The UOW anthology webinar series spotlights the passion projects, skills and expertise of our alumni community through a curated collection of knowledge, stories and conversations.
Anthology Webinar Series
Impact of microplastics on human and planetary health
To mark Global Climate Change Week 2023, UOW put microplastics under the microscope. The discussion tackled a range of topics such as what microplastics are, how are they produced, how do they impact human and planetary health and add to climate change and what can we all do to reduce these impacts.
Speaker 1 Hi everybody. And it gives me great pleasure to welcome you to today's seminar. My name is Karen Charlton. I'm a professor of nutrition and dietetics at the University of Wollongong and am interested in a sustainable, healthy and equitable food system. So this topic is of great personal interest to me. Today, we're going to hear from some experts in the field how microplastics impact both our environment, but also the impacts that these microplastics have on our bodies through environmental contamination. It's also a pleasure to welcome you here today as part of the Global Climate Change Week. And before we start and I introduce our wonderful panel, I would like to acknowledge the country of which we are meeting on today.
Speaker 2 We know is that country for Aboriginal peoples is an interconnected set of ancient and sophisticated relationships. The University of Wollongong spreads across many interrelated Aboriginal countries that are bound by this sacred landscape and an intimate relationship with that landscape since creation.
Speaker 3 From Sydney to the Southern Highlands, to the South Coast. From freshwater to bitter water to salt. From city to urban to rural.
Speaker 2 The University of Wollongong acknowledges the custodianship of the Aboriginal peoples of this place and space that has kept alive the relationships between all living things. The University acknowledges the devastating impact of colonisation and our campuses' footprint and commit ourselves to truth telling, healing and education.
Speaker 1 So thank you. And to all of those that are just joining the chat function is open. So perhaps you'd like to say hello and tell us where you are joining from, which country are joining from? I'm joining from the lands of Dharawal, Wodi Wodi and Yuin Nation. I'm pleased to be here today. So just a few housekeeping points. In terms of today, what we're going to do is encourage members of the audience to submit any questions they have to any of the panellists using the Q&A function. The chat function will be switched off in a couple of minutes. And so if you'd like to put your questions forward, we will have time at the end to address as many of these as possible. This webinar is being recorded and will be shared with with everybody at the end of the webinar. So if you wanted to go back and have a look at the recording, you will be welcome to. So today we welcome thought leaders for a one hour conversation to really drill down to the impacts of microplastics on human and planetary health. All of our panellists are driven by initiatives to tackle climate change, and they're all passionate about the increasing impact that microplastics have on climate change. So today we're going to discuss how microplastics form, what they are, the impact that they have on the environment, and importantly, what governments and individuals can do to better protect our health and our planet. So it gives me great pleasure to introduce our esteemed panel. We have Karen Raubenheimer. Karen is a senior lecturer at the Australian National Centre for Ocean Resources and Security, otherwise known as ANCORS, based here at the University of Wollongong. Do you want to give us a wave. Karen. There's Karen. We have Michael Stapleton. Michael is a University of Wollongong graduate, and he's also a current UOW PhD candidate in environmental engineering. And his PhD is focusing on sustainable waste management practices. Give us a wave, Michael. Thank you. And we also have Emeritus Professor Sarah Dunlop, who is the head of plastics and Human Health at the Minderoo Foundation. And Sarah's joining us from the University of Western Australia. So thank you to all panellists. So the format of the rest of the webinar will be a series of questions that I will pose to each of the panellists. And as I said, if you have any questions, please do put those in the Q&A function and we we'll get to those at the end. We're also going to have three polls throughout the webinar and these will appear on your screen and you'll be asked a question and please give your response and then we'll have a look at that and that may introduce us into to the topics that we're going to discuss. So I think the first poll is going to come up in a second. Here we go. So you'll have a few minutes to think about the answers to this. And please submit your response and we'll see how we go with this. On a global level, what percentage of plastics do you think are recycled? All right. So we have a fairly informed audience because the correct answer is 10% of new plastics are recycled. Now, I don't know about you, but this statistic is pretty scary, I think. I was reading today that the first production of plastics originated around 1950, when the annual production was about 2 million tons. By 2015, this production had increased to 380 million tons per year. So if only 10% of that is recycled, there is a lot of plastic waste on our planet. So that brings me to the first question. And this is directed to Sarah. Sarah, could you tell us what are plastics and how are they made?
