Friday, December 20, 2013

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Another year is coming to end and I’m looking forward to spending some time with my family over the holidays.

Despite the University having to make some tough decisions during the year, we have certainly achieved some amazing things, making the outlook for 2014 very bright. Our domestic student enrolments have grown over the course of the year and we’ve at long last begun to see a turnaround in international student enrolments. This year we’ve also had some impressive results in the international university rating system, QS Stars, and more recently secured Australia’s biggest share of funded postgraduate student places for allied health and nursing. We have also gained additional funded places for our popular enabling program STEPS. And of course the imminent merger with CQ TAFE and the injection of Commonwealth funding gives us plenty to look forward to, not just in 2014 but beyond.

As of July next year, CQUniversity will be responsible for the education and training of up to 40,000 students across the country, in a vast range of study areas from Certificate I to PhD.  This will make CQUniversity like no other university in Queensland. It will be history making for all involved and is creating a lot of excitement for staff, students, industry and the community.

Reflecting back on all that has happened this year, for me, 2013 has been about the people of CQUniversity – our dedicated staff, our fantastic students, and the wonderful communities who have supported us throughout our journey this year.

Yes, this year has had its challenges, but I have never been prouder to be Vice-Chancellor, then during this year.  I would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge and thank our hardworking and committed staff for working tirelessly throughout the year.

As much as I love holidays, I am looking forward to getting back to work next year and moving forward with transition activities. Without wanting to wish the first half of next year away, I can’t wait for 1 July.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to everyone, I hope you have a very safe and very relaxing break!

Thanks for checking in on my blog over the past year.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Health funding will benefit regional Queensland

No one can argue that there has long been a shortage of skilled health workers to service regional areas of Australia. This is an issue training providers, universities and governments alike have worked to address over the years.

There are many reasons why there are shortages in regional and remote Australia but a common explanation usually relates to difficulties in luring health professionals away from larger cities and the lifestyles these metropolitan centres can offer – especially to young people.

I have always said that those who study local, are more likely to stay local and this couldn’t be more true when it comes to health professionals. Students who leave their regional hometowns to study at metro universities are less likely to return home after completing their studies and regional universities find it harder to attract students from larger cities. If we can do something to turn this around and encourage people to study at their regional university or to relocate and study in a regional centre I think we can start to fill this void.

This is why I congratulate the Federal Government on their recent announcement to fund almost 300 additional places in postgraduate health programs at CQUniversity.

The Government has recognised the need for highly trained health professionals in regional Queensland and CQUniversity has demonstrated a strong capacity to deliver educational pathways.

Students are the big winners because they will now have more options to further their studies and become highly trained health professionals upon completion. I hope this will go a long way in both encouraging people (especially recent school leavers) to stay in Central Queensland to study and luring students from the city to study with us.

The other big winner will of course be regional Queensland communities who will benefit access to health professionals on their doorstep.

This is such a positive development not just for CQUniversity but other regional universities, as this type of funding supports universities, that are serving communities with the highest demand for skilled workers. 

Monday, November 25, 2013

White Ribbon Day

It’s frightening to read the statistics about domestic violence in Australia – anywhere from one-quarter to one-third, and even up to one-half (depending on the survey) of Australian women will experience physical or sexual violence by a man at some point in their lives. And tragically, one woman is killed every week in this country by a current or former partner.

White Ribbon is male-led movement that encourages men to make a commitment against violence, promote positive attitudes and behaviours towards women amongst their peers and to intervene safely to prevent violence again women when needed. In fact the awareness campaign was started following a massacre of 14 women at a university in Canada more than 20 years ago.

As such the United Nations General Assembly declared 25 November as the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, the White Ribbon is the iconic symbol of this day and is a timely reminder for both men and women to encourage positive behaviour and make a stand against violence towards women.

This is particularly relevant for communities in regional and remote Australia as it is these areas where instances of domestic violence are highest. Violence has a profound and damaging impact on its victims and on the community as a whole. When women are assaulted by men, or constantly threatened and abused, this leaves deep physical and psychological scars for not just them but their children, friends and extended family.

