Southern Cross Matters
From the Vice-Chancellor
If the past year or two has taught us anything, it has been that there is always another surprise waiting. In the face of the tumultuous events through which we have all lived, we adapted rapidly to uncertainty by rallying around the idea that we could not allow uncertainty to paralyse us. By adopting this approach, we took a very considerable burden upon ourselves.
More times than we may wish to recount, we found ourselves forced to write off the precious hours invested in an initial approach and begin from scratch on another. We spent many more fighting our way through mazes of systems and processes in pursuit of solutions that we instinctively knew should have been much more readily within our grasp.
In the face of these and many other challenges, we demonstrated agility, resilience and creativity and delivered remarkable learning opportunities and support for our students and continued to enhance and mature our research agenda.
As the world begins to pivot back to something more closely resembling “normal”, we find ourselves both looking backwards with a view to cementing valuable lessons from our experiences and forwards to the future we wish to build for our University. This process of reflection is timely and important. It offers each of us an opportunity to participate in the generation of the insights that will guide us as we continue to grow and improve and in the clarification of our priorities for the next several years.
That is why spending time in conversation with so many colleagues from across the University has been such a highlight for me over recent weeks. Whilst many different ideas have emerged, three themes have shone through.
First, there is a very strong sense of the importance of increasing the level of the investment that we make in our people, processes, technology and campuses as well as clarity that in order to sustain this investment, we have substantial work to do to improve our financial foundations.
Second, there is a strong sense that it will be in our interests to continue to change and innovate in order to deliver the highest quality student experience and the most impactful research and that creating the conditions where we can achieve this change more seamlessly and quickly will be vital to our future success.
Third, that as we move forward, we should focus to a greater extent on engaging with our communities and regions, not in an inward looking or parochial manner but rather as an institution that delivers a global perspective, connections and opportunities.
These are powerful ideas which can very meaningfully inform the approach we take to planning for and securing our future. But we should treat them as a beginning and commit to building on them together in coming months. Each of us can and should have a voice in creating the roadmap to our future and I encourage you to confidently share yours as we undertake this important work.
I hope this edition of Southern Cross Matters provides you with some stimulating insights into the quality and impact of what we achieve together as a community and that you will continue to send me your valuable suggestions for how we can continue to improve.
Professor Tyrone M Carlin
Vice Chancellor and President
Leading the world through “we” rather than “me”
For Professor Anne Graham the “we” rather than the “me” has become a mantra, since establishing the highly regarded Centre for Children and Young People(CCYP) back in 2004.
Anne’s research focuses on the rights, well-being and safety of children and young people (0-25 years) in the key contexts in which they live their lives – family, school and community. She has led more than 70 research projects including seven Australian Research Council-funded studies.
“To help ensure this research is relevant and accessible to those who can best use it to improve children’s lives, we collaborate closely with partners in translating research into summaries, websites, ‘good practice’ guidelines, webinars, professional learning workshops, and education programs,” according to Anne.
Central to this approach is hearing directly from children and young people not only about their experiences but what best supports them when life gets tough.
“This work has actually positioned SCU as the go to institution for research involving children. As a smaller regional Australian university, we are now the leading international voice on how to do this kind of research collaboratively with our long-standing partners such as UNICEF. It requires a ‘we’ not a ‘me’ mindset to achieve this kind of impact.”
Anne has a particular interest in understanding and supporting children to adapt to change, loss and grief in their lives. More than 300,000 children, young people and adults in five countries have participated in evidence-informed education programs she has developed with partner organisation Good Grief at MacKillop Family Services.
Her current research includes bringing together the available international evidence about the impacts of COVID-19 on children and young people’s lives, particularly their mental health, and developing resources to help them adjust to the emerging new ‘normal’. She says increased fear and anxiety have been a feature in much of the research, with many young people reporting feeling overwhelmed and stressed.
“Routines have been disrupted and life has become unpredictable.
“COVID-19 has influenced who they can see, where they can go, what they can do and the changes keep on happening, often at very short notice. Schools re-opening, school closing; we’re allowed to visit our friends, we’re not allowed; we’re not the priority for getting vaccinated, we’re being rushed to get our jab; we’re not sitting final exams, we are sitting them. Some young people breeze through these experiences but others benefit from knowledge, skills and support networks to help them through”.
She believes now more than ever it’s important to hear from young people about their experiences, to help them focus on what they can influence rather than what they can’t and, most importantly, to affirm their capacities to make positive changes in their lives, with appropriate supports in place.
“The days are gone when if you don’t talk about things they’ll go away, we really need to learn from children and young people and help build their skills in understanding and adjusting to change and uncertainty”.
The CCYP and long-standing research partner, MacKillop Family Services, will shortly be releasing resources for schools to support students as they settle back into their ‘new normal’.
Seeing the light and making green savings
We take them for granted, but without them we’d really be in the dark. We’re talking about the humble electric light.
Illuminating our campuses is a costly business but thanks to some lateral bright thinking, the Property Services team has come up with an alternative way to keep the lights on while saving almost $3 million dollars.
Our Lismore, Gold Coast campuses as well as the National Marine Science Centre at Coffs Harbour are going green by switching to LED lighting. Converting 9000 fittings is a huge logistical task but it’s on track due to be complete by January next year.
It’s a project the Property Services Director, Danika Head, is passionate and proud to be a part of and in doing so she found an upside to COVID shut downs.
“We kicked off the project in July and one of the beauties of mostly empty campuses is it allows access for technicians to implement the changeover as quickly as possible,” Danika explains.
Her team took advantage of a New South Wales energy conversion rebate of almost $400,000 helping to recoup the project cost in four years.
“It’s a good win for us doing these sorts of projects, we obviously don’t have finite resources so it’s a really good result for the team.”