Speaker 4 Good start. Thank you, Karen. And it's a really important question because if you want to understand the harm from something, you need to understand what it is and where it comes from. So plastic is essentially a complex material that's made almost entirely from fossil fuel. 99% of all plastic at the moment is made from fossil fuel, and two thirds of that comes from coal and the remainder, oil and gas. And you mentioned the very large numbers, and I would like to emphasise that beginning because back in 2014, only about 4 to 6% of all fossil fuel was used to make plastic. And look at the damage that we see from that already, and that's predicted to increase to about 20% by 2050, mainly as a result of the fossil fuel industry pushing away from using fossil fuel for energy as green energy stocks come on board and they want to make even more plastic. And whichever way you look at it, it's a really steep curve in production. More than half has been produced since 2002. Those 8 billion tonnes in 2015 represented one tonne for every single person on the planet. That's a lot of plastic and that's about a Volkswagen Beetle car. And by 2015, sorry, 2050 the anticipation is 34 gigatons, that's 34 billion tonnes. And just to give you an idea what one gigaton is, it's equivalent to 10,000 fully laden U.S. aircraft carriers. So it's very sobering with only 10% being recycled. Yes, most ends up in the environment. So how plastics made? Well, as I said, it comes from fossil fuel and the large molecules in the gas. and the oil need to be broken down and chemically transformed into a whole lot of much smaller molecules that are the feedstock for plastic manufacture. And there are large chemical plants called crackers, which do this, and they're very large numbers of these being built still around the world. It's very energy intensive, which is a concern for the, you know, the climate change that we are focusing on this week. 90% of the fossil fuel is actually used as energy and only about 10% is used for the starting blocks. And there are two very broad categories of starting material. There are the things called monomers and then the additives. And we know that in total, about somewhere between ten and 13,000 different types of chemicals used to make plastics. So it really is complex. And we've actually mapped this out recently and we launched the plastic health map, which looked at about 1500 of these chemicals and whether or not they were in humans, they were in humans. We found massive gaps with only about a quarter of those that we looked at actually being studied to the extent in humans. So there's a lot of concern. So going back to how you make plastics, you smash up the large molecules, you make monomers such as ethylene and propylene, and everyone will have heard of those because they then polymerase to make long chains of repeating elements of monomers. So that would be polyethylene, polypropylene and so on. But those polymers are useless on their own. You have to add a whole load of other chemicals to give them the utility that we need. And those can include plasticisers to make them flexible, flame retardants, to stop them bursting into flames because it is, after all, a fossil fuel we're talking about. You have to give them stability so that they don't break down in the light, well and on the shelf for a living and used colourants and the suchlike. And there's another bunch of chemicals that are used in actually making the chemicals. So. So you start making the plastic. Then that's converted into little things called pellets or nurdles. And then those are conglomerated and shaped, moulded, cut sanded whatever it is, into the products that we use today. So that's a really fast car of what plastic is and where it comes from.
Speaker 1 Thank you. So I think what I took from that is that it is very fossil fuel dependent. And so. That's plastics. But our focus today is on microplastics. I might turn to Michael to explain to us what exactly are microplastics. We hear about, you know, little beads in cosmetics and so on. But I'm sure it's a much broader explanation. So if you could perhaps talk us through microplastics and explain to us what these are and where they might be found.
Speaker 4 Thank you.
Speaker 3 Yeah. So microplastics, any type of plastic that is less than five millimetres, that's just the standardised size that's come across in the literature. There's also nano nanoplastics as well, and that's come across just in recent terminology because this is a new area of research, relatively new. There is all these new terminologies coming out. Nano plastics are in size range that is less than one Micrometre and I'm sure you'll hear more about that later on because these are the plastic particles that can have more issues in the human health. But when going back to the microplastics, you can have there's multiple different forms. You can have, you know, pellets, you can have fibres, fragments or, you know, foams. And then how microplastics are made. You can have primary microplastics or secondary microplastics. So, primary microplastics are made in the size range of five millimetres or less, whereas secondary microplastics is where you have a macro bit of plastic and then it downgrades into that smaller size range. As the issues around microplastics are still relatively new, there is still a lot of research in this space to be done. A lot of the focus is on finding sources of pollution, finding how it is affecting animals, how it's affecting sealife, how it is affecting humans. How we can recapture the microplastics from the environments and for when we going back to the sources of microplastics, the most known sources of plastics is from that macroplastic fragmentation. So that can occur through abrasive forces through just simple tyre wear products wearing down on the roads. You also have your washing machines or your a lot of the synthetic clothes these days. When you put them in the washing machine, they're going to make microfibres and that's an easy release into the environment. You have your tyres, which I said this before, and then you also have nurdle spills. So as Sarah was saying, you have the nurdles, which is the precursor to most plastic products. They melt that down into the new plastic product they're getting shipped around that's shipped around the world all the time. And it is quite common for a shipping container to fall off a ship filled of nurdles and then that's now in the environment. So those are the main sources of microplastic pollution that we have. But there is also emerging sources and there is this list which will just continue growing as more and more research occurs. So we've even found tea bags are a source of microplastic pollution, soft falls in playgrounds. That was a good solution for tires. They recycled that into soft falls, but now they're finding that that little crumb rubber is now escaping into the environment. And we just did some research at UOW recently, and we also discovered that plastic recycling facilities are actually a potentially large source of microplastic pollution just because of the way the process is as a shredders involved. And they're making all this microplastic dust and all these small contaminants. So we keep talking about what are microplastics. So that's what we're going to get through into this conversation here. But there is a wide range of issues associated with microplastics and how they can affect human health and our environment. So we'll dive a bit deeper into that. And that's what a microplastic is.
Speaker 1 Thank you, Michael. So what I take away from that is that a lot of microplastic comes from degradation of primary plastic. But what really is frightening to me is that even recycling is not the overall solution to getting rid of plastic in our environment, because that in itself can reduce, can can lead to further microplastics. So let's now get into a little bit of nitty gritty about what is the impact of microplastics on humans. And for this, I'll go back to Sarah, if that's okay. Perhaps you could just give us an overview of if microplastics are harmful to humans.
