Universities acknowledged in Engagement Australia 2021 Excellence Awards

Universities acknowledged in Engagement Australia 2021 Excellence Awards

Universities and individuals across five states have been recognised for their exceptional university community-building and economic-advancement initiatives in the Engagement Australia 2021 Excellence Awards.

The awards, hosted from Adelaide’s Lot Fourteen innovation precinct this evening (Tuesday, November 30) and sponsored by the Federal Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources, were again held ‘virtually’ due to COVID-19 and associated travel restrictions.

In its second year following the transition from the Business-Higher Education Round Table (BHERT) Awards, the Engagement Australia Awards attracted 107 submissions from 35 universities across Australia and New Zealand.

Engagement Australia Chair and President, Prof Jim Nyland, said the awards identified and celebrated the transformative engagement activities undertaken by universities that demonstrated far-reaching impact and innovation in Australia and New Zealand.

“It’s exciting to see from the calibre of the entries that universities are just as engaged, if not more deeply engaged, with their communities and that many of the submissions offer tangible solutions to communities struggling with the health and economic impacts of COVID-19,” Prof Nyland said.

The university sector continues to align these transformational operations with their strategic priorities – from research and industry engagement to the health and well-being of the communities in which they serve.

“Our judging panel again commented on the exceptional quality of the 2021 nominations, and even awarded a joint winner in the Outstanding Engagement for Research Impact category due to the high standard of the nominations.

“It’s also notable that three of the eight successful universities and individuals are based outside of the capital cities.”

The winners
Excellence in Community Engagement
The award recognises outstanding collaborations between communities, higher education and industry for societal benefit. Emphasis placed on partnerships that engage rural, regional, urban, disadvantaged or marginalised groups within Australia and New Zealand.

University of the Sunshine Coast: The Alliance for Suicide Prevention
The Alliance for Suicide Prevention is a regionally-focused program addressing the Sunshine Coast’s unacceptably high suicide rate through a partnership-based framework that moves beyond individual contributions to population-based change. Led by the University of the Sunshine Coast’s Thompson Institute, the Alliance brings together 121 community, private and public sector organisations, working to create meaningful change through public awareness, community training, upskilling of health professionals and supporting high-risk groups. With approximately 17,827 people having benefitted from Alliance initiatives, the program’s successful engagement model demonstrates how universities can become ‘anchors-in-place’, strongly connected to local community needs.

Excellence in Indigenous Engagement
The award recognises outstanding collaborations between communities, higher education and industry that directly reduce disadvantage among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

The University of Queensland: Enhancing access to specialist health services through the use of telehealth for Indigenous Australians
Enhancing access to specialist health services through the use of telehealth, has been a successful approach to addressing health concerns in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. Professor Anthony Smith and his COH team have been actively engaging with Indigenous communities for over 17 years, forming lasting collaborative relationships with community-controlled health services to enable more equitable access to healthcare. Achievements are reflected in the pioneering work done establishing a telehealth-supported screening program for school-age Indigenous children at risk of ear disease in Cherbourg – and subsequent projects which have inspired new telehealth services for people living with diabetes and dementia.

Excellence in Industry Engagement
The award recognises outstanding contributions to enhancing the quality of learning and teaching in higher education by members of tertiary education institutions, community and industry partners.

Monash University: Woodside Monash Partnership
Woodside and Monash share a commitment to training the next generation workforce to develop innovative responses in the energy transition to a lower-carbon future. This collaboration encompasses the Woodside FutureLab and the Woodside Monash Energy Partnership, along with the dedicated student learning facility – Woodside Building for Technology and Design – which showcases an innovative design that allows students to learn through the building itself. The sustainable relationship at the core of this partnership exemplifies how academia and industry can work together, bringing the brightest minds to engage with students, promote collaboration, and foster improved outcomes for teaching and learning.

Outstanding Engagement for Research Impact (2 winners)
Recognising excellence in research and development activity, that makes a substantial difference to the community, or Australian prosperity, undertaken jointly by researchers in tertiary education institutes and partners in the community, business and industry.

Edith Cowan University: ‘Better Beginnings’ – The development and impact of a State library and university partnership on a family literacy program
The 16-year partnership between ECU and the State Library of Western Australia has led to the development of a suite of Better Beginnings family literacy programs, cumulating in a text-based program – Kindytxt. Outcomes of this research partnership include: delivering Better Beginnings reading packs to over 940,000 families with pre-school children; providing an evidence-base that sustains public/private sector funding; creating innovative inter-sector partnerships between public libraries, schools and health services to deliver Better Beginnings programs; and finally, moving to the 21st century through the use of technology to engage parent/child reading interactions every week, for 30 weeks through text messages.

Flinders University: Northern Territory Point-Of-Care Testing Program
The Northern Territory (NT) Point-of-Care Testing (POCT) Program is a collaboration between the Flinders University International Centre for Point-of-Care Testing (ICPOCT) and the NT Government Department NT Health that has delivered life-saving point-of-care (POC) pathology tests to remote Territorians since 2008. The POC devices deliver results within 2-10-minutes to guide patient triage, clinical management and diagnose a variety of illnesses, including sepsis and heart attack. Without POCT, remote patients would face waiting times of days-weeks, or removal from their community to access safe management. The NT POCT Program enhances patient safety and provides equitable access to healthcare for remote communities.

Award for Excellence in Student Engagement
The award recognises outstanding contributions that improve student engagement on campus, with industry and/or in community.

University of New England: Social Workers in Schools
UNE students participating in the Social Worker in Schools (SWiS) placement program are gaining valuable clinical skills and specialist expertise, contributing to vitally important wellbeing programs within disadvantaged NSW state schools, and forging enduring community and professional relationships. Embedding the trainee social workers in schools enables them to help address complex social issues, improve educational engagement, and contribute to broader health outcomes for individuals and families as part of a whole-of-community approach. The SWiS model is an exemplar for a sustainable, cost-effective and successful partnership that is achieving mutual education needs across university and education sectors.

Excellence in Alumni Engagement
The award recognises outstanding contributions to enhancing the quality alumni engagement and support in higher education.

CQ University: 30 Minutes a Month
30 Minutes a Month (30MM) is CQUniversity’s micro-volunteering program that provides a meaningful, globally accessible, scalable way for alumni to showcase their skills and experience, and to have a valuable reason to stay connected to the University. The program has delivered over 300 volunteer hours to date, and develops strong affinity by leveraging communications automation to create an on-going, mutually beneficial partnership with alumni through a schedule of short, monthly, online activities. Alumni provide advice and resources for students, while leveraging university opportunities and services to achieve their goals beyond graduation.

Outstanding Leadership in Engagement
The award recognises an individual who has made notable contributions to engagement above and beyond that expected for their role, resulting in sustained and impactful partnerships.

Professor John Thwaites AM: Monash University
Professor John Thwaites AM has dedicated over three decades to public policy and sustainability, encompassing climate change, water, environment, infrastructure and social equity. Following his political career, including as Deputy Premier of Victoria, John was appointed as a Vice-Chancellor’s Professorial Fellow at Monash University and Chair of Monash Sustainable Development Institute. For 15 years, he has championed impact-focused projects with industry, philanthropic and government partners; and translated research into policy and practice to address sustainable development challenges. He has provided extensive leadership within local, national and international networks working towards realising the ‘2030 Agenda’ through the UN Sustainable Development Goals.