Here’s how it stacks up.
The project will cost $836,891 but will save $1.3m over four years and double that over the next decade.
As for carbon emissions it represents a reduction of 532 tonnes – that’s the equivalent of 100 round-the-world flights.
It’s already paying off with a $30,000 saving on September’s power bill. It’s estimated that LED lamps operate up to 50 times longer than conventional ones so maintenance costs are also expected to reduce by more than $110,000 per annum.
The University continues to develop its green profile with other projects like the Southern Cross University Electric Kombi Conversion which is the basis of a curriculum package for New South Wales schools.
Danika is now focused on the future.
“Sustainability is one of my biggest passions, as well as the LED conversion we also recently introduced water saving measures and we hope to be able to leverage more similar projects.”
International Movember collaboration is ahead of the game
COVID-induced delays aren’t stopping sports psychologist, Associate Professor Christian Swann, rolling out the Ahead of the Game mental fitness program globally.
“Movember has been supporting the project from its development at Wollongong University in 2015,” says Christian.
“Now I’m with Southern Cross, they’re covering 10 percent of the cost of my ongoing work as a subject matter expert. That involves overseeing the scientific integrity of the program for each new country that takes it up.”
Ahead of the Game has now been adapted and delivered to five countries, involving 8000 young rugby league players with a focus on improving youth mental fitness through community sport. It targets both mental health and literacy resilience combining both to underpin overall wellbeing.
Christian believes it’s the most evidence-based program there is in the world and it’s one of Movember’s flagship programs within their children and adolescence stream of work.
“Working with Dr Swann is a vital part of Movember’s approach to ensure that programs like Ahead of the Game remain true to the evidence base as they’re implemented globally,” According to Owen Brigstock-Barron, Movember’s Director, Community and Workplace.
Even though it’s been delayed for 12 months the 2021 Rugby League World Cup will a be key player as far as Ahead of the Game is concerned. It will be the first ever global sporting event to officially launch a mental fitness charter.
Christian joined Southern Cross at Coffs Harbour in 2018.
“It feels a lot more connected than other larger institutions where, if you do see potential for a new initiative or opportunity, it can be put forward without having to go through a maze of layers.”
Ahead of the Game is now the basis of a British made Sky Sports documentary. It features the stories of high-profile players who are now delivering Ahead of the Game and showcases the program.
The Rugby League World Cup is now scheduled to run from 15 October – 19 November 2022.
Coral Reef research comes to life at World Expo in Dubai
Distinguished Professor Peter Harrison is now back on the Great Barrier Reef marking the 40th year of his tireless research into the life of coral.
He’s again focusing on the annual event when coral spawn, in one of nature’s most spectacular displays. If you didn’t already know, Peter is recognised internationally as an eminent researcher, pioneer and expert in the field of coral reproduction and larval restoration.
“We know that coral larval restoration process can be very successful at re-establishing breeding populations within two to three years on badly damaged reef systems. But we need to scale-up that process now to be operating beyond hectare scales and eventually into kilometre scales. Therefore understanding how to take what we know is successful at small scales and re-engineer it into much larger scales is the next phase of the research program,” Peter says.
Earlier this year our University honoured him with a Distinguished Professorship. His work is part of a spectacular audio-visual display at Australia’s Pavilion at the World Expo which opened in Dubai last month and runs until March.
According to Peter, “It’s been very exciting and an honour to have my research featured in the Australian Pavilion at the World Expo in Dubai. It’s a great opportunity to engage with international audiences about the importance of corals and reef systems but also their fragility and the need for action on climate change as well as active interventions to try and restore some of these foundation breeding corals as quickly as possible.”
The Australian Pavilion celebrates the aspirations and achievements of Australia, its innovation and optimism, as articulated in the Pavilion’s theme ‘Blue Sky Dreaming’.
“We have set out to make a pavilion experience that vibrantly brings together the spirit and energy of Australia, is informative and at the same time fun and entertaining,” says Artistic Director Andrew Walsh.
And in the United Kingdom Peter’s research features as part of a Channel 4 News documentary Emergency on Planet Earth, in the lead-up to COP26.
Watch The Team Racing to Save the Great Barrier Reef with IVF for interviews and on-the-ground vision of Peter with his team during coral spawning at The Whitsundays, as well as Anna Marsden from the Great Barrier Reef Foundation.
Even after 40 years Peter is determined to continue with his work. “We are looking forward to applying the knowledge from the work in the Philippines and the Great Barrier Reef and expanding into other regions to help support reef recovery.”
Did you know?
An international report card to be proud of
The highly respected Times Higher Education 2022 world rankings have registered a big improvement for Southern Cross University’s standing in Physical Sciences.
Southern Cross has moved up more than 50 places to be in the top 250 in the world. Last year we sat in the 301-400 bracket and now we’re in the 200-250 range. The category is based on Geology, Environmental, Earth & Marine Sciences. It’s ranked using five criteria:
- International Outlook
- Industry Income
“We’ve done particularly well in Citations, Industry Income and International Outlook with the main focus on Earth/environmental and Marine Sciences,” according to our Executive Dean of the Faculty of Science and Engineering, Professor Nick Ashbolt.
He cites ground-breaking research papers published in leading nature journals and major international team-funded grants, from people like Professors, Peter Harrison, Damien Maher, Bradley Eyre, Terry Rose and Brendan Kelaher to name a few, as helping lift the University’s profile.
“Our consistent track record in securing Australian Research Council (ARC), Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR), Agrifutures and Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) funding has certainly played a significant role in where we sit on the international stage.”
A detailed breakdown can be found at: World University Rankings 2022 by subject: physical sciences.
Welcome to the team
Wellness Project Lead, Faculty of Health
Partnership Officer, Office of Engagement
Manager, Infrastructure Provisioning, Technology Services