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

In 2019, the University published a plan for its journey out to the mid-2020s. I think that it is self-evident to all of us that the extraordinary events of recent years traduced the core suppositions upon which that plan was constructed.

What was not self-evident, however, given the profound, persistent and dynamic nature of the shocks to which we have been subjected over that period, is what our alternative course of action and framework of priority might be.

As the leadership team of the University reflected on this paradox, we became more and more committed to the idea that any new roadmap for our future would need to be firmly grounded in our purpose and a set of values that would guide our mode of thought and our means of doing.

Neither can be magically conjured. Rather, they can only come to life and authentically embody our essence and the compact we make with each other through careful reflection drawing on a great many conversations comprising many and diverse voices.

As such, the last two years has been both a time to do the things necessary to sustain the University in the immediate term and to listen carefully to the many voices that comprise our community in order to best distil an enduring framework of purpose and values as the bedrock for the way that we plan and prioritise for our future.

This month, it will be my privilege to share the product of that journey with the University community as a whole, just as I have recently done with our Council. When I do so, I will be setting out not so much the content of a document, as a living framework for the way that we will set and accomplish our ambitions over the remainder of this decade.

I hope you very much enjoy the content of this month’s edition of Southern Cross Matters and I look forward to engaging with you in coming weeks as we come together as a University community to reflect on our strategic framework for action.

A few highlights during the event at HOTA
A few highlights during the event at HOTA

A very cultured launch of Engineering at HOTA

At Southern Cross University, we’re fans of doing things differently; but this was really different, even for us. Why not launch an engineering course in an art gallery… with our Electric Kombi as a feature?

Last month, art met science at the Home of the Arts (HOTA) in Surfers Paradise, when it hosted around 60 graduate engineers and industry representatives to launch the University’s engineering program in the Gold Coast, starting from 2023. 

Guests were treated to a tour of the Southern Cross-sponsored “Gallery 2”, where curators highlighted works associated with the changing face of the Gold Coast and its built environment. Our new Chair of Engineering, Professor Charles Lemckert, along with Vice President (Engagement), Ben Roche and the Vice Chancellor, Professor Tyrone Carlin, all spoke of the significance of the new offerings. It was great to also hear from industry leaders like Joseph Tam, Queensland Deputy President at accrediting body, Engineers Australia, who spoke about the future of engineering in Australia, the diverse career options available to our graduates and industry’s insatiable appetite for trained engineers. 

The introduction of engineering at the Gold Coast is already proving popular with 91 applications for the Bachelor degree and 15 for the Associate degree received so far for 2023 – and Year 12s haven’t even sat their final exams yet!

Warren Grimshaw AM at Coffs Harbour graduation ceremony
Warren Grimshaw AM at Coffs Harbour graduation ceremony

Honorary doctorate awarded to Warren Grimshaw AM for lifelong services to education

Warren Grimshaw AM can now add ‘Doctor’ to his extensive resume, after being conferred the award of Honorary Doctor of the University at our Coffs Harbour graduation ceremony last month.

The award was bestowed upon Warren in recognition of his services to education. He boasts an impressive list of achievements, which include leading the development of policy across schools, TAFE and universities; as well as pioneering new approaches to teacher, nurse, adult and community education.

Warren said he was flattered to receive the honorary doctorate. “I’m really delighted and honoured to have this award bestowed upon me and I’m most appreciative to the University for making this decision,” he said.

Warren affirmed that his passion for the education sector is fuelled by positive outcomes. “It’s great to see young people and not-so-young people develop and prosper in our first-class education system, through schools, TAFE and universities.”

Head of Coffs Harbour Campus, Professor Les Christidis said Warren was most deserving of the award.

“This award is well earned. It’s a credit to the work Warren’s done in the region. It is appropriate recognition of him as a champion of education in regional Australia,” Les said.

“He’s been so proactive not just in health but in education. So, it’s really fitting that he obtains the highest degree within education.

“He’s extremely humble. He’s not one to have tickets on himself. He is a statesperson in everything he does.”

Warren served as the Executive Director of the Coffs Harbour Education Campus for more than 10 years between 1995 and 2005. Prior to that, he held numerous senior positions in the NSW Government’s Education portfolio, including Executive Director/Chief Executive Officer of the NSW Ministry of Education and Youth Affairs and President of the NSW Board of Studies. Warren also served as Acting Chair of the NSW Education Commission.

