Vice Chancellor and President’s Diversity and Inclusion Awards

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Vice Chancellor and President’s Diversity and Inclusion Awards


The Vice-Chancellor and President's Diversity and Inclusion Awards were established in 2015 to recognise and reward staff, students, and graduates of the University who have made an outstanding and demonstrable commitment to equity, diversity and inclusion within the University and/or its broader community over a sustained period of time.

The Vice-Chancellor and President's Awards presentation is part of the opening address of USC Diversity Week as part of the annual Diversity Week breakfast.

Selection Process

The Vice-Chancellor and President’s Equity and Diversity Committee will assess all nominations. Up to six awards may be made each year, although in exceptional circumstances, the Committee may recommend additional awards be granted.

Nominations will be assessed on the basis of outstanding achievement in one or more of the following categories for each award:

Reconciliation Award

Inclusion Award

Initiatives and professional activities to achieve the vision and goals set out in the University of the Sunshine Coast Reconciliation Action Plan 2017-2019

Developing teaching practice, curricula or learning environments that foster inclusion for a diverse range of students

Commitment to building and promoting reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians

Building and supporting inclusion and diversity at USC, fostering inclusive teams and positively influencing the working and/or learning environment

Contributions to implementing strategies to increase the participation rate of Indigenous Australian students in higher education study

Enhancing cohesion and understanding in a diverse community for staff and/or students and/or community

Contributions to implementing strategies to increase the number of Indigenous Australian academic and/or professional staff

Engaging with the wider community to encourage participation by disadvantaged groups

Awards will not be granted for individuals or groups who have undertaken work that is an aspect of their University employment, or role as a student, which might be considered to be within normal expectations of staff or students of the University.

Nominated awards wills be limited to a maximum of one award per individual or team per every two years, except where the nomination clearly demonstrates the initiative, activity or program is different from the prior year. In this instance, the nomination will be referred to Committee to be considered.

Nomination Process

The Committee encourages nominations for initiatives, activities and programs that foster inclusion for a diverse range of staff, students and/or community members. This may include encouraging or enabling the participation of disadvantaged or underrepresented groups, or initiatives that make a significant contribution to reconciliation.


For further information, please contact 

2018 award recipients

Reconciliation Award

Brendan Powell - (USC Alumni)

Reconciliation Award: Contributions to implementing strategies to increase the participation rate of Indigenous Australian students in higher education study

Acknowledgement of contribution:

Brendan and his colleague Scott have actively contributed to USC and the wider community through the development of a fully inclusive sporting environment that empowers participants from diverse backgrounds and provides life changing opportunities that extend beyond the sporting field.

This award is in recognition of the success of the Mooroo-Mooroo Indigenous program.

Mooroo-Mooroo is a Gubbi-Gubbi word for “full of life”.

This is a free program designed to improve the health and well-being of Indigenous Australians. Not only does it increase activity levels, addressing physical health, but also provides training, experience and transferable life skills to participants contributing to mental health, a sense of community and belonging.

11,000 People have participated in the programme in both far North QLD and the South East since 2012. Brendan and the OzTags team’s commitment to building aspirations extends past this particular program and we value his ongoing commitment and passion to diversity, inclusion and reconciliation

The Sapphires (USC Staff)
Leone Smith
Lynne Stuart
Bronwyn Dole

Reconciliation Award: Initiatives and professional activities to achieve the vision and goals set out in the University of the Sunshine Coast Reconciliation Action Plan 2017-2019

Acknowledgement of contribution:

The Well Persons Health Check Day (WPHCD) initiated and run by North Coast Aboriginal Corporation for Community Health (NCACCH) – is an annual event held at alternate venues either on the Sunshine Coast or Gympie.

In 2018 the day was held on the USC Sippy Downs campus…on Gubbi Gubbi/ Kabi Kabi land with just over 1000 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people attending.

This has introduced our local Indigenous community to the USC higher education environment.

Recruiting, educating, and graduating increased numbers of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people from University programs will go a long way to enhance equity between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people and communities, and promote the needed diversity and inclusion in the higher education student cohort. This will in turn help facilitate the national Close the Gap targets in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Education and Health.