Speaker 4 And continue the conversation that Michael started. It was an excellent overall description. And everywhere we look, we find microplastics. And the thing that I think is perhaps most alarming carrying on from your comment is that the destiny of every single piece of big plastic that's sitting out there in the environment in a rubbish dump forever is to become micro, and then the plastics is to break up into smaller and smaller pieces of itself. It won't break down into its constituent components, it will break up into an infinite variety of particles. So this has been described as a toxic debt that we need to face in the future unless we can somehow clean it up in some way. So how do microplastics impact humans? That's, again, a really important question, and our knowledge is pretty limited, I'm afraid. And what we need to do is distinguish the two different size ranges. And the reason you need to do that is because the measurement techniques that we use for each of them is pretty different. But regardless, and some are more, you know, better developed than others, particularly for the microplastics, the nanoplastics is proving to be a real challenge. But we will get there. And we've set up a lab at the University of Queensland to do just that. And there are others around the world that are using a special technique called spectroscopy. So it must be spectroscopy, spectrometer, spectrometry. I'm sorry. So this is it's a it's a work in progress, but there is a lot that we can say already and I think the main take home message, apart from not knowing in a lot of detail, I think one of the main take home messages here is the smaller the size of the plastic, the more likely it is to penetrate more deeply into our bodies because that small size would enable it to cross biological barriers, whereas the bigger pieces will be kept by various mechanisms. So what do we know? We do know that exposures, measurements, the ranges of exposures that have been suggested in the literature are highly variable in their range. Some estimates range from about 0.1 to 5 grams a week. That's a lot of plastic to as few as a two to as low as just a few micrograms per week. And not surprisingly, the two main areas we know about from inhalation, breathing in the microplastics from the air as well as ingesting microplastics in our food and suchlike. So and Micahel has giving a really good description of the sorts of sources of microplastics. I mean, they break up everything. Building materials, furnishings, clothing, and the suchlike. So thinking about the lung, the best evidence we have, actually, is for a group of people who are very highly exposed to microplastics in their work environment. And those are textile workers who make synthetic fabrics, the coal flockworkers. So soft material that sheds lots of particles when you touch it. And there's been a lot of attention in that space. And we see very clearly an increased a large number of different respiratory diseases, much poorer lung function, as well as stomach and oesophageal cancers, because they're also not only inhaling it, but also ingesting it inadvertently from from the air. And just to reiterate the point about the size, the smaller those particles are, the more likely they are to go deeper into the smaller and smaller compartments of the lung. But we don't know. There are no epidemiological studies about humans in everyday exposure and lung health yet, and we need to get the measurement techniques really right. And contamination free, contamination is a huge problem in this area and one that you need to be very careful about because if you've got a false positive in your sample, you don't really know what you're talking about. So the other areas, it mentions the gut and there are lots of sources from our food as well as food storage, plastic containers, drink containers and all the rest of it, will shed microplastics when you open them, takeaway cups, tea bags, etc. etc.. And we know we ingest microplastics because we find them in stools. And I think every one of us on this webinar participating, if we were to look, we would find them. There's been an interesting study showing that the load of microplastics is actually linked. The higher the load is actually linked to inflammatory bowel disease. But you've got to be really careful there because it was a fairly small study, but it might have been that the patients that were looked at who had that disease and therefore leaky guts were more susceptible to uptake of the plastics from the gut in the inside of the gut. So, you know, this this science is very much at the beginning in terms of human epidemiological, observational studies, which we desperately need. There's a lot of effort worldwide to get these going. But even though there is an absence of evidence, it does not mean there is no harm. There's no reason whatsoever to think that they're safe because there's plenty of lab based studies either in tissue culture or in animals, which shows real reason for concern from fairly controlled conditions. And whichever cell types you look at, there seems to be damage in the sense that you get a lot of inflammation in those cells. You get oxidative stress and also energy dysfunction in the cells just aren't able to work properly. And the same is true if you're notched it up a bit and look at organ levels there's evidence of toxicity in the liver, the gut the lung and possibly also the brain as well. And a gut is really interesting. So we have our gut microbiome and there's evidence that microplastics are changing that as well, and that's absolutely critical to our health. Another factor we need to think about is that is children, because they have behaviours which predispose them to high concentrations, I mean they might stick everything in their mouths so that in fact it's been found that they do have exposures that are an order of magnitude higher than adults. So probably not a good thing in a developing body to be loading them up with microplastics. So the short answer is we really don't know about the direct impacts, that there's virtually no evidence, but we have every reason to be concerned and there's no reason why we should not be acting right now to limit our exposure to microplastics and get it out of the environment.
Speaker 1 Yeah. Thanks, Sarah. It takes me back to when you talk about children putting things in their mouths to the issues of lead poisoning when children's toys were painted with lead containing paint. And that's obviously being removed from the environment now. But it seems now we have the the microplastics and especially, I was reading something about microplastics in sand. And we know that kids love to dig in the sand and, you know, it just kind of puts a whole new sort of perspective towards us. While we're still on the topic of human health. You have touched on microplastics in the food chain, and we hear a lot about fish and marine animals and bioaccumulation in those larger fish, particularly. So there is a sort of common conception that microplastics in the diet is mainly from water sources or marine sources, but that's not necessarily the case. Do you want to just expand a little bit on that? Sara?
