Four women making outstanding contributions in their fields of endeavour received awards at the Southern Cross University March graduations, including the former Mayor of Lismore City Jenny Dowell who was recognised with the award of Honorary Doctor of the University.
The award recognises Jenny Dowell’s service to the Lismore and Northern Rivers communities and was conferred by the University Chancellor Mr Nick Burton Taylor AM.
Since her retirement in 2016, Mrs Dowell has become a New South Wales Mayoral Mentor and has continued her activism in various charities and on community boards. Her key achievements on Lismore City Council (including eight years as Mayor) were strong community engagement; an improved relationship with Aboriginal people, culture and heritage; and revitalising Lismore’s CBD including securing funding for the new Lismore Regional Gallery.
“I’m quite overwhelmed by this honour,” the former mayor and teacher said.
Before relocating to the NSW North Coast from Melbourne with her husband Ron, Jenny spent 35 years as a teacher of deaf children and a lecturer in speech and language development in Victorian universities.
“Southern Cross University is the reason my family moved to Lismore in 1991 because Ron accepted a lecturer’s position here. Well before I entered politics, the University was central to my family’s life and I understood its key role in our city.
“I will always be a proud supporter of Southern Cross University and accept this Honorary Doctorate with humility. I will continue to be an ambassador of ‘our’ university and its capacity to change lives.”
Dr Dowell delivered the Occasional Address sharing some warm recollections and giving some great advice to the graduates. She urged them to never stop learning; to work out what they want and believe in and be brave in working to achieve it; to get active; and to make a difference.
In the afternoon ceremony, Hanabeth Luke received a Doctor of Philosophy, her third award from the University. Dr Luke’s PhD thesis ‘Social License for Industrial Developments in Rural Areas’ explored the motivating factors behind support and non-support of unconventional gas industry developments in rural Australia, including community aspirations for economic prosperity versus environmental concerns and aspirations for renewable energy development.
Dr Luke, who has a Bachelor of Applied Science (2005) and a Bachelor of Environmental Science with Honours (2012), is an Associate Lecturer in the University’s School of Environment, Science and Engineering. She is also the University’s project manager for Athena SWAN, an internationally recognised gender equity accreditation initiative.
Last month Dr Luke was recognised with a Vice Chancellor’s Citation for Outstanding Contributions to Student Learning for her efforts in developing and teaching the first-year unit Science in Society. Science in Society has opened the world of science to students in an engaging and empowering way, stimulating interest and developing strong foundational skills in scientific thinking.
“I chose to pursue a career in science because I had a thirst to better understand how the natural world works, and my studies at Southern Cross have certainly provided me with this,” said Dr Luke.
“I’m proud to be a staff member today, so that I can continue to engage our first year students, and conduct research in areas that can foster the improved management of our natural environment, in line with community values.”
Years of hard work and determination in the face of tragedy have paid off for former Coffs Harbour florist Johanna Byrne. The 2016 National Indigenous Law Student of the Year, who’s just started a graduate role with top Perth legal firm Lavan, received a Bachelor of Laws awarded with Honours. Johanna was also the Graduate Speaker in the afternoon ceremony.
Johanna’s Honours research thesis, ‘The under-utilisation of Section 32 of the Mental Health Forensic Provisions Act 1990 (NSW)’, was inspired by her own experiences in getting her intellectually disabled son diverted from the criminal system towards help and treatment.
Her long term goal is to be a barrister.
“There are currently not enough Indigenous barristers,” Johanna said. “By going to the Bar I feel I can effectively advocate on behalf of those who are disadvantaged in the community – the Indigenous, the intellectually disabled and the poor – through pro-bono work. A lot of these people cannot afford barristers.”
Speech pathology graduand Claire Lusted was one of two recipients of a University Medal for academic excellence. Claire achieved a Bachelor of Speech Pathology with First Class Honours and was the Graduate Speaker in the morning ceremony.
Claire’s Honours research thesis was parent-child interactions around television and other forms of on-screen content. She studied how technology could help parents encourage their children’s speech, language and learning.
She is now working as a speech pathologist with school-aged children in Warwick, near Toowoomba, for the Queensland Department of Education and Training.
“Neither of my parents attended university, so I feel like getting my degree has been a big accomplishment,’’ said Claire who relocated from Coffs Harbour to Queensland to study at the Gold Coast campus.”
Paula Hallam also received a University Medal for a Bachelor of Laws with First Class Honours.
Later this month 168 students including two Doctor of Business Administration candidates will have their awards conferred at the Sydney graduation ceremony on 29th April at the Wesley Centre in Pitt Street.
Southern Cross University collaborates with IBSU in Papua New Guinea and two graduation ceremonies are also being held at Enga Province and Port Moresby in Papua New Guinea.