This violence against women is not just a women’s issue. In fact it’s a social issue where men can play a key role in the solution. Not every man is responsible for violent behaviour, but we can all do something to reinforce the fact that violence against women (or violence against anyone for that matter) is not acceptable.

So, what can we all do? The simplest thing you can do is to wear a white ribbon or wristband today. This shows others that you do not excuse violence against women or turn a blind eye and that you’re committed to supporting local and global action to stop the violence for good.

I’d also like to take this opportunity to highlight the work some of our researchers, like Heather Nancarrow, are doing in this field through the Queensland Centre for Domestic & Family Violence Research. This Centre, located at our Mackay campus, contributes to the prevention of domestic and family violence by informing, promoting and supporting the actions of individuals, communities, services and governments through leadership in research, professional development, education and community engagement.

I’m also so pleased that as part of our last Enterprise Bargaining Agreement we now offer staff affected by domestic violence the opportunity to access domestic violence leave and employee assistance. This is just one way we as an organisation are making a stand against domestic violence and ensuring victims feel that they can access help when needed.

Let’s let today be a reminder that we all need to take a stand against violence. What will you do to raise awareness and promote positive attitudes and behaviour? 

Friday, November 22, 2013

Open minds make all the difference

Do you know that almost half of the population will experience a mental health disorder at some point in their life?

That’s right, mental health issues are common, but there is still an immense social stigma attached to mental health disorders.  This is most likely why many people prefer not to seek help despite recognising the symptoms.

What’s more mental health will affect most of us on different levels from time to time and I’m sure there isn’t one person who from time to time hasn’t needed time off work for ‘mental health day’. So why is there still such a social stigma? Why is talking about mental health still so taboo in this day and age? Why is it more socially acceptable to get the flue then it is to be suffering from depression?

As life gets busier, mental health issues are going to become more prevalent so it’s everyone’s responsibility start recognising the signs and looking at mental illness without the stigmas. Someone suffering from a mental illness shouldn’t have to hide it, if they choose they should be able to openly discuss it in the same way they would a cold or a sports injury.

Initiatives like Mental Health Week and RU OK? Day have done much in recent years to start addressing taboos around mental health and have quite likely save many lives because people have realised that mental health is something they can talk about and get with.

As depression is predicted to be one of the world largest health problems by 2020, I think we should all continue to check on our loved ones, friends and colleagues (and even complete strangers) from time to time, not just on highlighted days. Importantly we should also take stock of our own mental health and act on it.

CQUniversity is a world leader in mental health nursing research and I am very proud of the innovative work Professor Brenda Happell and her team do in this area.  This important research is not just helping students learn about the complex area of mental health nursing but is helping individuals and communities in achieving better mental health outcomes. Through the work of this team, students at CQUni have the opportunity to collaborate closely with teachers who have a lived experience of mental illness in order to deeply understand consumer perspectives on mental illness and recovery and to de-stigmatise mental health issues. This method helps students to understand that people suffering from mental illness aren’t just patients but people with the same needs, hopes and dreams as everyone else.

This helps our students understand that mental health sufferers are not just patients, but are real people with hopes, dreams and desires that go well beyond their mental illness. This approach is leading the way in Australia and overseas by involving the mental health ‘consumer’ in their own recovery, delivering empowerment to both the caregiver and receiver. 

Monday, October 28, 2013

A true inspiration

As a Vice-Chancellor I am lucky enough to meet people on a daily basis who inspire me. They might be a student who has overcome significant hardship to be accepted into university and go on to top their class, a staff member who thinks of an innovative new way to do something, or a member of the community who is doing their bit to help others.

Every now and then however you will come across someone who complete blows you away. Someone who’s story is so powerful it makes you look deep within yourself to see if you to have those same qualities. For me that happened when I had the pleasure of meeting Matthew Ames.