Speaker 4 It's a really again, it's a really interesting and pretty complex area and I just want it really defined biomagnification. So for biomagnification to occur, you need transfer from one species to the next and an increase in the concentration. And by and large, there's not a lot of evidence for that happening because the microplastics. Well, I mean, it depends on which route you're going through. If you are looking, what you would need to see for us when we eat fish, we gut the fish and most of the microplastics are going to be in the gut. Not many of them will have got into the flesh, although it is a possible exposure route. But I would like to mention a fascinating study before I go on to the rest of the food chain, because it's a really important question, again, Karen, about a study that looked at the amount of microplastics that we would eat or consume during a week while eating mussels that have been cooked in a house. And these were this was three three meals of mussels a week. I wouldn't normally three meals of mussels a week, but this was an experiment. And the intriguing finding was that the number of microplastics consumed that were estimated to be taken in was actually ten times higher from the room it was cooked in than from the muscles. And that's something where we do eat the gut. So but there is certainly a lot of work that needs to be done here. And I want to step back to the bottom of the food chain because we're so and the ocean, because we are so critically dependent at the bottom of the food chain is is sourced by plankton, phytoplankton. And so plankton. And there's some interesting work. And they're really important for us as a as a carbon sink. They take in carbon dioxide and they release oxygen. Every other breaths we take comes from the ocean. And it's really important not to damage the bottom of our food chain. We don't, there is some evidence that microplastics are taken out by plankton and interestingly, actually, because it's in their guts, it actually makes them lighter so they don't sink as well. They form something called marine snow, which sink to the bottom of the ocean, which produces nutrients for other species in upwelling that occur in these amazing ocean currents. So we think that that is being interrupted and both from the point of view of the the the circulation of the the energy source within the food chain and also the ability to act as a carbon sink, then you move up to the filter feeders on the chain and there's plenty of evidence that they do accumulate large numbers actually of microplastic, particularly under lab conditions. If left to their own devices and you put them in a clean dish without any microplastics and they will do a really good job at excreting those microplastics, getting them out of their bodies. So that's the good part. In an ocean which is heavily polluted, they will constantly be exposed and therefore taken up. So and there's no doubt that we that all of the fish that have been looked at and it's something that's over 1500 species, plastics and microplastics are found in them, certainly in their guts. The extent to which that actually translocate into the flesh of the animal is less certain. But even if we don't get any of it that way, it doesn't matter. We are damaging our very food chain on chain, which the livelihood of 2 billion people and us, everyone. We are totally reliant on the ocean. We are the ocean. We came from the ocean, oxygen comes from the ocean. Lots of other things come from the ocean. So look after it. And plastic working its way into the food chain, I think is is a really major threat, if not directly for humans and certainly indirectly because of the direct impacts on all those species in this amazing food web.
Speaker 1 All right. Well, thanks, Sarah. I think we could talk about the food chain for the rest of the webinar, but we're not going to because we're going to move on now. And that's a really good segue way to talk about our planetary health. So I'm going to move to Karen for this one. And Karen, I'd like you to perhaps tell us how microplastics impact on our planet and why why microplastics are an issue for climate change.
Speaker 3 Yes, I think Sarah's touched on that with the the plankton phytoplankton. So to talk about this, I think you probably need to separate between the primary microplastics and the secondary microplastics as well, because the primary microplastics would really go more upstream in the life cycle. And they obviously we have a lot of greenhouse gas emissions during the production of those pellets that we referred to earlier. And so just getting to that point initially to creating the first form of microplastics has massive impacts on greenhouse gas emissions from the entire lifecycle of plastics. And then Michael mentioned some of it at the end of the lifecycle, the incineration, etc., and even the choice of resin. Some of them need to be heated up to much higher temperatures, which takes on more energy than in the primary microplastic production side, which has an impact. And then I guess the breakdown of all of those, whether they probably start off as a primary end up and end up as a secondary, has quite a few negative feedback loops, both in the terrestrial and the aquatic environment. So those potentially amplify climate change as well. Some of that is around soil respiration, so it affects the ability of plants to grow, etc. and therefore absorb carbon. As Sarah mentioned, the phytoplankton and they're all in as a carbon sink, which is reduced. And then there's also should these microplastics sink into sediments they know to release methane as well. But I guess there's a number of other links between plastics and and climate change in that, you know, plastics, yes, they can contribute and amplify climate change, but as climate change increases, we're going to need more plastics in some areas, in some sectors, because particularly farming. So if land gets dryer or we having to move into drier areas, we're going to need more irrigation, which means more plastics. Those are all deployed directly into the environment and so they're likely to release microplastics straight into into the soil. And, you know, as we get more and more very severe weather events, we need to go in with food and water to help people after that. All of that gets left in Pacific Islands. Those plastic bottles get left there and they have to go into landfill because there's no other place for said breaks down there again. So as as we're getting more and more extreme events, we're having more and more sort of rescue food and water going in. And so we've got this link between climate change and plastics that the one feeding the other and that one of them in turn feeding on need for plastics in those areas as well. So, yes, I guess it's a complex situation.
