Southern Cross Matters

"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
Professor Tyrone Carlin
Professor Tyrone Carlin, Vice-Chancellor and President

From the Vice-Chancellor

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.

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

Volunteers coordinate donations at Lismore campus evacuation centre

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.

University steps up for flood-ravaged Lismore

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.

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.”


International english language students learning outside together
English College students

SCU College celebrates 10 years of enabling access to university

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.

“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!

Associate Professor Lynne McPherson
Associate Professor Lynne McPherson

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

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.

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

Strengthening research and the equity agenda

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.

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.”

Johanna Nieuwoudt
Dr Johanna Nieuwoudt

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

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 candidate Colleen Rodd on the Great Barrier Reef
PhD candidate Colleen Rodd on the Great Barrier Reef

PhD Q&A: 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.

Chair of Discipline (Nursing) Professor Jennene Greenhill
Professor Jennene Greenhill

A vision for rural and remote healthcare

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.

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