Recognition must go to ‘The Sapphires’ for the coordination and growth of such an impactful event

Inclusion Awards

Vietnamese Association Sunshine Coast (VASC) (USC Student Association)
Tuan Son Le
Duyen Nguyen Van
Nhut Tran Minh
Trang Trinh Thi

Inclusion Award: Enhancing cohesion and understanding in a diverse community for staff and/or students and/or community

Acknowledgement of contribution:

VASC hold a unique place in the student clubs at USC, being the only student club based upon a cultural identity. The club, holds a number of activities and initiatives that are designed to provide support to its members, engage with the USC community, and to share Vietnamese culture with other USC students and staff.

Activities are open to all USC students and provides all of us with an opportunity to build cultural awareness, which is important when collaborating to ensure each of us have this awareness to work in a synergistic and respect manner.

We acknowledge VASC in this valuable contribution to the USC community and encourage interested students and staff to join them at the Vietnamese lunch on Tuesday 21 August as part of the 2018 Diversity week celebrations

Sarah Lawson (USC Alumni)

Inclusion Award: Enhancing cohesion and understanding in a diverse community for staff and/or students and/or community

Acknowledgement of contribution:

Sarah was born with Cerebral Palsy and has not let this stand in her way, having completed her university degree, learning to drive and being heavily involved in a number of toastmaster clubs across the coast. Sarah joined USC Speakers Toastmasters, while she was studying at USC, to help her gain confidence when speaking to people. Along the way she has developed her public speaking skills and has contributed to enhancing the understanding of diversity in the local community through the following activities:

  • Writes a blog "Live Laugh Love Contagiously"
  • Guest speaker at an International Women's Day Luncheon and recently at the Stories of Hope Programme.
  • Made a YouTube Video to help people with disabilities realise they can exercise and have fun at the same time.
Marjorie Blowers (USC Alumni and Staff member)

Inclusion Award: Enhancing cohesion and understanding in a diverse community for staff and/or students and/or community

Acknowledgement of contribution:

Nominated by a Community Member for her commitment to advancing LGBTI inclusion on the Sunshine Coast for more than 10years.

She has been involved in the implementation and coordination of many community based events:

  • Founded the LGBTI Youth support group ShOUT (now run by headspace)
  • Board member of the QLD AIDS Council
  • Lynchpin Sunshine Coast Pride Network and Pride Fair Day (which have been running for over 11 years)
  • Offered support to individuals from the LGBTI community on campus and in the broader Sunshine Coast region tirelessly for many years.

In 2017 she was nominated for an LGBTIQ Champion Awards and the Australian LGBTIQ Awards and recently she was nominated for 2 awards at the 57th annual Queens Ball awards, LGBTI volunteer and LGBTI activist for 2018 for the ongoing contribution she makes to the community.

2017 award recipients
Staff awards
Ms Emma Kill

Preparatory and Enabling Unit

Supporting Teenagers with Education, Mothering, and Mentoring (STEMM)
Emma Kill has facilitated the TPP courses for the STEMM program delivered at Burnside State High School for the past 8 years, however her referees note that Emma’s contribution to the program extends beyond the role of Associate Lecturer, TPP. Emma regularly provides a flexible program which is a key element for successful completion, and provides mentoring and outreach to the young women involved in the program. Emma is described as a ‘genuine advocate for young mothers’, and is known to provide extra tutoring during holiday periods, organise food hampers and transport, and connects young women with support services when they are in need. Emma’s authentic and engaging approach has transformed many lives of many young women.

Dr Florin Oprescu and Dr Michele Verdonck 

School of Health and Sport Sciences

Suncoast Spinners Reverse Inclusion Program
In Semester 1, 2017, Dr Florin Operscu and Dr Michele Verdonck assisted a local wheelerchair basketball club, Suncoast Spinners, to develop a program and successfully apply for government funding to extend the program to the Sunshine Coast community across 2017 and 2018. The program includes activities, lectures and workshops that aim to increase awareness and promote the participation of people with disabilities and able-bodied people in the same sporting activity by reversing the inclusion.