Speaker 1 Thank you. Pretty sobering. All right. So I think we're going to have another poll now. And this time the poll is going to be about biodegradable plastics, because often we think if we use plastics that are biodegradable, that might be an ultimate solution. So we'll just wait for that poll to come up and see how we go with that answer. It's a little time to load.
Speaker 1 All right. So, again, we have a pretty informed audience today. So it is false. Biodegradable plastics are not the ultimate solution. And this is because Michael has already told us they require specific industrial conditions to break them down. And that might might make it impractical, impractical from the waste management point of view. So, Michael, I'll put this over to you now. Let's think about ways that we could reduce our consumption of plastic and better manage plastic waste. are there solutions, first of all. And if so, what are these?
Speaker 3 Yeah. So plastic isn't really going anywhere too fast. So we do have to look at ways we reduce our own consumption of plastic waste. And one of the easiest ways that everyone here in the room can do, but on the web right now can do is to stop using anything that single use plastic. That's a main one. We are seeing this phase out of single use plastics, but then we would have seen in New South Wales there is a phase out of regular like oil based plastics and then replaced of biodegradable plastics as if you put that biodegradable plastic straight into landfill. That's not going to have the right conditions for that biodegradable plastic to break down. And it's still essentially a plastic no produced microplastics and still has all those problems that are associated with it. There is the positive of moving from oil based plastics to some biobased plastics just so that we're not so dependent on the oil products. So in the future, we may see that shift occur. A lot of education is required to the communities getting the understanding of how to properly manage your waste like your plastic waste, putting it in the correct bin, making sure it's ending up at recycling. Even though I mentioned recycling plants, are creating microplastics. They are also reducing greenhouse emissions by not requiring that need for those virgin plastics as virgin plastics, as Karen was saying, do require a lot of energy to create. So we just need to look more at what can we replace it with, but how or not? Just what can we replace plastic with, but more look at how we can better manage the plastic waste. Because even if we look at plastic alternatives, if you're looking at timber, for example, you're going to look at deforestation issues. If you're looking at steel, you're going to look at mining issues. There's issues associated with every type of material that we use in the world. You do have to focus on how we better manage the waste. And once we start to better manage the plastic waste by collecting it from the environment, by putting it where it belongs, we will hopefully see less effects from these microplastics. Unfortunately, though, once microplastics are in the environment, they're pretty hard to bring back. So. It's a difficult loop that one too.
Speaker 1 Thank you. Karen, did you have anything you'd like to add in terms of bioplastics?
Speaker 3 Yeah. Well, firstly, the term bioplastics is a complicated term and it includes many things like bio based. So Michael mentioned making plastics from plant material and that has been touted as an as a solution. But again, if we not only using by-products from existing agricultural processes, we might be moving into new territories to grow those, which again is going to require more plastic to irrigate those those new bio based feedstocks. So I guess we just have to the idea is to reduce consumption and reduce everything. So I guess you could you could start trying to buy locally as well so that you're not having to transport every time you buy something from overseas. It needs packaging, it needs to be flown over and then there's just everything around these products that that contributes to climate change. And I guess we just have to be careful of the solutions as well.
Speaker 1 So I'm hearing that plastic is not our friend.
Speaker 3 And it is our friend. It is our friend in many ways. We just have to learn to manage it properly.
Speaker 1 Okay, Now we're going to move to our last poll, which is about recycling since we're on this topic. So we're going to bring that up. If everyone just recycles properly, we wouldn't have a problem. True or false?
Speaker 1 Well done to us. 100% correct. So that is correct. Recycling can help cause the solution, but it's not the ultimate solution. So I'll go to Karen for this one. We know that there are some policies here in New South Wales and elsewhere around the production and use of plastics. Can you please highlight for us what governments could do to help reduce the impact of plastics on the environment? And what do you think about these policies as they stand how they've been designed? Could they be better designed? So perhaps if you could talk us through what our government and perhaps others are doing to address this issue of plastics.
Speaker 3 Yeah. Thanks. I guess traditionally a lot of the approach has been around trying to improve waste management. And then after that, we started banning a few things. It's really difficult to ban products, so we we're not going to be able to do much of that further beyond what we've done now. So it's difficult. So I guess the other approach is to try and change the design of products, and that's really where the biggest impact is going to happen. So yes, we can do all our reduction type of approaches first, and that includes perhaps the reuse and refill. As I mentioned, that's not necessarily the best solution for plastics themselves. They're not the best material for that. But it could potentially move to glass and other things, which needs a good lifecycle assessment to really say that's the solution. But design is the is the is the important part here and that will enable us to firstly recycle or if we can reuse and refill, which goes to the reduction of the need for new plastics. And actually we have to try and reduce that rate of growth as much as we can, that we haven't been very good at anywhere. And there's a lot now trying to be done and I'm not sure if you're aware everyone, but we are negotiating a new global plastics treaty and we're moving into the third negotiating meeting of five. And there we're trying to tackle the design because that needs a global approach. For one country to tackle design isn't really going to help us across the world because our value chain is so global, and particularly non-manufacturing countries, they need this global agreement to help with the design of the products coming in into their markets that they have to import because they don't manufacture locally. So the strength of this agreement really is around design. And aside from all of that is things like energy efficiency and moving to green energy, which by itself is going to need more plastic too to transition. But if we can reduce the energy around the or the energy emissions, that will help with the plastics lifecycle significantly as well. But that's a long process. And as I said, it's going to need more plastic tubes. So really, if we can if we can get to the design and we're trying to work on criteria, what is good design, then we can start really making things that will work in a circular economy and it's going to take some time. What do we do with the stuff that doesn't meet those criteria? Yeah, what about the stuff that's on the market that will only become end of life in 20 years or 30 years. We almost like we need two waste streams, one for the old waste and one for the new waste that might or that might have been designed correctly. So it's it's it's a very complex situation in Australia. We have tried, we're lucky. We have good infrastructure, we have good collection services. But it really boils down in developing countries to why bother collecting this? So it needs value or it's not going to be collected. And at the moment most of our plastic doesn't have much value and it's expensive to recycle. So we're just sitting with a really bad situation and this is what we hope to fix with the global agreement. But we've never tackled design at the global level or anything. So it's new ground and we only have five meetings to fix this.