Warren was a member of the Southern Cross University Council for over a decade and in 2011 was conferred the award of Honorary Fellow for his contribution to Southern Cross University.

In 1994, Warren was appointed a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) for services to education as part of the Queen’s Birthday Honours List.

Flooded areas within the Northern Rivers region
Flooded areas within the Northern Rivers region

Flood recovery project grants announced

Excellence was front of mind as the Vice Chancellor announced yesterday the successful applicants of The VC Flood Recovery Project Scheme.

Excellence in how the University has leaned into the challenges that the February and March floods presented to the broader University community. Excellence in how the University has dispatched its broad expertise to address the complexities of the rebuild. Excellence in the calibre of applications that were submitted to meet these challenges. So difficult was it to settle on only six projects, the scheme was extended to seven! With each project set receive $25,000 for delivery within 12 months.

“These projects will add to Southern Cross University's deep involvement in the recovery of the Northern Rivers after the devastating floods of early 2022,” Professor Carlin said. “The successful projects were selected due to their exceptional response to the brief which was to support or seed innovative solutions to assist the Northern Rivers Community into the future.” 

The successful applicants and their projects are:

Associate Professor Adele Wessell – Digital archive of the Richmond Catchment     

The creation of an online data repository accessible to researchers, government agencies, historians, local organisations and individuals. The result will be a strategic asset for those seeking to understand how to manage the catchment and restore its health.

Professor Amanda Reichelt-Brushett – Community voice on river health

Talking about the Richmond River - community values for river health in a post-flood environment.

Professor Amy Cutter-Mackenzie-Knowles – Children and youth flood experiences and its impact on education       

This project seeks to understand and map the flood experiences of, and impact on, children and youth. Among its objectives is support for education and community services and the enabling of post-flood recovery practices, including a ‘Floods + me Education Framework’ and ‘Floods + me Community Exhibition’.

Professor Andrew Rose – Mapping the network of community resources contributing to flood recovery        

Research into community support resources that have contributed to flood recovery – and those that will do so going forward – will help in the production of a graphic directory of service providers to support people in their recovery and rebuilding efforts.

Mr Brendan Cox – Improving the ecological health of the Richmond River Catchment       

By creating and coordinating the first year of an ongoing whole-of-catchment citizen science program, this project will assess riverine ecosystem health across the catchment, identify areas of concern for targeted management, and reveal the impact of riparian restoration and replanting projects. 

Dr Feifei Tong – Verify and improve the GIS flood evaluation model 

Focusing on the Wilsons River catchment, this project will collect and analyse an estimated 10,000 photographs and videos taken during the flood by about 2,000 individuals and groups. An ensuing digital map will provide an asset to guide future flood forecasting research and emergency responses, as well as being a visualised memory asset illustrating community needs and bravery.

Associate Professor Mathew Leach - The experiences of extreme flooding and short/medium-term recovery efforts among marginalised groups                

This project aims to measure mental health and wellbeing six months after the floods. Exploring the association between flood exposure, mental health and wellbeing will help to quantify and better understand the associations in relation to a proposed Flood Impact Framework, thereby informing current and future disaster support and mental health service provision.

screenshot of the harvest to health landing page for the news article
Screenshot of the research impact clusters landing page

Research for a better world: Harvest to Health and ZeroWaste clusters now live

In rising to the challenge to create a better tomorrow for our community, the region and the planet, Southern Cross academics have identified four areas in need of urgent attention.

Known as research impact clusters, these four areas represent a targeted approach to a common goal: a better, safer and more sustainable world.

After several months of hard work, two clusters are finally live on our website: Harvest to Health and ZeroWaste.

“The Harvest to Health and ZeroWaste clusters extend our areas of research excellence in different directions and create new synergies. I am very excited to see how these groups develop across Southern Cross University, broadening our research footprint across the region and beyond,” Professor Mary Spongberg, Deputy Vice Chancellor (Research and Academic Capability) said.

With both producers and consumers in the spotlight, research projects conducted within the Harvest to Health cluster will contribute to improved human health alongside sustainable production.