Matthew is a husband and father of four (as well as the brother of one of our lectures Dr Kate Ames), who just over a year ago suffered from a severe illness, whereby the only way to save his life, was to amputate both arms and both legs. Afterwards he was in a coma for three weeks and spent almost two months in intensive care. In the year since his operation, Matthew has made a recovery that has amazed everyone who has shared his journey, powered by love and support from his family, a positive attitude and focus on what he can do, rather than what he can't.

Matthew is without a doubt one of the nicest and most remarkable people I have ever met. His bravery and resilience in the face of such adversity is nothing short of amazing. To see what he has achieved in only one short year since his illness makes you really believe that nothing is impossible.
Everyone at CQUniversity was lucky enough to have the opportunity to attend a guest lecture with Matthew and I know that every single person who went along would have come away a better person because of it.
Thank you so much for sharing your story with us Matthew, and also to your wonderful wife Di.
If you would like to learn more about Matthew and his story please go to

Me with Matthew and his wife during their recent visit to CQUni Rockhampton

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Success in QS ratings helps to bring about positive focus

QS Stars is a breakaway ratings system from the highly reputable Times Ranking System, that rates universities from around the world in categories such as internationalisation, online delivery, access, teaching, employability and research.

This was our first time participating in the ratings system, and we achieved an impressive 3 stars overall, while scoring specifically a 4 star rating for both teaching and facilities. But the major cause for celebration in all of this was our 5 star rating for internationalisation, access and online delivery.

We pride ourselves on being a university for everyone and to receive ratings like these for student accessibility, online delivery and internationalisation (indicated by our proportion of international staff and students, as well as the strength and number of our international partnerships) is truly a great achievement.

Ratings like these not only give us all a much needed pat on the back but help us enormously to build our global reputation and attract students to our University. Participating in these ratings also provides us with a benchmark for future growth and improvement. 

Pro Vice-Chancellor Ailsa Lamont accepts CQUniversity's award in Istanbul

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Real World learning preparing students for the 'Real World'

There’s no doubt about it, the human body is both weird and wonderful and our Allied Health students get to learn every day about its quirks. Specifically they are now beginning to get an even greater insight into human anatomy, thanks to the use of plastinated body parts within our anatomy courses.

For those who have never heard of Plastination, it is a chemical technique developed by Germany’s Gunther von Hagens, made famous by his Body Worlds exhibitions. The technique preserves bodies, or body parts (yes actual human body parts from people who have donated their bodies to science), so that they can be safely used for educational purposes. CQUniversity is one of the first Australian universities to introduce plastinates.

The intricate detail preserved within each plastinate makes them perfect for tertiary level programs, and so there was little hesitation when it was proposed that this ingenious teaching tool should be introduced into our class rooms. Coming from a health background myself, I cannot stress enough the value of learning about the human body from a human body. What’s more the use of these plastinates is a great way to help familiarise students with the human body in way that is much less confronting than the use of cadavers.

The use of such realistic teaching practices is a direction I am proud that CQUniversity is taking. Along with plastinates our School of Medical and Applied Sciences have also introduced displays cast from original bone, from the Bone Clones® Human Adult Skeleton Series and our School of Nursing and Midwifery has gained National and International recognition for the Mask-Ed (KRS Simulation) pioneered by our very own Professor Kerry Reid-Searl. 

This ‘real-world’ approach is not only preparing our students for clinical practice but is preparing them for their careers. Click here to see a video about plastinates at CQUni.

Monday, September 9, 2013

From the Torres Strait to the Pilbara, via CQUni

The great thing about universities is that every student who comes through the door has a different story to tell - how they got there, why they chose to study and where they are going next. Every story is unique and so is every student.

In our latest CQUniversity Be Magazine there is a great example of this, in the story of Adeah Kabai.

Adeah is from Sabaii Island, a remote island in the Torres Strait, located just four kilometres from Papua New Guinea. He talks about his homesickness after leaving the Island, to attend boarding school in Yeppoon and the struggles he faced being away from his family at such a young age, before going on to become a student at CQUniversity.