Speaker 1 Well, good luck to you if you on the third meeting. Hopefully this will happen relatively quickly. And I think the global approach is is absolutely the way to go. So that sort of brings us to the end of our formal questions. But I'm pretty sure we have a number of questions that have come from the audience. So just have a look at those and we can direct those. So the first one is to Michael. Michael, I know places like South Korea and Germany recycle a lot more plastics than we do. Do they have solutions to the breakdown of microplastics and are they countries that we should be looking to for more advanced techniques?
Speaker 3 So in regards to the recycling industry, because it is a relatively new topic, they haven't actually really thought about it in their processes. But there is many processes outside the recycling industry that can capture micro-plastics, like whether it's in wastewater treatment plants that like free filtration devices, coagulation, etc., that that just needs to be brought in to the recycling industry. But without external pressure through either like government regulations on monitoring microplastic pollution, the recycling industry might not feel pressured to implement those devices because it will be an extra cost to them. And unless there's someone on the outside telling them they have to do this, they might not implement it. So the technologies exist in Australia and all around the world and there's even. But the scientific community is obviously a global community, so it's working with different nations. So we don't need to look specifically at a country with better technology. We just have to make sure we implement it into the recycling industry.
Speaker 1 Okay. Thank you. So we have a question from Barbara. And Barbara's question is, she would like to know what is being done to reduce microplastics through washing. Are companies being required to build washing machines with filters? There are other options, such as a cora ball. I'm not sure what that is to reduce the problem, but these aren't available here in Australia. So if this is such a major contributor to microplastics, why are we not doing more? And I'm just going to open this up to anybody that would like to respond. So it's about washing, washing machines.
Speaker 3 So let's take a look at the start. Is the Cora Ball is is made from recycled plastic, but it does also give off microplastics itself. And it's not as effective as some of the filters and some of the filters as well you need to be careful that you're going to wash the filter under the tap because then it just goes down the drain again anyway. So the filters, they do work. Some of them are quite useful. It also depends on whether the device that's capturing the microplastics is is can be reused multiple times. So there's complexities within the filters themselves. As far as regulation goes, we are not regulating at this point. I think Australia is considering it. I think Japan has had it for many years where they have regulated filters are built into washing machines. So it is something that doesn't really take in a huge focus at the global level and at the global level. What they talking more about is the intentionally added microplastics, which is an easier thing to regulate than the breakdown of plastics, which goes to design. How do you redesign your car tyres and your clothes so they don't give off microplastics? Whereas those that we are intentionally adding to products we can regulate a lot more easily. Yeah. Australia in their national plastics plan, they're aiming by 2030 to start phasing it in Ah 2030. So you know it loosely on the words, but whether or not they follow through later on. We'll see.
Speaker 4 Okay. Sorry. Thanks. On the textiles, there are ways of making the threads in the first place, which involve a much tighter wrapping of the fibres. It's a bit more expensive, but it does result in a much lower shed rate from the textiles. So if we could encourage the better quality fabrics compared to the poorer quality ones, I think that would make a big difference.
Speaker 1 I'm going to take the Chair's privilege of just adding another question on textiles while we're here. I bought a pair of jeans made out of recycled plastics. Is that a good thing or a bad thing? Now, I don't know if it was good. No.
Speaker 4 No they will still shed microplastics. And the thing we haven't talked about at all today is the chemicals that are hosted by the plastics that you're wearing. And we do know that that does harm human health. Well, I think a lot of recycled material there on the market, in the shops. And I don't know what it's made of.
Speaker 3 Just might get into Lycra. Lycra pants. So I think I sent Sarah a paper from the EU on that. And the Lycra pants that use recycled plastics have got lots of chemicals in them from those recycled plastics. Plus it needs to say post-consumer recycled plastics because the factories in China, that way they make the plastic bottles and they just take them straight through to the next one, which makes the recycled clothes or clothing made out of recycled plastics. They're not even using the bottles. So it's got to say post-consumer. And otherwise we don't know where it came from.
Speaker 1 So we have a question from Cath Blakey from Wollongong Council. I think it's to Karen. Why do you think a global plastics treaty will work when the Climate Conference of Party summits has had such limited impact?
