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WAHED 2020 ‘Champions for Change’

The NCSEHE and Equity Practitioners in Higher Education Australasia (EPHEA) partnered to lead the Australasian hub event for World Access to Higher Education Day (WAHED) on 17 November 2020.

The event celebrated the life-changing work of student equity practitioners in supporting students from disadvantaged backgrounds into and through higher education.

As part of the event, we asked students and staff to nominate someone they felt had demonstrated being a ‘Champion for Change’. We know that it is often small gestures that make a difference to how students experience university — each of us has probably witnessed how a well-timed intervention had a positive impact on an individual learner. These ‘Champions’ have been recognised for repeatedly going above and beyond to ensure that students are supported.

Enacting such gestures has been particularly difficult in the past 10 months—COVID-19 definitely moved the goalposts—so really there are many champions who have excelled in their support of students over this period. For this, we thank you all.

Our WAHED Champions for Change for 2020 (in random order) are…

Zoe Bristowe
University of Otago
Zoe is committed to increasing Māori representation in the NZ health workforce, in turn, improving health outcomes for Māori in Aotearoa New Zealand. This extends to students from low-socioeconomic backgrounds to address health inequity further still. Recently Zoe challenged a subversive proposal from senior university leadership to cap numbers of underrepresented equity groups entering Medicine. She put her job in jeopardy in confronting the proposal publicly and calling out institutional ‘gaslighting’ of her account of proceedings in the media. Her bravery, standing up for our values with integrity, and her overarching dedication to equity saw the University back down and issue an apology. It subsequently acknowledged any future review of the policy must be conducted with consultation in accordance of the Treaty of Waitangi.

Amanda Beer
Federation University
Amanda really understands the needs of students with disabilities and excels at her job. She is supportive of staff and students alike, is always approachable and really has time for people. Amanda goes above and beyond to ensure that every student has the support they need to be successful in their studies.

Megan Smith
University of Wollongong
Over the course of 2020, Meg has motivated a team of staff to flip the entire widening participation offering into a remote learning environment. This has been undertaken in a way that has addressed and listened to the needs of the schools and local communities.

Veronica Sanmarco
University of the Sunshine Coast
No task is too big, No mountain is too high and no day is too short when it come to Veronica finding ways to provide above and beyond leadership to her team as well as the Institution to be USC Diversity and Inclusion Champions.

Amanda Moors-Mailei
University of Technology Sydney
Amanda is a passionate social justice advocate and champion for change – making student equity core university business. She challenges structural barriers to study and supports students from underrepresented backgrounds to realise their potential. Her body of work includes offering comprehensive study and financial support for students from a refugee or asylum seeker background, working with communities to develop culturally-responsive Pasifika mentoring, supporting students who are in out-of-home care, and providing students who have experienced financial disadvantage access to higher education. Her achievements in her role enrich communities and influence structural and policy change.

Jane Finlay
Formerly of Deakin University
Jane entered the Equity sector a relatively short 5 years ago and quickly became a recognized champion. Driving and negotiating many changes and initiatives in our work. In particular, Jane’s passionate and laborious work in developing and implementing university refugee and asylum seeker scholarships. This was difficult and time-consuming work which butted up against many bureaucratic and ideological obstacles which Jane handled effectively with great grace and aplomb.

Rob Cummings
Formerly of Southern Cross University
Rob’s compassion and commitment to equity and inclusion reaches deep into the hearts of everyone he has worked and connected with be it staff, students or the wider community. He has helped countless staff and students feel supported, valued and acknowledged. Rob has been a true champion for change at Southern Cross University and has worked tirelessly and achieved so much across all areas of Equity and Inclusion: from widening participation in schools to refugee programs; his contribution to SCU Reconciliation Action Plan and Indigenous events; supporting students of diverse gender and sexuality and initiating and leading the University’s first Ally Network; creating focused educational programs for students and staff to create a respectful and inclusive environment for all. Rob’s presence and work at SCU will have deep and lasting impacts across both student and staff programs. His passion for equity is felt across the entire institution and beyond into the communities in which we based. We are unfortunately saying goodbye to Rob in 2020, however this nomination is a befitting farewell to a person who will continue to champion change wherever he goes.