At the age of 15 Adeah’s life changed when he was asked to attend an Indigenous engineering summer school at the University of New South Wales. It was this experience that opened his eyes to the possibilities that lay ahead and his future career in engineering.  It also made him understand that by attaining a good education he could one day go on to apply his skills to helping the community of Sabaii Island.

Adeah’s higher education journey initially began in Sydney, but after a semester he decided that he preferred life in Central Queensland and was accepted into the CQUniversity Bachelor of Engineering Co-Op program.

The Co-Op program is unique in that it offers students the chance to embark on paid work experience with organisations in their chosen industry. In Adeah’s case he gained a cadetship through Rio Tinto’s Indigenous Cadetship Support Program. Not only did Adeah get to learn through paid, real-world, work experience but he was also guaranteed full-time employment after graduation.

Adeah will now be taking up a full-time position with Rio Tinto in an iron ore mine in the Pilbara, commencing next year. Adeah is a great ambassador for CQUniversity and I am sure his story will go on to inspire other Indigenous students living in rural and remote areas. 

Click the image above to read more about Adeah's story

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Everyone a winner

More than 150 students from across our campus network, visited Rockhampton last week to take part on some friendly sporting action and take in the local region. Many of the students were international students from our metro campuses, so they really relished the opportunity to visit Central Queensland and the heart of their university.

The home team took home the prize at the end of competition, but all participants were winners at the end of it all – making new friends and sharing new experiences.

Many thanks to all the students who participated and the fantastic staff who make the competition possible!

Friday, August 2, 2013

The sky is the limit for distance ed

CQUniversity has long been a provider of distance education within the Australian higher education Sector. We have been doing it for decades (almost 40 years to be precise) and I’d like to think we’ve made plenty of advancements since then.

People choose distance education for many different reasons – flexibility being number one. Many students realise that external study is the most convenient way for them to combine study with personal commitments, as they work towards a post graduate qualification, or seek to change their career path.  

The demand for distance places and programs is most certainly increasing, with many Australian universities now realising this need. Notably those that have not previously had a presence in the space are now moving towards delivering courses and or programs via distance mode.

Aside from flexibility, it goes without saying that technology, particularly mobile technology is the key driver in the uptake of distance programs. Rapid developments in technology are changing the way we learn and retrieve information, and most importantly changing expectations. Ten years ago many of our students were still receiving hardcopy learning materials in the post and weren't able to take advantage of the lectures and tutorials that on-campus students could. Now they can receive learning resources instantaneously in the palm of their hand and attend classes just by following a link.

As well as contributing to a more interactive learning experience for students, technology is also allowing universities to expand distance program offerings. In fact one of the most exciting programs being offered by CQUniversity, via distance education is paramedic science. In this instance technology has made all the difference in being able to effectively deliver this program, to hundreds of student’s right across Australia.

I’m sure there will be many cynics out there that can’t possibly see how such a hands-on discipline could be studied by distance. In response I can only say that the program recently received glowing feedback from the Council of Ambulance Authorities (CAA) at a site evaluation. 

Paramedic Science educators with representatives from the CAA

CAA members themselves, admitted to be sceptical about how effective the delivery of this program would be via distance, but left CQUniversity convinced that this was a way forward for education. What’s more they commented that CQUniversity was leading the way.

Of course we don’t completely rely on the online delivery of courses for distance education, with many of our distance programs having a residential school component. The schools allow our distance students to come together in realistic settings to gain hands on practical experience.

I have absolutely no doubt that in the next few years distance education will take off as both demand grows and new learning technologies emerge. It is a very exciting time for not just CQUniversity, but for students and the higher education sector as a whole. 

On the topic of distance education our Cairns Distance Education Study Centre (DESC) is celebrating its first year in operation this month. It’s a great facility that has been well utilised by our students in Far North Queensland. We’ve since opened centres at our metro campuses as well. If you are a distance student and want to know more click here.

Distance students in Cairns celebrating the 1st Birthday of the Carins DESC

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Finding your global voice

For some reason a looming election has the ability to highlight issues that many of us might otherwise glaze over at any other time.