Speaker 3 Well, big question. Yes. Well, when we talk about negotiations, we have what we call the High Ambition Coalition. And then there's a few of the low ambition coalitions who are fighting to have an agreement similar to the Paris Agreement, where it's really up to countries to decide what they do. And they just have to report and tell the world what they're going to do. So, you know, it's it's pointless. And that's why I think we've had such little success there. Where we trying to get to this what is not that type of scenario. So where there are certain obligations to to reduce primary production, to make products that are more circular and to reduce the micro-plastics as well. So we need to be fighting at that. We need design criteria, we need all sorts of things which are not going to happen if we have a Paris Agreement style of agreement for plastics.
Speaker 4 And if I could just add that Australia is part of the High Ambition Coalition, which is great. There's a I forget the number of countries that come, but 50 odd. I was going to say 58.
Speaker 1 You know, this is a global problem. I mean, our waste ends up in other people's backyard and vice versa. So it's not just one country. We're getting on to some practical questions. And so somebody asked, should we be drinking from metal, reusable drink bottles and use glass containers to hold and reheat food? And we haven't spoken about the reheating of food and cling film. I don't know if you call it cling film here or gladwrap or, you know, the plastic wrap around food. Is this harmful to health? What should we be doing in the kitchen? And is metal better than glass or. What are the answers? What should we be doing?
Speaker 4 Michael to take that or some of his time.
Speaker 3 You can go on that one Sarah.
Speaker 4 So I've never heated anything in plastic. I just just. And when you open, if you do look at plastic containers that have had heated food and that you can see this staining and pattern on them, which accumulates with time. So here we're talking about more probably the leaching of the chemicals from the plastic. I didn't mention the beginning, but they're not strongly bonded to the polymer and they very readily leach out and they harm our health. So I would recommend not eating anything in plastic, avoiding kitchen utensils that are plastic and storage that is plastic. It's hard. And I think that's less than being able to use reusable containers in the home. What's really hard is when you buy the stuff in the first place and you go to the supermarket and things are so wrapped in plastic again, I do my best to avoid what I can. I don't always succeed, but I'm very conscientious about it and I think, yeah, good idea. Don't use plastic, avoid it where you can. Metal and glass are great alternatives.
Speaker 3 They just to come in on that? I might I mentioned lifecycle assessments earlier and it really depends on how many times you use that glass. And you really need to use it and make sure you use it and not have 20 aluminium bottles in your car for mining and heating etc.. Is it really is about reusing it? Many, many, many, many times.
Speaker 1 Oh, we've got so many excellent questions. But unfortunately, we're going to have to wrap up. Some of the panel are trying furiously to type in answers to some of the questions we haven't got to. So thank you to the audience for being so participatory and it just shows us that we hopefully have answered some of the questions, But there are a whole lot more out there. So it's really given me a perspective today on what we can do ourselves to go forward in trying to reduce our use of plastics. I'm going to ask each of the panellists just to wrap up and give us a one minute takeaway, what you think is the most important message to get out there. And then I'll I'll have to close. So we'll go. Sarah, Michael and Karen, if you don't mind. Just quick takeaway.
Speaker 4 We need to use far less plastic.
Speaker 1 Far less plastic. Michael, what's your take away?
Speaker 3 Don't be afraid of plastic. Just know that we just need to manage it properly.
Speaker 1 Manage it properly and Karen.
Speaker 3 Campaign your politicians. That's where the power lies in fixing this.
Speaker 1 The power of the people. I love that. That's what we're going to end on. The power of the people. We have the power. So a big thank you to our three wonderful panellists, Sarah, Michael and Karen. Thank you for giving up your time. To the audience, we hope you'll join us for more of our events. We've got planned for UOW, Climate Change Week, Global Climate Change Week, and I've been asked by the alumni organisers to they're going to put up a survey that'll take just 2 minutes to complete. And if you wouldn't mind popping that on your screen and completing that at the end of this webinar. And it's 4.59 pm so I'm going to let us close. I think we have some links in the chats to people's LinkedIn's. Otherwise I'm pretty sure you'll be able to find them.
Speaker 1 And target your questions directly to them in whatever format you want to. So thanks very much, everyone. Really appreciate it. And good evening to everybody. Thank you.
Extreme Weather Events panel discussion
Hear from leading researchers, thought leaders and disaster professionals who are working on the frontline of extreme weather events.
Speaker 1 [00:00:04] It's a pleasure to welcome you here today as part of Global Climate Change Week at the University of Wollongong. Today our session will focus on extreme weather events. While we wait for people to join us today, you might like to put in the chat where you are joining us from. I believe we've got people from various parts of the world, and I would like you to acknowledge the countries that you're from in Australia and the countries you're from across the globe. We've got people from Wagga, Campbelltown, Dharawal country. Beautiful. Wombarra. Yes. Greetings from beautiful Wodi Wodi country. Tamworth. Welcome, Tamworth. Welcome from Wangal Country. Right before we begin today, I was speaking to Josie Atkinson a Gumbaynggirr woman. She's an artist from the central north coast and also a student of UOW. And she has been very kind to share with us some of her artwork. And the background that I've got today is Josie's work, and it's titled 'Heal Country Heal Climate'. And we'll play a short video acknowledgement that Josie has prepared and given us permission to use.
Speaker 2 [00:01:24] I'd like to acknowledge the land on which we're all zooming in from today and pay my respects on behalf of everyone here to the ancestors and elders past, present and future. Thanks for your reply of this feed of pippies.
