A sense of viability

Photo of Associate Vice-Chancellor Professor Jim Nyland.

A message from the Associate Vice-Chancellor (Queensland) Professor Jim Nyland: ACU Brisbane has reached a milestone in its journey today with its student numbers hitting a record high of 5 000 (EFTSL).  Yesterday was 4 999, tomorrow will be higher however today’s achievement is historic as it represents the definitive benchmark that has been applied to higher education institutions seeking university status both here in Australia and across the globe for decades.

A few years ago I had the great privilege of MC’ing the ACU 25th Year Anniversary Dinner, attended by the great and the good that had contributed to the inception, shaping and growth of the University over the past quarter of a century - including the acclaimed higher education reformer the Honorable John Dawkins AO who was responsible for the expansion of the number of universities in Australia in the 1990s.

During the dinner John informed me that the only way he could include ACU in this expansion was by adding the student populations of our State and Territory based campuses together in order to hit the magical figure of       5 000 students.  ACU Brisbane has today reached this historic milestone, judged by many higher education reformers to be the tipping point at which a university campus is demonstrably ‘viable.’  My thanks to all staff who have contributed over the years to attaining this hard fought and remarkable achievement.

‘Out-of-Field Teaching Practices’ and ‘Democracy as Human Value’ at ACU Leadership Centre

Last week I had the great privilege of welcoming staff to the ACU Leadership Centre in Cathedral Precinct for the Learning Sciences Institute Australia’s Book launch of Out-of-Field Teaching Practices: What Educational Leaders Need to Know by Dr Anna du Plessis.  Anna is one of our most gifted researchers and she gave a brilliant presentation to an audience of 100 of our senior education partners where she spelled out the implications that the out-of-field phenomenon has for educational leadership and the teaching workforce. Her work is closely embedded in the context of teaching practice and informs education improvement strategies, policy-making and educational leadership programs, to name but a few.  Anna was joined by Mr John Ryan, Director of the Queensland College of Teachers, who presented his key insights into Why Teacher Education Research Matters. Next week, the ACU Leadership Centre is the preferred venue for the prestigious ACU Luminaries Series: 2017 Simone Weil Lecture titled Democracy as Human Value: On the Idea of Ethical Citizenship, hosted by the ACU School of Philosophy.  Professor Lenart Škof, Professor of Philosophy and Head of the Institute for Philosophical Studies at the Science and Research Centre of Koper, Slovenia, will deliver this annual lecture on defending democracy as a moral ideal and human value that is in urgent need of nurturing in these turbulent times. Please come along if you are in the Brisbane CBD.

Kicking Goals Together expands!

My congratulations to all staff on the Brisbane campus involved in the Kicking Goals Together competition, which was honored at the Brisbane Graduation Ceremony earlier this year where it received the Vice-Chancellor’s Award for Outstanding Community Engagement.  To quote Dr Matthew Pink (recipient of the Award) who founded and developed the program in tandem with MDA, the Faculty of Health Sciences, and refugee and migrant communities:

“Singing, dancing, cheering, flag waving, and halal snack packs for all! These were the scenes from the recent Kicking Goals Together (KGT) finale for the Semester 1, 2017 installment. What is often an energetic engagement that at times can represent organized chaos, KGT Semester 1 finished in the same way that it started, through the shared celebration of football, opportunity, and developing new friendships that, to steal a line from the classic Australian movie The Castle, captured a ‘vibe’ that all could benefit from.” (Dr. Matthew Pink)

Kicking Goals Together engages youth from refugee and migrant backgrounds in a weekly Futsal competition held at the Brisbane Campus. This competition also involves ACU student and staff teams. Last semester saw the competition expand from six teams to eight and a doubling of youth teams from refugee and migrant backgrounds. This included new teams entered from Iraqi, Rohingya, and Karen backgrounds. For the first time, students from ACU International were also welcomed, and who came from a variety of backgrounds. ACU staff were well represented by Physiotherapy and Exercise Science teams while the ACU student team progressed further into the competition than ever before.

Yet, KGT also has an important education component which has also seen expansion and a doubling in numbers. In 2016 this consisted of the Skill-Up networking and job skills education program. Of the 12 youth who completed this program in 2016, 6/12 have gone on to gain employment, and all have gone on to further education. In 2017 we also saw the launch of our ‘Aussie English unpacked‘ program with the assistance of Dr Michele Endicott from Education, Ms Janine Quine from IACE, as well as staff and students from Speech Pathology and Exercise Science. Members of the Northside Iraqi community, many of whom have been settled in Australia for less than a year engaged in this program and had the opportunity to deconstruct conversational English in Australian contexts as a complement to their existing TAFE programs. Finally, KGT leadership engaged some of the returning youth in a leadership and project management program with retired business consultant Mr Michael Saunders where the central project was to organize the finale event. This task was handled with aplomb and the KGT Semester 1 finale event paid tribute to the engagement as a whole.

Kicking Goals Together flourishes because of the hard work of many. The programmatic, logistical, conceptual, and financial support from MDA was particularly appreciated. So too was the hard work of FHS prac students involved with the project from occupational therapy, speech pathology, and exercise science. These students were further supported by an ever growing team of volunteers who return to KGT as a contribution to the common good and their own personal development. Special mention goes to the contributions of ACU students Imogen Johnson and Maggie Hay who worked tirelessly on the project in Semester 1.

Art from the Inside

The School of Arts recently hosted the opening of the Art from the Inside exhibition, the product of a long term collaboration between the School of Arts and Prison Fellowship. Prison Fellowship is a global organization that supports inmates and their families and they did a wonderful job curating the exhibition of works of art by inmates. Despite an unusually very cold and wet night in Brisbane, the event attracted 100 guests to the McAuley at Banyo campus.  My thanks to Dr Maggie Nolan, Deputy Head of the School of Arts for her oversight of the program and particular thanks go to Associate Professor Lindsay Farrell for his leadership of this collaboration over many years.  Next month we say thank you and goodbye to Lindsay who retires from ACU after 24 years service – he will be sorely missed!


Another great ACU example of engagement and community inclusion  worthy of note at this time is the VINNIES CEO Sleepout in Brisbane this Thursday night where the impact of the ACU Clemente Brisbane program will be the focus program with two Clemente students (Chris and Trish) speaking to the CEOs attending. They are the only SVDP clients who will be speaking on the night. Last semester the Clemente students did a unit on Art and some of their work will be exhibited for sale. Special mention must be made of their lecturer Alasdair MacIntyre (Equity and Pathways) as he provided the learning opportunities for the students’ art, selected pieces and framed their work for the occasion.

All of the programs mentioned above are outstanding examples of ACU Brisbane at its best – facilitating learning, research and engagement projects that are designed to have real ‘impact through empathy'. The notion of impact through empathy is not a unitary phenomenon and it can have differing meanings within its different contexts.  The significance of such innovative learning, research and engagement programs lies in the qualities they inspire amongst students, staff and stakeholders concerned with the idea of social justice and fairness; and in the belief that knowledge can be generated and applied for an improved social result. They involve learning which should lead to an enhanced sense of self in the real world and not just the virtual world.  By engaging with such programs we might expect a more capable individual to emerge, one who is able to relate to others and be personally more responsible and (rather like our ACU Brisbane campus) one who is more ‘viable’.

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