Uni 2 Beyond team
University of Sydney
Uni 2 beyond is an initiative for adults with intellectual disability who want to experience university life. Uni 2 beyond students study for interest as audit students at the University of Sydney and are supported by peer mentors to make social connections and to work towards individual learning goals.
There are unique barriers that are experienced by people with intellectual disability, who are typically excluded from the university environment. Whilst formal enrolment into university for people with intellectual disability is mostly unattainable, over and over again findings demonstrate the wide reaching benefits. Uni 2 beyond not only supports students with intellectual disability to experience university life, but also supports Australia to meet its requirements as a ratified member of the UN Convention.

Cate Morris
University of Western Australia
Cate has been nominated as she is “a crucial member to our team in our objective to made higher education more equitable and accessible. Her wisdom and experience enables our team to engage with schools and students smoothly and she has risen to the occasion many times to lend a helping hand to, not only our own team members but, other programs and initiatives. She is committed to the work we do as Equity Practitioners and is a highly respected friend and advisor to all in our team.”

Tierney Mary
University of New South Wales
Tierney is recognised within UNSW as a caring advisor, generous colleague and dynamic advocate for change when it comes to working with and for equity cohort students. Tierney’s frontline work in the equity space at UNSW has informed her exciting PhD project, which will add a much needed contribution to knowledge with regard to the embodied labour undertaken by equity practitioners in universities across Australia. Despite the challenges caused by COVID-19, Tierney has remained positive, energetic and optimistic. She always goes the extra mile to support and care for her students and to find ways to navigate the structures and systems of the university.

Bethany Ross
University of Technology Sydney
Beth is a social justice champion with a passion for student equity. This year has seen significant pivots in her work, with rapid transition to online student engagement. At all points she has remained responsive during periods of change, addressing the emerging needs of underrepresented young people and their families.

Pia Robinson
Queensland University of Technology
Pia goes above and beyond to design engagement opportunities in the creative arts are accessible and relevant to equity cohorts who may not otherwise have the opportunity, or see the value in participating in creative outlets. Pia consistently demonstrates her passion for young people, particularly those who are disengaged or have aspirations in that arts, and uses creative outlets to help them realise their potential.

Professor John Fischetti
University of Newcastle
Professor Fischetti is dedicated and committed to increase higher education equity, diversity and inclusion at the University of Newcastle, Australia. He has worked tirelessly as a change-maker to develop and implement alternate equity pathways into undergraduate programs. This has paved the way for many students, who otherwise would not have had the opportunity, to pursue an undergraduate degree in an area they are passionate to pursue.

Umneea Khan
University of Western Australia
Umneea is an inspiration to many of the students who have had the opportunity to know her. She is compassionate, a true Champion for change and lives a life of service. She developed the UWA Fairway Program and has become known as ‘uni- mum’ for many students due to her commitment to her work.

Darlene McLennan
Australian Tertiary Education Network on Disability (via UTAS)
Darlene has forged herself a national reputation as an outstanding advocate for equity of opportunity for People with Disability. In her advocacy, she has been both creative and tireless, embracing new technologies and opportunities to engage with critical stakeholders. Darlene has sought a fairer system that embraces the principles of Universal Design for Learning and a person-centred approach to support and mitigate barriers. All who know her value Darlene as a strong networker and collaborator, and acknowledge her as a passionate and tireless mentor, advocate, supporter, leader, facilitator, connector, strategic and conceptual thinker, friend, role model, champion for inclusion, and driver of change.

Jaymee Beveridge
University of Wollongong
As the Director of the University of Wollongong’s [UOW] Woolyungah Indigenous Centre [WIC], Jaymee’s passion and vision towards increasing inclusion has reshaped not only the physical space at UOW but has lead her to build a new team and a new team culture prioritising unprecedented levels of individualised student support at WIC. Jaymee’s many efforts and initiatives have not only made tertiary education more accessible and realistic to an ever increasing Indigenous Australian student cohort; with her leading role in safe space and celebrating diversity initiatives, such as the Forging Unified Safe Environments (FUSE), Jaymee has ensured positive change for many communities through the empowerment of those students who fall under the equity banner.

