Recently, I wrote to the University community and announced the Commonwealth’s commitment to support the University with $27.5m in funding towards the realisation of the next stage of our vision for our Coffs Harbour campus. This is a genuinely catalytic moment for us, achieved in an era in which many competing priorities for potential investment have drawn the dominant gaze of government from Universities.
In these circumstances, I have come to believe that what marked out our proposal was not the cleverness of the design or the allure of the economic activity that naturally flows from a significant construction project, but rather, how it spoke to our ethos as a University and our orientation towards ensuring that as we work towards our own success, we use as a yardstick the benefit that we bring to others.
This is precisely the ethos that runs through the profile of Damien Maher in this edition of Southern Cross Matters. As you read that material, I’m sure you’ll derive a deep sense of the motivating force that pushes him to explore new frontiers of knowledge and the enormous significance for him of seeing that work translated into impact and application.
It is the same ethos that has informed the approach taken at the Lismore campus as we support the organisations and institutions that together provide the fabric that undergirds our community such that we protect and build upon our vitality and sustain our reasons to be optimistic as to the future.
I believe that the Southern Cross Model is also informed by this same approach – and that in our willingness to take risks and to expend enormous time and energy in the quest for a better way of learning and teaching, we will find our reward in the deeper engagement, intellectual development and success of our students and their subsequent contributions to society.
As we continue to prepare ourselves for our future, for our priorities in that future and for the challenging trade-offs that we will need to deliberate upon during that journey, it will serve us well to continue to remind ourselves of the power of looking outwards, of engagement with our communities and of the central importance of excellence through impact.
I hope you find this edition of Southern Cross Matters enjoyable and inspirational and look forward to your continued suggestions for matters of interest for future versions.
Professor Tyrone M Carlin Vice Chancellor and President
Professor Damien Maher brings research into practice for flood recovery
Professor Damien Maher’s research has taken him from the Great Barrier Reef to the mangroves of Florida, small freshwater streams in Arizona, the Gulf of Carpentaria and even the Tibetan Plateau. But lately, it’s his research in our own backyard on the Northern Rivers that’s making an impact.
As a specialist in hydrobiogeochemistry, Damien’s work covers a range of topics from local water quality issues and solutions, to global biogeochemical and hydrological cycles. His research team have been working on a collaborative project with Rous County Council and the Department of Planning and Environment tomonitor water quality in the Richmond River. Following the devastating weather events in February and March, the team have been busy investigating the chronic impacts of the flooding on the NSW North Coast, including thedeoxygenation of the Richmond River catchment, resulting in extensive fish kill.
“My SCU colleagues and I are working with local and state governments to undertake regular sampling of water throughout the Richmond River, installation and maintenance of water quality loggers, as well as some experimental work to understand how the river responds to these kinds of massive floods,” Professor Maher said. “We will use this information to develop and calibrate water quality models, with the ultimate aim of providing management options to government. As part of this project we are also looking to map out erosion in the catchment, which has been extensive. This will help inform government on where restoration works should be prioritised to reduce the long-term effects of soils being moved from the land to the waterways,” he said.
Damien has always had a passion for the environment, in particular rivers, estuaries and the coastal ocean. He has been exploring these relationships for the best part of two decades and new discoveries keep inspiring him to find out more.
“One of the discoveries we have found is that there are microbes living in the bark that can transform nitrogen gas into nitrogen that the trees can use to grow. This is a really exciting discovery, and may change the way we view the global nitrogen budget, and how forest ecosystems will respond to climate change,” Professor Maher said. Damien credits his collaborations with University colleagues, industry and government as the backbone of delivering research with impact.
“It’s important to realise that good research cannot be undertaken in isolation. Collaborating with other researchers and industry partners has not only helped shape my research focus, but has also provided pathways for translation of research into practice. It is extremely rewarding to see the research I have been a part of being applied to real-world issues.”
Lismore campus activity
Students and staff returning to campus this week, ready for Term 2, will notice some big changes. The evacuation centre is now closed but the campus is actively supporting the recovery effort of the region as a hub of education, health and community services.
Two schools are now sharing the Lismore campus with us and a third is on the way. Trinity Catholic College and the Living School are now housed in R and E block respectively, while the Rivers Secondary College will shortly be housed in temporary classrooms adjacent to the Military Road gatehouse.
A recovery centre continues to operate out of V block, distributing donated goods, food and clothing. More than 30 services are using or have used the campus as temporary or semi-temporary accommodation, including Centrelink, Service NSW, insurance and banking facilities, LegalAid, community services organisations and emergency services including the NSW Police. “It's a version of the concept of town and gown in a way, where you're really bringing parts of the town to the university where it makes sense to do so. That's definitely the way of the future and I think it’s good for students as it provides opportunities for them as well,” said Allan Morris, Vice President (Operations).
