Graduates inspired to be adventurous and walk the road less travelled

Published in the May 2014 issue

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A senior surgeon at Lismore Base Hospital has used his occasional address to encourage Southern Cross University graduates to be adventurous, be contributors and to not fear being different.

Adjunct Associate Professor Austin Curtin MB BS, FRACS, was the special guest at the 10am graduation ceremony on Saturday May 10. Dr Curtin holds an appointment to both Southern Cross University and Sydney University as an Adjunct Associate Professor attached to The University Centre for Rural Health in Lismore. He has been in practice as a surgeon on the North Coast since 1985 with appointments to Lismore Base, St Vincents and Casino Hospitals. He has supervised surgical training and tutored medical students at Lismore. Dr Curtin  has served on numerous local hospital boards and currently co-chairs the Ministerial Advisory Committee on Rural Health. He  has a strong interest in Melanoma and has received grant funding to investigate Melanoma Care on the North Coast. He has a lifelong interest in Trauma Care and serves as a Reservist with the Royal Australian Army Medical Corps. Dr Curtin was made a Fellow of Southern Cross University in 2008.

“Despite the different degrees which each of you will take away today, the one common theme that I can see is that of ‘caring’,” Dr Austin told graduates of the School of Environment, Science and Engineering, and the School of Health and Human Sciences at the Lismore campus’ Whitebrook Theatre.

“Whether it be nursing, osteopathy, or environmental science, we all here today care about the future health of individuals or the health of our environment, which directly affects our ability to function as a community.

“The career that you have chosen by completing your studies means that you will naturally make a difference. But, do not be afraid to be different.”

Dr Austin recited Robert Frost’s famous poem, ‘The road not taken’ which the poet delivered at John F Kennedy’s US presidential inauguration more than half a century ago.

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I

I took the one less travelled by,

And that has made all the difference.

“There is real meaning in that poem, about choices and direction, probing and exploration, opportunities and regret, but the essence is in the walking. One must walk the path,” said Dr Austin.

“Do not be afraid to make those choices. Be inquisitive, explore, ask questions and dare to be different. You have studied to gain the knowledge and now you will gain the experience to do the job. You must do it well. This will bring its own rewards.”

Read Dr Curtin’s occasional address in full.

Dr Trish Franklin and her husband Wally Franklin (right) celebrate with Professor Peter Harrison after the graduation ceremony.

Dr Trish Franklin and her husband Wally Franklin (right) celebrate with Professor Peter Harrison after the graduation ceremony.

During the morning ceremony Dr Trish Franklin was awarded a Doctor of Philosophy for the first comprehensive research on how important Queensland’s Hervey Bay is for humpback whales.

The two-decade long study which observed more than 4500 humpback whale pods, revealed that Hervey Bay is a globally unique habitat for the ocean giants and a vital stopover in the southern migration for mature females travelling in the company of immature males and females early in the season, and for mothers with calves later in the season.

“In the Hawaiian and Caribbean breeding grounds in the northern hemisphere, there are no stopover destinations between breeding and feeding areas to study humpback whales,” said Dr Franklin.

“Hervey Bay provides a natural laboratory to study the social behaviour of individuals and pods of humpback whales, after they leave the breeding grounds of the Great Barrier Reef and travel to colder waters during the long southern migration to their Antarctic feeding areas.”

Dr Franklin’s supervisor was Professor Peter Harrison, founding director of the Marine Ecology Research Centre at Southern Cross University.

“The detailed information collected over such a long period represents a globally significant data set that provides very important new information for understanding and managing these extraordinary and beautiful whales,” Professor Harrison said.

Dr Franklin said she was passionate about her work.

“The opportunity to observe and record the daily lives of individual male and female humpback whales in Hervey Bay has been an exhilarating aspect of the work. This has created the opportunity to gain new insights into individual and group social behaviour and the social organisation of humpback whales.

Dr Franklin was among more than 230 graduating students to receive their awards from the Chancellor The Hon John Dowd AO QC across two graduation ceremonies.

The second ceremony, at 2pm, was for graduates of the School of Arts and Social Sciences; School of Education; Gnibi College of Indigenous Australian Peoples; School of Law and Justice; School of Tourism and Hospitality Management; and Southern Cross Business School.

Dr Don Markwell, BEcon(Hons)(Qld), MA, MPhil, DPhil(Oxon), senior adviser on higher education to the federal minister for education, Christopher Pyne, delivered the occasional address at the afternoon ceremony.

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