Like always this election will focus on typical issues like cost of living, taxes, infrastructure, education and health. Regardless of what side of the political fence you sit on, the fact that these are key issues really makes me think about just how lucky we are to call Australia home. In general there will always be policy and reforms that we disagree with but overall, I think most of us would agree, that compared to some parts of the world we have it pretty good here.

I believe that this election will capture the Nation’s attention more so than any other in recent history. Not because of continuing pressures on family budgets or for the recent turbulence in the political landscape but because for the first time in decades, this election will also focus on some big issues that have both local and global consequence.

Obviously there is the ongoing debate over asylum seekers, which is not only an immigration issue for Australia but also a global human rights issue. Also in line with human rights is Australia’s stance on marriage equality and of course ‘Closing the Gap’ in relation to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. 

I have no doubt that these issues will continue to remain on our radar for years to come and be the subject of debate for our current and future politicians. What’s more, going forward new topics will continue to arise and challenge us and our leaders. That’s why it is so important to nurture our leaders of tomorrow.

One initiative that is doing just that is Global Voices which was established in 2011. Global Voices connects young Australians with the world while promoting understanding and participation in diplomacy. It delivers a platform for young Australians to really make a difference and engage with their peers from other nations, discussing and researching issues of both local and global significance. What an exciting opportunity to engage?

Recently two of our students, Sherry-Kaye Savage and Megan Star had the chance and privilege to join international delegations in New York City and Nairobi, respectively. Both agreed it was a once in a lifetime opportunity to contribute, engage and expand their knowledge. I know I would have jumped at the chance to be a part of something like this 30 years ago (at least I like to think I would have!).

What’s more CQUniversity’s partnership with the Global Voices initiative in Australia means successful applicants will also have their trips fully funded.

So if you’re interested in having a global voice and seeing the world, I encourage you to have a look at the opportunities available in future delegations. In fact applications are now open to be part of Global Voices overseas delegations to Washington DC and Warsaw in October and the UNFCC in November. For details on this and the Global Voices initiative go to

For more on Sherry-Kaye and Megan’s life changing journey’s click here

Sherry-Kaye with former NZ PM Helen Clark and other Global Voices delegates at the UN in New York City

Megan Star in Nairobi

Friday, July 26, 2013

Alumni set to give the world a taste of Oz Cabaret

Many of our past students go on to achieve wonderful things and Mackay entertainers Oz Cabaret are no exception.

The former Central Queensland Conservatorium of Music graduates have developed a unique cabaret act that brings together their love of performing and wine. So as well as getting to experience a stage show, their audience also get to participate in a wine tasting. How can you go wrong?

This clever blend has really gotten the group noticed and following successful performances around Australia they have been invited to perform at fringe festivals around Europe including Edinburgh and Amsterdam.
Even though I haven’t had the opportunity to see Oz Cabaret perform yet, I am looking forward to getting the chance to do so.

Congratulations on this remarkable achievement. I am sure the tour will be a smashing success!

If you want to know a bit more about Oz Cabaret and help them on their quest to perform at the World’s biggest performing arts festivals click here.

Friday, July 12, 2013

NAIDOC Week is important for all Australians

I hope everyone has had the chance to join in activities planned right across Australia in celebration of NAIDOC Week. I had the pleasure of attending a film evening here at CQUniversity Rockhampton on Tuesday night (hosted by our Office of Indigenous Engagement).

Even though NAIDOC Week is held to celebrate the history, culture and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples, it is something that all Australians can observe and participate in. There are hundreds of events and activities planned right across the Country that aim to raise awareness of Indigenous issues and culture. So if you didn’t get a chance to join in this year make sure you do in 2014.

As much as NAIDOC Week provides us with a chance to reflect on our nation’s cultural and social history, it also allows us to look to the future. Importantly it reminds all Australians of the different ways that we can all do something to help close the gap and achieve equality.

