Thursday, August 3, 2017

Proposing a strong future for study and research in Cairns

Earlier this week in Cairns, I unveiled an ambitious $54.7m CBD campus funding proposal designed to stimulate new industries in the North and generate maximum community impact. CQUniversity has spent the last few years engaging with our community and industry leaders in Cairns about the role we can play in kick-starting new industries, skilling emerging workforces and diversifying the local economy. The Cairns community made it clear that they look to us to take a proactive lead in unlocking a range of emerging industries through our engagement, research and unique workforce skilling.  What I announced today is a blueprint to implement the community’s vision for Cairns – the exciting new industries and opportunities that will make this region far more resilient and prosperous.

While the funding request is ambitious, the economic multiplier effect of this blueprint will continue paying out for generations to come. The $54.7m CQUniversity Cairns Community Impact Plan comprises five new industry kick-starter projects centred around a much larger, permanent campus base capable of accommodating more than 2,500 local and international students in the heart of the CBD.  The new campus will cement CQUniversity’s rapidly-growing presence in the CBD permanently, securing Cairns’ identity as a multiple-university city. The much larger campus will also allow for further growth and investment by CQUniversity, with its current campus having reached capacity. 

In addition to the permanent and expanded CBD campus, the $54.7m CQUniversity Cairns Community Impact Plan also includes strategic projects designed to launch the emerging local industries of Aviation Engineering and Pilot Training; High Performance Sports Science; Indigenous Policy Formulation; Indigenous Health and Education; Emerging Tourism and Economic Development; and Creative and Performing Arts enterprises.

I am confident Cairns will get behind CQUniversity’s ambitious blueprint for community impact, because it was the community who told us what it should look like. CQUniversity came to Cairns quite modestly back in 2012, but our philosophy of engaging with the community and its industries on all our big decisions saw our student numbers almost triple in a no time at all, with our staff numbers now exceeding 140, and no room left on our current campus for more growth. So the University has this immense trust in the community when they tell us what will and won’t work. The community has essentially given us a blueprint for where they see Cairns in 15 years, and asked us how we can deliver on it for them. I have absolute faith in their vision, and in our ability to deliver.

I encourage everyone to learn more about our $54.7m CQUniversity Cairns Community Impact Plan by visiting  

Friday, June 9, 2017

China, India partnerships a two-way exchange for education

Now more than ever before, emerging global superpowers China and India are looking to Australia for higher education opportunities.But worldly international students want more than just a degree – they want a diverse experiences, and opportunities to build life-long networks, as part of their antipodean adventure. 

Visiting India and China this week, the higher education leaders we’ve met in both nations are determined to forge partnerships to give their students international opportunities that will stand out from the crowd.In countries where you count the population by billions, that’s no easy feat.

Sure, just over half of higher education students coming to Australia seek out Group of Eight institutions.But that leaves more than a quarter of a million prospective students every year, less seduced by a prestigious name, and more determined to diversify their CV. 

It’s also important to note that 26 per cent of international students last year were gaining vocational qualifications, and another 21 per cent were enrolling in English Language Intensive courses – both key strengths for CQUni. What does all this mean for us? And why does it mean myself and the International team are traversing Asia as we speak?

Basically, CQUniversity has never been better placed to show off our strengths to prospective international students – our comprehensive curriculum, our industry partnerships and networks, and our commitment to social innovation and change.University leaders I’ve met this week have been very excited about CQUniversity’s growing reputation for social change, and the networks we have forged in pursuit of our social innovation strategy.

Rapid social change has seen both China and India look for a new generation of changemakers, ready to tackle issues around environment, social inequity and growing opportunity, for their communities.

China and India already represent our biggest international student cohorts at CQUniversity.
And both nations have already been well-represented in social innovation activities across our campuses, including entering The Big Idea competition, attending the Social Innovation Studio in Gladstone, and gaining scholarships to attend the Ashoka U Exchange in Miami.

The skills, knowledge and networks these participants have developed can only boost their employability, grow their perspective, and benefit their communities.

Meanwhile, it’s not just international students that benefit from these experiences – working alongside our staff and domestic students, the exchange of diverse experience and international perspective is invaluable for all of us. Growing our partnerships with international institutions is key to ensuring the knowledge and experience exchange continues in both directions, and we all benefit from opportunities.  