Laurie Poretti
University of Canberra
Laurie is always first in line to volunteer and be involved with improving access and availability of higher education to all students. Laurie works across the University, academically and professionally, to source information, knowledge, resources to assist students. Laurie has worked over and above what is expected of staff in 2020, to ensure all continuing and commencing students in any way affected by the pandemic can continue their studies and live a safe life.

Tomayess Issa
Curtin University
Dr Issa was nominated by several of her students for being an outstanding supervisor, and for providing support, guidance and mentorship.

Sonal Singh
University of Technology Sydney
Sonal has demonstrated ongoing initiative, strategic leadership and dedication to student equity. She is a role model in the field and her passion, dedication and body of work influences structural and policy change.

Dr Lynne Stuart and Aunty Leone Smith
University of the Sunshine Coast
Lynne and Aunty Leone are committed to building and promoting reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians and implementing strategies to increase the participation rate of Indigenous Australian students in higher education study. USC Indigenous nursing academics, ‘Two Black Swans,’ Aunty Leone, and Lynne, have created the USC’s Capture and Keep model. Designed to support the Next Generation of Indigenous Nurses and Midwives – to ‘Close the Gap.’ The model supports Indigenous nursing and midwifery higher education students to succeed in their studies. ‘Capture and Keep’ provides the students with cultural and academic guidance and support for them to be successful in navigating both the university and clinical health environments. Aunty Leone and Lynne skilfully work in partnership with the USC student support systems to facilitate students’ best outcomes. Recognition must go to ‘Two Black Swans’ for their on-going commitment to reconciliation and the ability to identify and embed multiple initiatives with USC and the broader community.

Deanna Grant-Smith
Queensland University of Technology
Deanna has made an important contribution to debates about the potential impact of unpaid practicum and internships on the wellbeing of students from a wide number of disciplines including urban planning, education, business, creative industries, nursing, and health. Her scholarship is at the vanguard of research into student unpaid work experiences and has been instrumental in raising awareness of the financial and psychological impact of WIL on students and in advocating for WIL experiences that meet student learning needs without compromising their wellbeing.

Mikaela Dockrill
University of Canberra
Mikaela has worked with the University of Canberra’s Student Equity, Participation, and Welfare (SEPW) team for the last two years in the role of the Student Transition and Retention Coordinator. She is a dedicated and passionate leader who is instrumental in bringing people together so that all UC students have access to transformative, supportive, and positive educational experiences. Mikaela has also been instrumental in providing swift and meaningful responses to the COVID-19 pandemic. As the university moved to remote teaching and the campus went into lockdown, Mikaela stepped up, working tirelessly to ensure students were communicated with and supported at every opportunity.

David Swayn
STEPS Group
David has an never-ending bucket of energy to champion change at local and systemic levels for inclusion and sharing best practice to ensure people with disability are effectively empowered to achieve their potential in all domains. David has instigated various regional and national initiatives including EAQ and USEP, contributed to government lobbying on behalf of ATEND and has a detailed underpinning knowledge of policy, legislation, and funding that informs his motivation to make change happen for the greater good. And he’s a lovely person to chat to which always helps to connect to and be inspired by his passion, insights and determination.

Sharon Twyford
University of Wollongong
Sharon has committed over 30 years to enabling students at the University of Wollongong to achieve their study goals. Sharon has supported students on entry to UOW, through the Woolyungah Indigenous Centre, as well as working on projects to retain students from targeted equity groups to progress with their degree.

John Tran
University of Technology Sydney
John is an innovative and creative champion for change. He works every day to support students from disadvantaged backgrounds in accessing higher education. His body of work includes offering support for students from a refugee or asylum seeker background, and working cross-institutionally. He is passionate about supporting communities to have equal access to enter and succeed at university.

