26 May 2015
Good morning everyone and thank you Aunty Bev and Lyndon for that powerful Welcome to Country. I too would like to acknowledge the traditional custodians of the land on which we gather today, and pay my respects to their elders past and present – and to all those members of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community who are here this morning.
I would like to take this opportunity to also acknowledge our other special guests and members of the USC community.
It is my pleasure to welcome all of you this morning to the launch of University of the Sunshine Coast’s inaugural Diversity Week.
Our university is more than bricks and mortar located within beautiful grounds – it is the people who come together in this place of learning bringing with them, their varied backgrounds, beliefs, experiences and world views who provide the rich fabric from which we all can learn and develop our understandings of those different from ourselves. And each one of us makes a valuable contribution to this.
This is why it is so appropriate that our first Diversity Week has the theme The Diversity of Us. It calls on each of us to consider our unique contribution to this increasingly diverse university community in which we work or study, and to celebrate the value that this adds to our lives.
There will be a number of exciting and interesting events held at every campus throughout the week and I urge you all to check the Diversity Week website to find out what is on each day.
Diversity enriches our personal, professional, academic and social lives. It is what makes the world such a fascinating and complex place. But the differences between people can also mean there are inequities.
The University of the Sunshine Coast is committed to the principles of equity and freedom from discrimination in employment and education. Equity and Diversity are at the heart of what we stand for as a university and this is reflected in the governance of our University, in our Strategic Plan, and in our other Plans and policies.
It therefore gives me great pleasure to announce today a number of other important equity-related initiatives that have been developed over the past months
The new Equity and Diversity Governing Policy will provide a framework to create an environment which will facilitate equitable access and full participation for everyone. It recognises that some groups of people have experienced historical and significant disadvantage, and places the onus on each and every one of us to develop respectful and productive relationships with those around us and contribute to an inclusive work and learning environment at USC.
USC is also launching a new Disability Action Plan, which is to be registered with the Human Rights Commission. This Plan has identified priority areas for action that will assist the University to improve the quality of the learning experience for students with a disability and will ensure that staff with a disability are able to fully contribute and reach their potential.
I am also announcing the launch of a revised and reconstituted Vice Chancellor’s Equity and Diversity Committee. This important committee will support me and my Executive through providing timely and considered advice on relevant national and international trends and will be charged with monitoring the University’s progress in fulfilling its vision of becoming a leader in equity and diversity.
In addition, next year, in 2016, to coincide with the celebrations of the 20th anniversary of the University of the Sunshine Coast, we will present for the first time, two Vice Chancellor Equity and Diversity Awards. One award will be for staff or students, the other will be made to an alumnus. These Equity and Diversity Awards will recognise outstanding, voluntary contributions both within and external to the University, that have led to improving the lives of others. They will serve not only to acknowledge the individual recipients, but also the contribution the University of the Sunshine Coast has made at a local, national and international level through the commitment of its staff, students and alumni.
And finally, in the spirit of reconciliation and as a demonstration of not only the University’s commitment in this area, but also my own commitment to reconciliation, I will Chair the committee with responsibility for reviewing the University’s Reconciliation Action Plan (Behrendt 2012). While USC has achieved much, we all understand, there is significantly more to be done to Close the Gap and as a place of learning, USC has a special contribution to make. The Reconciliation Action Plan Committee will build on the recommendations of the Behrendt Report into Indigenous Higher Education delivered in 2012. This stressed the importance of non-Indigenous, academic leadership, as well as Indigenous Centres, driving change within the university sector. It will be my pleasure to lead this important work in partnership with my Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander colleagues, community Elders and advisers, along with the non-Indigenous staff and students of this University.
So now, without further ado, it is my great pleasure to declare the inaugural, University of the Sunshine Coast Diversity Week officially launched.