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Seven Women transforming lives by hand in Nepal

Since CQUniversity first set our course to drive social innovation, I’ve had the opportunity to meet a lot of changemakers, and see a lot of social enterprises in action.

Visiting the Seven Women in Nepal today has been the best experience yet. Here, I’ve been able to see and understand just how much impact a simple but strong idea, backed by a good business model, can have on an entire community.

With a mission to empowering marginalised women through education, skills training and income generation, Seven Women is a social enterprise in Kathmandu, which raises funds through sale of hand-crafts. 

My wife Anita meeting with women making crafts

Founded by young Australian social entrepreneur Stephanie Woollard when she was just 22, since 2006 the organisation has educated, trained and employed more than 5000 local women, transforming their lives. For the vast majority of these women, it’s the only opportunity they’ve had to generate a living wage, and to invest in their futures.

The “Seven Women” that give the organisation its name were seven disabled women whom Stephanie saw and befriended while travelling in Nepal. Working in a tin shed for a pittance, the sight of them first prompted pity – but when Stephanie actually started a conversation, she realised their huge potential, and her passion found a way to help them capitalise on it. 

Led by a fantastic team of local people, Seven Women is looking to grow its mission, and its reach.Since 2014, a range of CQUni leaders have been building a relationship with Seven Women.It was Associate Professor (Indigenous Engagement) Henrietta Marrie who first met with Stephanie Woollard, and they compared notes on empowering and advocating for Indigenous women.

Prof Marrie introduced Stephanie to Miriam Ham, a Senior Lecturer in the School of Education & the Arts, who this year travelled to Nepal with Dr Jay Deagon (Home Economics) and Dr Wendy Hillman (Nursing). Supported by a CQUni New Staff Researchers Grant, they delivered training at Seven Women (, and collected field data to support expanded training programs.

In June, the School of Nursing and Midwifery’s exchange program to Nepal will spend time at Seven Women, facilitating health awareness programs. And with the support of the Federal Government’s New Colombo Plan mobility program funding, we hope to deliver a range of new exchange programs for CQUni students to work with Seven Women, across several disciplines.

If you’d like to support Seven Women, head to the website and invest in their ethical handmade products (, or make a donation ( 

And for any students considering entering The Big Idea social enterprise competition (, I’d strongly recommend taking inspiration from Seven Women’s transformational social enterprise model.

CQUniversity has a proud history of partnership with Nepal. Here on the ground, it’s clear just how much difference our support can make. 

Growing partnerships means healthier futures in Nepal

When we talk about changing the world, here in the west we often we think of complicated, tech-heavy, revolutionary ideas.

It’s easy to forget that through provision of basic health care, and health education, we can make a huge difference for so many communities, across so many countries.

Here in Nepal, the transformative power of health care is apparent every day, and the great need for more health resources to prevent the regular epidemic spread of infectious disease.  

Many people don’t realise, Nepal actually has a bigger population than Australia. With nearly 27 million people in such a tiny country, and in such a harsh environment, it’s no wonder that so many Nepalese are missing out on basic services and opportunities.   

CQUniversity has been building our partnerships in Nepal for more than eight years now, and much of the credit goes to Kerry Reid-Searle and the School of Nursing and Midwifery, who forged initial ties in Pokhara.

Since 2008, CQUniversity has partnered with the Antipodeans agency to provide students with clinical placements in Pokhara’s Fishtail Hospital and Research Centre and Gandaki Hospital, regional health camps, and health outreach with the Children of Nepal, a not-for-profit providing shelter and care to homeless and destitute children. 

Meeting with children helped by our students in Nepal

Again through the School of Nursing and Midwifery, CQUniversity began sponsoring Children of Nepal in 2009, and many of the students who have participated in the Nepal exchange have also become personal sponsors.

In recent years, some of these valuable exchanges opportunities have had the support of the Federal Government’s New Colombo Plan and on the ground it is clear they are invaluable learning opportunities for our students, and the experiences and skills developed stay with them throughout their careers.