Karen Seary
CQUniversity
Karen has worked in the Enabling sector for the past 25 years, initially employed in 1994 as the Campus Coordinator and lecturer within CQUniversity’s Skills for Tertiary Education Preparatory Studies Course (STEPS). Karen is now the Associate Dean, School of Access Education and is also the Chair of the National Association of Enabling Educators Australia (NAEEA). Karen has a true heart for enabling. She strongly advocates for enabling and believes in the philosophy behind the widening participation agenda and she always considers what is best for the students coming through the program. She stands proud when she witnesses our enabling students transition into higher education and go on to complete a degree. She is the true epitome of a person who is a Champion for Change and will continue to be the voice of the enabling student at every opportunity at her disposal.

Sarah Walker
Australian National University
Sarah has worked tirelessly over the past 10 years at ANU dedicating her time to the wellbeing and support of ANU students. I have worked for her for almost three years now and am continuously inspired by her dedication to improving the experience of students at the ANU and in particular those from equity or untraditional backgrounds. She has been instrumental in establishing programs to support equity students including the First-Year Experience program which supports the transition to university for students from various equity groups, rural and remote backgrounds, low-SES students, and First Generation students. As manager of the Engagement and Success team she ensures that this dedication to supporting the wellbeing of our students and equal access to opportunity is prevalent in all of our student experience programs.

Deb Toman
University of Technology Sydney
Deb has helped support my studies this year by introducing me to the Read & Write Gold assistive technology. The audio speaker has helped me achieve Distinctions and took a lot of pressure off me. Deb helped me be granted extensions as well. Deb has always been warm and supportive, sending me all the information I require. Deb has known me for many years and saw my recuperation progression. It has been a comfort to have someone in the university who has witnessed my study journey for over a decade and will always advocate on my behalf so I can achieve my goals. Deb tries to find solutions so that I can be fully supported or lets me know about things I may have not been aware of.

Professor Kylie Readman
Murdoch University
Kylie provides exceptional leadership across Murdoch University on a wide range of areas contributing to equity in higher education. She ensures that every staff member understands and sees their own responsibility and ability to make an impact on the experience and success of equity students, particularly students who are first in family, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students, and Low SES students. She is vocal in her advocacy for all areas of the work that we do, and openly speaks with the University community about the unique challenges that equity students may face and the ways that we can help them succeed, and by leading targeted initiatives that aim to support and improve the experience of equity students.

Sharon Stewart
University of New England
Sharon was nominated by both a student and a colleague, who both said that her enthusiasm is infectious. Sharon was very attentive and proactive in her approach to working with this student who wrote: “Incredibly I went from just passing to all Distinctions and a High Distinction in my final year of my studies at UNE. It is proof that extensions can help accessibility students reach their full potential.”

Rithu Narendra
University of Technology Sydney
Rithu is an innovative and creative champion for change. She works to support students from disadvantaged backgrounds in accessing higher education. Prior to her current role, Rithu was an Ambassador working in high schools, directly impacting the lives of other students through the sharing of her story and experiences. She is passionate about supporting communities to have equal access to enter and succeed at university.

Elisa McGowan
University of Western Australia
Elisa manages a large and diverse team who oversee the University’s aspiration and outreach programs (nationally award winning Aspire and Fairway programs) as well as supporting our current students. Western Australia’s geographical expanse creates unique challenges for diversity and inclusions teams. Elisa successfully pivoted the team to remote delivery during COVID lockdown and restrictions, ensuring our students in regional and remote communities continued to receive the support of UWA in pursing their higher educations dreams. Elisa’s grace and good humour brings people together and is significant in ensuring that all of the UWA community, including alumni and donors understand the vision and goals of the team. Elisa is currently engaging in an evidence based approach in the development of a new whole of institution Student Access and Participation Framework, most importantly ensuring that there is a significant student voice in the co-design. In short, she is a rock star!