Associate Professor Tobias Kretzschmar, the Harvest to Health research impact cluster lead, affirmed that having the University’s support on what now has become a reality was crucial: “For Southern Cross, this marks a significant milestone towards our development as a global leader in natural products and functional foods. It enables our existing capacities in plant and marine science, analytical chemistry and complementary medicine to join hands to support budding local industries in that space”.

“To me personally, it feels like I’ve come full circle. While working on rice across Asia for seven years, I realised that 21st century food security is more about nutritional security than calories. The cluster is a great step in that direction for me,” said Tobias.

The ZeroWaste cluster research addresses the barriers associated with integrating waste products into the circular economy, developing and implementing cutting-edge scientific, technical, social, economic and education-based solutions.

“After many months of methodical preparation, I’m genuinely excited to see the research impact cluster concept come to fruition. The clusters will reinvigorate research at Southern Cross University, allowing for greater collaboration, more efficient resource use, and ultimately leading to improved outcomes for researchers, students, and the University as a whole,” said Professor Dirk Erler, ZeroWaste research impact cluster lead. 

“For me, the ZeroWaste cluster represents a chance to make real and lasting change. I’ve spent most of my career trying to understand how the natural world functions, but now more than ever I think it’s imperative to develop and implement solutions to the seemingly overwhelming list of problems we face as a society.”

Nepali student Yushmi Majhi during the Fusion Festival at the Gold Coast campus
Nepali student Yushmi Majhi during the Fusion Festival at the Gold Coast campus

Celebrating a fusion of diversity at Southern Cross University

The Student Equity and Inclusion team has been tirelessly creating a safe space to celebrate and learn about our diverse Southern Cross University community. Over the past few months the team has led on-campus events such as Fusion Festival, Wear it Purple Day, and R U OK Day, and many more.

International Gold Coast health student, Yushmi Majhi, who hails from Nepal, said that Fusion Festival gave her a strong sense of belonging.

“It was a great opportunity for me to show and represent my culture. I loved the feeling of being appreciated and honoured for being who I am and where I come from,” said Yushmi.

“I loved the face paint. I got my national flags on my face. It was such a proud moment to remember my home country while we are in a foreign land.”

Fusion Festival has been running since 2008 across all three main campuses and involves numerous activities such as cultural music, cuisines, dances, and art from all different backgrounds.

“Thank you so much Southern Cross University for organising such a beautiful platform for us to represent ourselves and our community,” Yushmi said.

Victoria Drury, Manager of the Student Equity and Inclusion team, was elated to hear that her team’s hard work doesn’t go unnoticed.

“Yushmi’s words bring a tear to my eye! We love the work that we do and to know it makes such a difference to the students’ experience of university is absolutely fantastic,” Victoria said.

What are the team up to next? You can view the Southern Cross Diversity Calendar here.

Graham Lancaster during one of his Waveski sessions
Graham Lancaster during one of his Waveski sessions

Waves of success for Southern Cross researcher at Waveski national titles

Southern Cross researcher Graham Lancaster switched out soils for sand at the Waveski Australian Open last month, placing third in the open division held in Yamba. 

Graham is the Senior Manager of Laboratory Operations at Southern Cross University’s Environmental Analysis Laboratory and Analytical Research Laboratory, which provide a range of services including soil and plant testing. 

When he’s not in the lab, you’re not likely to find him on land. Graham is an avid waveski surfer, a sport that hybridises kayaking and surfing. He is currently ranked seventh in the world in the Waveski Surfing Opens. 

“It’s a fun sport, similar to surfing except you’re belted in and you’ve got to do the same manoeuvres – barrels, aerials, big slashes and big bottom turns,” Graham said. 

The sport has taken Graham to Portugal and Spain to compete; with his passport ready to travel to the United States for this year’s World Titles in California. 

The number seven isn’t so lucky for Graham, who is hoping to move up the ranks at the international competition in November. “I seem to be the one who is always the bridesmaid,” he laughed. “Always in the top 10 but I haven’t conquered anything more than that. It doesn’t mean I won’t be trying.”

The sport requires a high degree of athleticism, with Graham having taken up yoga, Pilates, long distance running and tennis to maintain his fitness for Waveski competition.

Graham said he and a friend discovered the sport at the age of 12 while living in Coffs Harbour. “I have a mate whose mum just wanted to get us outside. She didn’t want us playing computer games. And she picked this sport.

“From then on, we were up at 6am learning how to surf and she took us to contests up and down the coast.”