Student group awards
USC Law Student Association

In the past year, the USC Law Student’s Association have coordinated a range of events equity and diversity focused activities,including:

  • LGBTIQ forum during Diversity Week 2016
  • The annual Women in Law High Tea
  • Inaugural Indigenous Reconciliation Breakfast
  • Mental Health talks
  • Amendment of competition rules to accommodate competitors with a disability and the creation of the ‘Law Buddy Program’ in place of the Student Mentor Program
Amnesty International USC 

In Semester 1, 2017, Amnesty International USC coordinated a range of events including:

  • ‘Letters for Love’ event which obtained 280 actions for equal rights for marriage eligibility in Australia
  • Panel discussions for IDAHOT and National Reconciliation Week
  • Participated in the recent Relay for Life Cancer Council event on campus, raising almost $2,000
Callum Lee

President of USC Law Association

We would also like to Acknowledge Callum Lee current President of the USC Law Student Association, in his positions he has worked toward creating a positive, inclusive community for USC Law Students, key activities he has engaged in are:

  • Volunteer Mentor for Australian Indigenous Mentoring Experience Program (AIME)
  • Completed USC Ally and Unconscious Bias Training, taking his knowledge from the training to ensure events and activities are delivered in an inclusive manner.
  • Investigative report presented at Australian Law Students’ Association (ALSA) on issues facing Rural, Remote, Regional and Boutique (RRRB) law students around Australia.
2016 award recipients


(Award to be accepted by Bridie Kean)

Bridie Kean is both a University of the Sunshine Coast staff member and USC PhD Student. Bridie manages the USC Sports Elite and Education Dual Stream Program (SEEDS), which is the first dual para-sport and academic program to be offered and an Australian university. This program enables athletes with a disability to combine tertiary studies with high-performance sports training and coaching at USC’s state-of-the-art sports facilities.

The USC SEEDS program promotes an environment in which young athletes are encouraged and supported to achieve academic excellence as well as success on the sporting field. The program also aims to demonstrate the abilities of these athletes and raise awareness of the value of sport for people with disabilities.

The opening stages of the program involved collaboration between USC, Basketball Australia and the QAS Centre of Excellence for Applied Sport Science Research to implement a basketball program. The program offers opportunities for student-athletes with a disability to be coached by National coaches through the support of Basketball Australia, with four training sessions included in the student-athletes weekly schedule. In the pilot semester, Bridie and student-athletes were engaged in a variety of events that contributed to raising awareness for wheelchair basketball both on the USC Campus and at the University Games. Bridie worked with Sporting Wheelies Disabled Association to host an exhibition wheelchair basketball game at the opening ceremony at the Gold Coast Uni Battle. This exhibition game gave University students from around Australia the opportunity to try wheelchair basketball. Bridie has also presented at the Australian University Sport National Conference regarding how to create opportunities for University students with disabilities to engage in sport.

USC Law Student Society - STUDENT

(Award to be accepted by David Knobel)

The USC Law Student Association (LSA) commenced in 2014 with the law school and is an entirely student-run organisation. The association’s mantra, “building our students, building our profession” typifies the focus of the organisation tot encourages students to make a difference to the legal industry and the community at large.

The USC LSA has regularly been involved in USC initiatives, including Equity and Diversity Week 2015, Imaginarium 2015, Explore USC2015, and Experience USC 2016.

This month the USC LSA will host its first annual “Women in Law” function. A discussion forum designed to celebrate, hear from and focus on the role of women in all areas of the legal industry.

In 2015, the Association hosted the Anti-Discrimination Commissioner of Queensland, Kevin Cocks, at a public lecture on the role of the commission, the importance of its presence in Queensland, and his experiences in the field.

The USC LSA, as a student organisation, goes above and beyond the expectation s of a small student body and repeatedly strives to ensure that the university community, not just Law students, benefits from its community focused attitude.

The committee also commended the following for their contribution to diversity at USC:

Deborah Heck

Associate Professor Deborah Heck has engaged with the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community in a sustained way to develop an ongoing and sustained mechanism for engagement within the university structure. This work commenced in late 2012 and resulted in the establishment of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Education Sub-Committee.

USC Amnesty International

Amnesty International is the world’s largest independent human rights organisation, and Amnesty International USC is currently the most active university club in Australia. The club’s activities include hosting events both on and off campuses, participating in social media campaigns, engaging with local MPs, and promoting and defending human rights around the world.

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