Kate Flynn
Queensland University of Technology
Kate has worked in QUT’s equity unit for many years and has coordinated QUT’s widening participation program since 2016. She tirelessly advocates for the valuable WP work conducted by QUT, the Queensland Statewide Consortium (current deputy chair) and Nationally (is on the EPHEA executive). She is a strategic thinker who always goes the extra mile (lately against considerable head winds!) and all decisions are based on their value to equity students. She has worked long hours during this most difficult of years but always, always has time to provide emotional and professional support to her staff and colleagues.

Sarah Ellis
University of Technology Sydney
Sarah is a program manager within the CSJI, has seven years’ experience working in the higher education sector leading strategic planning for student equity initiatives and academic support programmes. She has experience coordinating the design, implementation and evaluation of outreach programs that aim to increase the participation of students from identified equity backgrounds, with an emphasis on equitable academic attainment and access.

Ingrid Cumming
Curtin University
As Curtin’s Nyungar Cultural Advisor, Ingrid goes above and beyond to support and drive change across the organisation and our wider community, celebrating and embedding Nyungar culture as a part of Curtin’s identity, and guiding our way to Reconciliation.

Liz Penny
University of Technology Sydney
Liz Penny was my very first Accessibility Consultant after I had a car accident. Liz let me know I was eligible for a Diversity Access Scholarship which really helped me continue with my studies, go on to complete my Bachelor of Arts and now continue with my masters. Liz introduced me to technology supports, the option for extensions and all things I had been unaware of. It was reassuring and is why I still continue to choose UTS as a university to study with.

Mary Teague
University of New South Wales
Mary offers expertise and leadership at UNSW and to the national equity space. Despite the challenges of a professional review, resulting in a leaner team, and COVID-19, Mary has made significant positive changes since taking on her role as Director, Access & Equity (Students) at UNSW in late 2019. She has worked tirelessly and collaboratively across the institution to forge new pathways for equity students through the UNSW Gateway early conditional offer program. Mary is also leading an innovative and exciting voluntary consortium outreach project in partnership with UTS and MQ and seven partner schools across the Greater Western Sydney area. This project is groundbreaking, visionary in its scope, collaborative shape, and it has high goals. Kudos to Mary!

Emelyn Dodd
University of Technology Sydney
Emlyn has practiced and researched within student equity, widening participation and access pathways to higher education for eight years across a number of institutions in NSW. His combined extensive practitioner experience and research capabilities influence the tertiary education landscape to be more inclusive and accessible.

Jade Andrews
University of Wollongong
Jade has demonstrated an ongoing commitment to supporting students in the Batemans Bay community. During a particularly challenging year for the Batemans Bay community, with bushfires and the impacts of COVID-19, Jade has gone above and beyond to engage the university with national projects that benefit the local community.

Melissa Ronca
University of Technology Sydney
Melissa is a passionate social justice advocate. She has demonstrated innovation and creativity in her work through iterative program development, rethinking ways we can evidence the outcomes of our social justice work and she takes a big-picture view to making change. Her work increases access and tertiary success for future students.

I belong team: Andrea Brown, Melissa Keenan, Victoria Smith, Imelda Cooney, Annalise Matthews, Maddy Yewers
Equity and Inclusion, RMIT University
With COVID, partnering secondary school staff told us they were really struggling to engage their students in that sense of the possibilities of a positive future, with many students disengaged and pessimistic and not participating. The I Belong team swiftly reimagined their program to deliver a series of online and digital events, drawing on the best of RMIT’s disciplinary expertise in our teachers and students, who engage others with their passion for and expertise in their discipline. The success of this year’s digital program has not only overcome some of the expected delivery challenges related to COVID, but it has also demonstrated the potential of remote delivery of I Belong’s aspiration-raising programs to regional, rural and remote schools in the future. When young people’s futures in terms of access to tertiary education and employment are a little bit bleaker with COVID, this team demonstrates the RMIT values of passion, inclusion, and agility to have impact on young people’s sense of themselves and their possibilities.