Head2Health, the new mental health consulting space is operating out of P block, providing space for mental health services alongside general practitioners and allied health professionals who are operating from the P Block Health Clinic, where pathology services are also located.
The Business Hub in A Block’s Enterprise Lab, set up by Business NSW, is also providing an essential space for people to reboot and re-imagine commercial activities. Regional Manager of Business NSW Jane Laverty said between 20-50 businesses were accessing the hub every day to access workspaces, wifi, support and business recovery information. “The whole goal of the hub for us to retain as many businesses in the Northern Rivers as we possibly can,” she said.
Southern Cross researcher to work with NASA and CSIRO to answer global carbon cycle questions
Professor Dirk Erler and Professor Bradley Eyre
Ever since he was a child Professor Bradley Eyre has always asked ‘why?’
“I’ve always been fascinated by science, with a real interest in natural systems and how they work, but these days I’ve expanded my view to ask how natural systems work at a global level – there are still many unanswered questions,” Professor Eyre says.
The biogeochemist from Southern Cross University’s Faculty of Science and Engineering will lead two ARC Discovery Projects in the same round, taking him from Australia’s flooded inland deserts to the shallow ocean floor along the Great Barrier Reef.
Professor Eyre said he was thrilled to be collaborating with NASA, who will conduct satellite work for the $456,000 project ‘Resolving the role of dryland flooding in the global carbon cycle’ and CSIRO, who will use the findings to inform global carbon cycle modelling.
“This builds on our previous work at Kati Thanda-Lake Eyre in remote Central Australia when it flooded in 2019. My colleague Professor Dirk Erler and I hired a helicopter to gather water samples and became the first scientists to measure greenhouse gas emissions from an inland salt lake and associated flooded river systems,” Professor Eyre said.
“We’ll now prepare everything and wait for the next flood in the Kati Thanda-Lake Eyre’s catchment to do some more detailed sampling, as well as some sampling in the dry, which may lead to the discovery of some of the planet’s missing sources of methane.”
Meanwhile Professor Eyre’s $437,000 project ‘Shallow water carbonate sediment dissolution in the global carbon cycle’ – his latest on the Great Barrier Reef – will determine the amount of alkalinity and calcium released as sands on the continental shelf dissolve, which will also contribute to a better understanding of the global carbon cycle.
These grants are Professor Eyre’s 31st and 32nd ARC-funded projects, with three successful ARC projects in the past year, off the back of another ARC Linkage project awarded at the end of 2020.
Sharing experiences of the Southern Cross Model
With Term 1 of 2022 now complete, we take a moment to reflect on teaching and learning in the Southern Cross Model.
“Teaching into the new Southern Cross Model has been challenging, the fastest six weeks ever!” said Professor Bronwyn Barkla, who taught Plant Science in Term 1.
“Keeping to the rapid turnaround for marking is probably the most difficult task and ensuring students don’t fall behind on the modules. That being said, my students were very positive of the new model, and I like that my teaching commitment is over quickly so I can get back to a focus on research,” she said.
Responding to a survey about the Southern Cross Model on the University’s social media channels, students said they enjoyed having the module content ‘all in the one place’ as well as the more frequent breaks in the academic calendar. The ability to focus on fewer subjects and fitting study around full-time work were also a bonus for students.
The most frequent challenge students experienced was the amount of content to get through in six weeks.
Social Work and Community Welfare Course Coordinator Dr Darran Stonehouse, who taught his first Southern Cross Model unit in Term 1, said the balance between self-learning content and longer class hours required tweaking during the Term. “I had to make adjustments to the learning activities planned for the classes,” he said.
Place-to-place and face-to-face for the University’s International team
After a two-year hiatus, the International team have been back reconnecting and strengthening relationships in our key student markets around the world.
These areas have a rapidly growing youth population and a high demand for up-skilling, meaning that advancing our relationship has never been more important.
Our representatives Subhi Pradhan (Country Manager for Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh and India) and Monty Singh (Chief International Officer), joined numerous events including the Gold Coast Education Destination Showcase Event and Networking Dinner in Mumbai.
The team showcased all the advantages of Southern Cross University and the Gold Coast as a study destination.
“We addressed our new courses, industry collaborations, employability opportunities for international students, and future partnership opportunities with Indian institutions,” Subhi said.
Other events included the Director's Meet and Networking Event in Nepal and plenty of agent reactivation visits in New Delhi, Gurgaon, and Noida.
Monty Singh met with Australia's Ambassador to Nepal, Her Excellency Ms Felicity Volk, at the Australian Embassy in Nepal and discussed strengthening overall relations. The International team has relationships with over 30 of the top colleges in Nepal for hospitality, finance, and management.
A new edition to the 2022 international strategy is the introduction of SCU Info Week, where the elected international agent decorates the whole office with Southern Cross branding and promotes the University for a week to prospective students.
So, what’s next for the International team? Sponsoring the biggest basketball league in Nepal, with an estimated reach of 1 million viewers globally!