…In saying that these are issues we should all be committed to everyday of the year. I’m really proud to be at the helm of a university that is committed to these issues and is working further towards improving participation in higher education and education quality for Indigenous Australians.

One of the things I most look forward to in my job is being able to work more closely with Bronwyn Fredericks and our Office of Indigenous Engagement to achieve more great results in this area and expand on what we have already achieved.  

CQUniversity's Professor Brownwyn Fredericks (Pro Vice-Chancellor Indigenous Engagement and BMA Chair Indigenous Engagement) and the first Indigenous Chair of an Australian University Academic Board. 

Friday, July 5, 2013

Increase in applications a positive sign for CQUniversity Australia

Based on figures published last week, CQUniversity is officially Australia’s second fastest growing university and Australia’s fastest growing regional university, with domestic applications up by 28%.

Since the introduction of the demand driven system (which many experts said would be the death of regional universities like CQUniversity), we have outperformed the domestic growth of almost every other institution.

I am confident that this trend is set to continue, especially as the demand for distance education increases. CQUniversity is committed to delivering flexible study options and providing support to distance students, because of this we will continue to invest in online teaching technologies as well as distance education study centres.

I also think we will see further increases due to investment in new programs and infrastructure, particularly in the areas of allied health and engineering.

Becoming Queensland’s first dual sector university will also see CQUniversity engage with more students and allow us to expand our current program offerings.

In addition, more and more students are deciding to remain in or relocate to regional areas to study. I firmly believe this is not just for financial reasons but also because students are realising that they can attain a quality education in regional Australia (especially Central Queensland). 

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Buying fresh online

I’ve often purchased products online, either because it was easy or simply the online store offered exactly what I was looking for at the right price. However, when it comes to fresh food, like fruit and vegetables, I’m a little reluctant. Why? Maybe it’s because I’m not sure exactly the quality I’ll get.
CQUniversity’s researcher David Harris has some theories he’s testing in an online survey. David says when people buy fruit they tend to pick it up and have a good look, before making a decision. So, if online fruit and veges are pictured in someone’s hands, are we more likely to buy? Is it possible to deduce the weight, texture and hardness (or softness) of a product viewed in a photo? Does the colour of the packaging play a part in your decision? These are the sorts of questions David asks in the survey.

The survey offers the chance for people to have their say about the ‘last frontier’ of online shopping, buying fresh produce. I would encourage anyone interested in this topic to take part in the survey. You can contact David via or go direct to the online survey

Researcher David Harris

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Tackling problems in maths and science

It’s a sad fact that schools in rural, regional and remote Australia struggle to maintain equivalent education standards in science and maths, compared to those in metropolitan areas.

And I can’t blame the quality of the teaching staff. The simple fact is that these areas lack infrastructure and support for teachers, have a high staff turnover, and have difficulty filling vacancies with specialist staff.

It’s for these reasons, CQUniversity has committed to working with state high schools in Bundaberg and Mackay areas as part of a Regional Universities Network (RUN) pilot project to overcome barriers hampering maths and science education.

RUN has been awarded a federal grant of $898,880 for the one-year pilot project: RUN Maths and Science Digital Classroom: A Connected Model for all of Australia.

As part of this project, RUN will be developing a virtual centre for school support in mathematics and science that will deliver innovative modes of engagement, support and expertise to students and their teachers in schools in regional and rural Australia. The connectivity of the virtual centre will also form the basis for professional development of teachers.

I believe this project will foster a keen interest in science and maths amongst regional students and their teachers, and allow students to apply knowledge to real world tasks and challenges.

Meanwhile, CQUni’s project management specialist Richard Egelstaff has already been working with high school maths teachers in Gladstone, providing real world examples of maths at work on the job.

This is particularly useful in a city such as Gladstone where industry continues to grow and the call for project managers is no doubt increasing.

I am so pleased we’re a part of two fabulous initiatives that will inspire our young people to work with maths and science in the future.

Richard Egelstaff with Gregory Hage from Toolooa State High School and Farshid Paymon from Tannum State High School.