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.
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.