Film enthusiasts move SWIFF-tly to Coffs campus for flagship festival
For the second year in a row, the Coffs Harbour campus transformed into a hub for filmmakers and enthusiasts for the Screenwave International Film Festival. As a proud sponsor, Southern Cross was involved in numerous ways for the two-week festival.
A highlight of the program, dubbed the ‘Oscars night for Coffs Harbour,’ was the Nextwave Youth Film Awards at the CHEC Theatre. The event saw a red-carpet arrival, live music, guest speakers, an awards ceremony, and a screening of finalists’ short films.
The Southern Cross interactive cube lightbox brightened the campus, with festival-goers invited to grab a piece of chalk and answer, ‘what is the most valuable thing you’ve ever learnt?’ Responses ranged from ‘bring a blanket into the cinema’ to ‘never stop learning’.
Another highlight was the inaugural Southern Cross Nextwave Accelerator workshop run by Digital Media Lecturer Uwe Terton. He led 30 finalists from schools across the region to create a short montage in the intensive three-hour workshop.
“I am very grateful to have been given the opportunity to facilitate one of the Nextwave Accelerator workshops around film montage. The event is important in nurturing creative talent within the Coffs Harbour community,” said Uwe.
Winding up two weeks of festivities was a panel discussion following the screening of 'Carbon: the unauthorised biography.’ The discussion featured many familiar Southern Cross faces, such as Associate Professor Christian Sanders, Environmental Analysis Laboratory Technical Manager Nadia Toppler, and Marine Science student Luke Austin, who was recently awarded the AgriFutures Horizon Scholarship.
The Solar Sunflower heads to Bondi Beach
The Southern Cross Solar Sunflowertook a road trip to sunny Bondi Beach to attend the Ocean Lovers Festival, a free festival of art, music, ideas and action. The Sunflower helped to offset power from the main stage of the festival, supporting entertainment, live music and talks to over 20,000 people.
Represented by our student ambassadors Max Den Exter English and Isobelle Gapp, the sunflower attracted a crowd of people interested to learn more about the mobile solar generator system, designed and built at our Lismore campus.
Carolyn Grant, Director of Engagement at Ocean Lovers Festival said the Sunflower was an attractive and engaging talking point.
“Bursting open next to our Sunshine Stage right on the beachfront, the solar sunflower symbolised our hope through solutions and science to improve the planet and particularly the ocean by doing our bit to reduce fossil fuel use and greenhouse gas emissions while promoting the adaptable ways to harness the energy of the gorgeous sunshine we enjoyed all weekend. Visitors loved engaging with the Southern Cross University team to find out more about how they powered our sound system which we were very grateful for.”
PhD Q&A: Katrina Campbell on mental health nursing
What are you researching for your PhD? My PhD is about ‘Diagnostic practice in mental health nursing: Understanding the factors that influence clinical decision making for nurses who make a provisional diagnosis of borderline personality disorder in assessment/emergency settings’. It explores how mental health nurses make decisions when providing a diagnosis of borderline personality disorder within the emergency department or crisis context.
Borderline personality disorder is characterised by unstable interpersonal relationships, emotional dysregulation and frequent attempts to avoid abandonment. Often people with this condition will engage in self harm as a way to regulate their emotions or to show people how they are feeling.
What was your motivation to pursue research in this area? My motivation to explore this topic stemmed from my clinical background. I started working in the emergency department with the mental health crisis team and a presentation we saw a lot of was borderline personality disorder. I began to see a pattern of the same patients presenting to emergency who were also contacting us directly for crisis support and did not appear to be improving, instead they were faced with being labelled as ‘borderline’, compromising the care they sought. Borderline personality disorder is not recognised as a condition which requires treatment under the Medicare system so although these people utilise a disproportionate amount of mental health services, they can’t access to right treatment. The aim of my PhD is bring to light how frequently these people were seen in emergency departments, to look at the entry point to health services, and to establish the nurse’s role in assessing these patients.
What are your hopes for the future of healthcare and mental health? When I first started out, I had big hopes that I could change the world, but the more I work through this PhD, the more I realise little steps are needed. I would like to see a mental health system where people can access the appropriate treatment at an appropriate time. As it currently stands, mental health treatment is difficult for most to access and it is costly.
Where to next? What are your plans once you’ve finished your PhD? I think my first step is to take a break from studying! After that, I would like to get into a research position. I have grown to love writing so if I can do that and make a difference through my research in mental health, that would be amazing!
Welcome to the team
Ramon Braga, Research Fellow, Faculty of Science and Engineering
Holly Dowie-Ballard, Marketing Manager, Office of Engagement
Lily Guo, Lecturer, Faculty of Health
Brenda Happell, Professor, Faculty of Health
Rachel Hayes, Administrative Assistant, Southern Cross Analytical Research Services
If you have some news or a story idea you'd like to share in an upcoming edition email us.