Graham was successful at Waveski surfing from the start and was crowned Australian Junior Champion in 1985.

Graham has continued competing and said he tried to balance work with catching waves at the week-long Australian Open in September. 

“I try to do work in between and take client calls where I can. But it’s really about concentrating on the competition for that week,” he said.  

Graham said what he loves about Waveski surfing is the fitness and the diversity of challenges presented by waves. “Living with nature and surfing with nature is extraordinary. Sitting in the ocean watching the sunrise or even sunset surfing into the dark is just a fantastic experience.”

Dr Peter Butcherine at the National Marine Science Centre
Dr Peter Butcherine at the National Marine Science Centre

Peter Butcherine is saving shrimp from insecticides

Mass mortality incidents in shrimp and prawn aquaculture inspired Dr Peter Butcherine to investigate how insecticides were affecting these populations. After completing a Doctor of Philosophy, his research is now being applied at a global level. 

What did you research for your PhD?

My thesis was titled "The impacts of sublethal neonicotinoid exposure on shrimp" and reported on the behavioural changes, biochemical impacts and survivorship on shrimp and prawns. I aimed to evaluate the potential for these insecticides to affect shrimp aquaculture at environmentally relevant concentrations and assess the implications for shrimp aquaculture and consumer safety.

What inspired you to pursue this area of research?

My research stemmed from the observation that over the last few decades, mass mortality incidents in shrimp aquaculture, in the absence of pathogens, have become more common and appeared to coincide with the introduction of neonicotinoid insecticides. Globally, neonicotinoids are among the most commonly applied insecticides, and their prolific use has led to the unintended contamination of waterways. This contamination increases risks to non-target species and could impact aquatic food production systems, such as shrimp and prawn aquaculture. An additional influence was the global decline of insect populations and the role that neonicotinoids have purportedly had in this decline, particularly in bee populations.

What were the key findings of your research?

My research confirmed that shrimp were vulnerable to neonicotinoids from aqueous and dietary sources. Neonicotinoids reduced feed consumption which affected the nutritional status of the shrimp, altering fatty acids, carbohydrate metabolism and amino acid metabolism. Consequently, shrimp grew slower and moulted less frequently. Exposure to neonicotinoids reduced allergenic and pathogen response protein expression in shrimp which could affect food safety and increase susceptibility to pathogens. Overall, the changes in shrimp after exposure could have a significant impact on food safety and shrimp aquaculture productivity.  This research has been incorporated into maximum residue limits for pesticides by the European Commission and in the ongoing review of neonicotinoid use in Australia.

Now that you have graduated, what is next?

Currently, I am based at the National Marine Science Centre as a Post-Doctoral researcher working in the Reef Restoration and Adaptation Program (RRAP) cooling and shading subprogram. I enjoy this project's interdisciplinary and collaborative nature and love the challenges that this research presents.

Welcome to the team

Gabi Edwards, Administration Officer (Quality), Office of Business Intelligence and Quality

Deborah Colaso,
Business Intelligence Developer (Power BI), Office of Business Intelligence and Quality

Katie McDonough, 
Learning and Organisational Development Coordinator, HR Services

Carla Valério, Lecturer, Faculty of Education 

Karlah Norkunas, 
Lecturer, Faculty of Health  

Lana McCarthy, 
Senior Lecturer, Faculty of Education 

Aidan Coleman, 
Senior Lecturer, Faculty of Education 

Laura Rodriguez Castro, 
Vice Chancellor Senior Research Fellowship, Faculty of Education 

Laura Webb, 
Alumni Experience Coordinator, Office of Engagement

Brad Christensen, 
Partnership Officer, Office of Engagement

Ayushi Modia, 
Graduate Accountant, Financial Services

Michael Walker, 
Applications Delivery and Support Administrator, Technology Services

Jarrod Leu, 
Cyber and Information Security Specialist, Technology Services

Michael Hidden, 
Student Management Coordinator, Student Administration Services

Tanya Griffin, 
Student Administration Officer, Shared Services Hub 

Amanda Hazlett, 
Student Administration Officer, Shared Services Hub 

Petra Nowak, 
Student Administration Officer, Shared Services Hub 

Angela Lacey, 
Client Services Coordinator, Shared Services Hub 

Michelle Pradhan, 
Student Administration Officer, Shared Services Hub