Nicole Clark
Queensland University of Technology
Although a lateral equity practitioner via the QUT library, Nicole is a true Champion for Change in the equity sphere. She is always the first person to ask how her influence or area can help to implement equity initiatives and is an active and productive participant to raise awareness of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and ensure that QUT is a safe place for the LGBTIQA+ communities.

Shannon Van Zanen
University of Wollongong
Shannon is a superstar! she goes above and beyond to make higher education more inclusive and accessible. Shannon coordinates UOWs Year 12 University Preparation Program, this program is usually a face to face program however this year with covid the program was pivoted to 100% online. Shannon was a leader in this change. Shannon’s tireless work resulted in more then 400 equity students completing the program. She kicked goals and the program was a huge success.

Kendell Powell
University of Technology Sydney
Kendell is an innovative and creative champion for change. She works every day to support students from disadvantaged backgrounds in accessing higher education. She is passionate about supporting communities to have equal access to enter and succeed at university.

RMIT Equitable Learning Services team: Rick Boffa, Mark Mallett, Hannah Freedman-Smith, Joseph Beswick, Maddy Dack, Jacinta Jones, Jessica Craig-Piper, Smoxi Chen, Reema Muneer
RMIT
In the year of considerable disruption associated with COVID-19 and the transition to online and remote learning, the RMIT Equitable Learning Services team has provided wonderful services to students with disability. In addition to providing professional consultations and advice to over 3,000 students with disability, mental health issues, or who are carers of people with disability (up from 1740 in 2019), they have undertaken individual reach-outs to all registered students. They have also engaged in far more liaison with teaching staff, ensuring that they are well supported to implement reasonable adjustments and inclusive teaching practice in the online learning environment.

Sian O’Sullivan
University of Wollongong
Sian O’Sullivan is a Champion of Change from the Peer Learning Team at UOW. Sian is dedicated and committed to ensuring inclusive and accessible access to Peer Learning programs, assisting thousands of students in achieving academic success in their higher education journey for over a decade of her tenure in this team. Sian’s dedication to going above and beyond is highlighted through her commitment to the Peers that then facilitate the programs. This involves training, managing, and mentoring peer-students leaders, growing over the last 10 years from 60 to over 100 each year. Sian has curated a community of not just competent but confident peer leaders that support our community of practice.

Merrin McCracken
Deakin University
Merrin has been an advocate for students with disabilities at Deakin for decades, and the deep experience and commitment to the students and her staff has made the path so very much easier for hundreds of students with disabilities. Her current emphasis on working towards inclusive education is challenging as it involves cultural change, long-term approaches, creativity and good humour, but she isn’t letting the task daunt her. This year has been particularly challenging for Merrin and her staff and they have gone above and beyond for the sake of their students.

David Eckstein
Swinburne University of Technology
David has been nominated for his infectious enthusiasm and dedication. A true Champion for Change.

Culshi Woodward
University of New England

Culshi is always finding gaps in our policies and procedure and exploring unique ways to fill those gaps by continually promoting inclusivity.

RMIT Equity and Inclusion team: Gina Solakis, Kath Davies, Stella Armstrong, Riley Edwards, Rebecca Datson, Gerogie Larkins, Jade McKenna
RMIT University
As COVID impacts emerged, many students were ill-prepared for off-campus learning, with concerns re access to campus resources including technology, and the loss of academic and peer networks. They had severe financial hardship, and a lack of government income support for many, as well as anxiety and distress for themselves and their families with precarious accommodation. In addition to the usual student services, the Equity and Inclusion team, Students Group, managed the ‘COVID grants scheme’ with $10m of hardship support for technology and emergency financial grants, as well as practical support, advice and referrals for basic emergency living needs and wellbeing. There were contributions from so many across RMIT but this award nomination recognises the particular contribution of the Equity and Inclusion team, Students group, over many months to prioritise the design, management and implementation of this grants scheme. One student recipient wrote: “Thank you. Very, very much. I was so stressed and overwhelmed. You helped so much. Exactly when I needed it.

Posted 17 November 2020 Posted in General