerships program (RIEP), Country Universities Centre Clarence Valley, Clarence Valley Council, TAFE NSW Grafton, Headspace, University of Wollongong, Educational Pathways Program and Southern Cross University.

Aligning with Youth Week (11 to 21 April), the event focused on career exploration and encouraging students to think about their future in the Clarence Valley, home to about 5,000 teenagers. 

Southern Cross had a number of hands-on stations and spotlight talks to help students explore the possibilities available at our University, including Marine Science, Engineering, Health and Education. 

“Careers Advisors were interested to hear more about Southern Cross, Early Offer and the opportunity to visit the three different campuses. Around 250 students thoroughly enjoyed the day and having the opportunity to speak to different higher education providers and employers, particularly having interactive and hands-on skills stations to keep the day interesting and fun,” said Kate Kennedy-Ripon, Manager, Future Students.

“Students commented on feeling inspired to explore different career pathways and it exposed them to a variety of different options post-secondary school.”

Did you know...

Southern Cross academics in the media spotlight

Audiences in the UK and USA have been treated to the latest BBC Studios Natural History Unit Production Our Changing Planet: Restoring Our Reefs, which features the coral larval restoration work of Distinguished Professor Peter Harrison in the Maldives. The program showcases a world-first collaboration which could prove a game changer for reef restoration: Peter’s baby coral fertility treatment combined with recordings of fish sounds (an innovation of Professor Steve Simpson from Bristol University) to lure the coral larvae to set up home on a damaged reef.

The media spotlights for Southern Cross University academics don’t end there. The marine cloud brightening research project lead by Associate Professor Dan Harrison on the Great Barrier Reef has recently featured in two US publications: the New York Times ‘Warming Is Getting Worse. So They Just Tested a Way to Deflect the Sun’ and the Wall Street Journal ‘Scientists Resort to Once-Unthinkable Solutions to Cool the Planet’.

60 Minutes Australia invited Associate Professor David Heilpern, former NSW Magistrate and now Dean of Law, to draw upon his decades of judicial experience to provide insight for the story, Guilty of rape but no jail time: How the court system is failing young women.

Welcome to the team

Madhu Suresh, Senior Systems Analyst, Technology Services

Mark Osmetti, Transaction Services Officer, (Payments), Financial Services

Melissa Madsen, Senior Systems Analyst, Technology Services