On this trip, we have also begun to cement new partnerships, in line with our comprehensive offerings and social innovation agenda. In Pokhara, we signed a memorandum of understanding with Pokhara University, for student placements, and social innovation projects.

And 15 kilometres outside of Pokhara, we visited Shree Bhagawati Basic School, and officially handed over furniture purchased by Nursing and Midwifery fundraisers. The sparse facilities of the school, and the enthusiasm with which we were welcomed, show just what a difference this donation will make – my heartfelt thanks to the Nursing and Midwifery team who first visited this school, and set about making a difference to the lives of its students. 

 Provost Helen Huntly meets children at a school that our Nursing and Midwifery students donate school desks to

Since 2008, hundreds of CQUniversity students have undertaken these invaluable placements. Combined with our practical and engaged Nursing and Allied Health programs, and Australian placement opportunities in both urban hospitals and some of the country’s most remote health care providers, it’s this diversity that makes our graduates so employable, and such changemakers in their careers. And on the ground in Nepal, the time that our staff and student commit to these projects is clearly making a difference.

Growing our local partnerships can only grow our impact for this incredible country, and visiting has renewed my commitment to CQUniversity’s mission for change.  

Very proud of the work the University and our amazing staff and students do in Nepal

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Honouring decades of dedication to transform India’s most disadvantaged

It takes a strong soul to see overwhelming disadvantage and think, ‘I can do something’.

To then spend 30 years making that something happen, I believe that is truly extraordinary.

Yet Praveen Nair has achieved this and so much more since she began working with India’s street children, and has transformed countless lives in the process.

This week while in India, I have been privileged to confer an Honorary Doctorate of Social Innovation on Ms Nair, who founded Salaam Baalak Trust, and continues to serve as its chairperson and trustee.

The relentless work of Ms Nair and SBT to drive life-changing opportunities for street children in India has been exceptional, and recognised both in her home country, and internationally.

Ms Praveen Nair at the ceremony to accept her honorary doctorate in social innovation

Originally a social worker, Ms Nair established SBT in 1988, to rehabilitate street children who acted in Salaam Bombay, a film directed by her daughter Mira Nair.

And as Ms Nair grew her understanding of the many complex issues faced by street children across India’s cities, she expanded SBT’s mission.

Working across a range of sectors, SBT ensures street children can grow up in safe and nurturing environments, with opportunities for education, creativity, and future employment.

With many industry, business and social service partners, and innovating numerous income streams to support the not-for-profit organisation, Ms Nair has embodied the social innovation ethic, and proven it with Salaam Baalak Trust’s success.

Now, SBT employs nearly 150 staff, and has worked with more than 50,000 children. 

This visit marks the seventh year that CQUniversity has been partnering with Salaam Baalak Trust.

Incredibly, 30 SBT graduates have now achieved Engineering degrees CQUniversity.

I am particularly proud that CQUniversity also sponsors SBT’s City Walk – a guided tour through New Delhi slums, conducted by former street children who have grown up with SBT’s support.

This initiative provides fundraising for SBT, an international showcase of the not-for-profit’s work, and skill development and earning opportunity for former street children – a shining example of successful social innovation.  

As CQUni grows our social innovation agenda, it is a perfect time to reinforce our partnership with SBT, and shine a spotlight on what Ms Nair and SBT has achieved. 

Next year will see SBT celebrate its 30th birthday, and it is as innovative today, as it was when Ms Nair and her co-founders first walked New Delhi’s dark streets, to truly understand what could help its street children.

Signing a new MOU with the SBT

In those same three decades, CQUniversity has also grown, and in our own way transformed lives – not just for SBT graduates, but for thousands of our own students in Australia.

With all our differences, to my mind the Salaam Baalak Trust and CQUniversity are a perfect match. And the many benefits of our partnership go in both directions.  

While our Engineering qualification has put SBT students in control of their lives and their careers, CQUniversity Nursing and Education students on placement in India have also learnt so much from their time working with SBT staff and children.

And every member of the CQUniversity family should take inspiration from the vision and can-do attitude of Praveen Nair.

Through social innovation, we are already achieving so much in all of our communities – and the story of Salaam Baalak Trust shows us how much more is possible.