Speaker 1 [00:01:39] I thought everybody would want to see the pippies that Josie is talking about. And I'd like to also acknowledge the traditional owners on the lands of which I'm sitting at the moment. I'm sitting and Dharawal lands the land with the Wodi Wodi people. And I'd like to acknowledge Aboriginal elders past, present and emerging, and particularly those Aboriginal emerging elders that have chosen UOW to be part of their lifelong journey. And thank you very much everybody, for telling me where you are coming from. And I know that you will acknowledge the traditional owners of your location. Speaking to Josie earlier in the week, she said that many people are uncomfortable about having acknowledgement of country broadcast over the Internet because people are in so many different countries. So if you find this a difficult concept, just bear with us and we acknowledge that this isn't the best way to acknowledge country for everybody. And I'll also just refer to that beautiful artwork that we have there, the tree and note that the university acknowledges the devastating impact of colonisation on our campus footprint and we commit ourselves to truth telling, healing and education. My name is Tim McCarthy. I'm Professor of Sustainable Design, and I'm the director of the Sustainable Buildings Research Centre on the beautiful Innovation Campus at Wollongong. I welcome the attendees who are here today. We've got a great panel, we've got Robert Ogie, Andrew McCullough and Joshua MacLaren who are going to do a double act, Vanessa Organo and Dr. George Takacs. Robert Ogie is a UOW PERL Fellow specialising in critical infrastructure and disaster modelling. Dr. Ogie has also been recognised for his innovative work, which saw him closely and with the SES working closely with the culturally and linguistically diverse communities to so-called CALD communities during natural disasters. Andrew McCullough and Joshua McLaren are both disaster professionals and strategists and thought leaders. Andrew and Josh are UOW alumni, and together they founded Beyond Disaster, a social enterprise. They host Australia's leading disaster management podcast, 'Me, Myself and Disaster'. They have also founded Australian Young Professionals in Disaster. Vanessa Organo is an international development professional with a background in climate change, disaster management and environmental management. Vanessa works for the International Organisation for Migration, IOM, supporting programmes in climate change and disaster related displacement. Dr. George Takacs is an honorary senior fellow with the School of Physics at the UOW. George is one of the founders of the Global Climate Change Week Initiative. So thank you, George, for setting this up so many years ago. George's research has focussed on climate action, including both mitigation and adaptation. The panel will now discuss a series of questions with me, and we encourage members of the audience to submit their own questions in the Q&A function and we'll be turning off the chat function at this point. So welcome panellists. George, I've got a question for you. Okay. Let's start with can you explain to our audience what classifies an extreme weather event and what trends are we seeing globally?
Speaker 3 [00:05:24] Yes. Okay. So with the classification, it's somewhat arbitrary, but it's basically an event which has a low probability of occurring at a particular place at a particular time of year. So the arbitrariness becomes what do you believe low probablibility be, is it less than 10% chance of occurring, less than 5%, less than one in a thousand. But whichever threshold you choose, you can then go and have a look and see, well, what's happening with trends and events. Those sort of extreme events. So the trends we are seeing; I mean, to really understand the trends you really need to look globally because you can get quite a lot of variation in a small geographic area. So if we look at heat, so if you look at daily maximum temperatures. What we're finding is that temperatures that are above the 99.9 percentile. So one in a thousand. What was a one in 1000 one is now occurring about one in 200. Right. So the probability at a particular temperature threshold has increased by a factor of five. If we look at heatwaves and a heat wave is generally found is three or more successive days where both maximum and minimum temperatures are higher than you would expect. A one in fifty heat wave, what was a one in fifty heatwave is now about a one in ten chance of occuring. What was a one in ten heatwave is now about one in three. So we've seen quite significant increases there in heat and that's probably the most pronounced change we're seeing in extremes. We are seeing some changes in rainfall. So if you look at daily rainfall, rainfall events at the 99.9 percentile have increased by about 18%, so not as big an increase as we've seen with temperature but still significant. Heavy rainfall is becoming more frequent and intense across most of the world, with the exception of Mediterranean style climates. A mediterranean style climate, obviously the Mediterranean but also say southwest, Western Australia. With drought, we really are only seeing an increase in drought at this stage because of an increase in temperatures which has led to an increase in evaporation in the soils. There's very few places where there's any statistically significant change in drought other than due to change in the evaporation. And then with cyclones if you look at cyclones, we're not seeing globally a change in the frequency of cyclones, but we are seeing an increase in cyclones, the most severe cyclones so category four and five cyclones have increased in frequency. And at the same time, we've seen with a lot of those cyclones is they are tracking more slowly across the landscape and that exacerbates the impacts that they have because more rainfall occurs over an area, because as the cyclone tracks more slowly and there's more chance for wind damage to occur as well. So there the sort of trends we are seeing globally, Tim.
Speaker 1 [00:08:21] Well, it's a frightening picture in a way, and it's one that we've all experienced ourselves. We've seen so much wet in New South Wales over the last year. And I was in Ireland during July and Ireland experienced its hottest day on record, 33.5 degrees. Now Australians might think that's not much, but in a country that does not know air conditioning and driving a car with inadequate air conditioning, that felt very, very hot indeed. And it's interesting to see, to hear those statistics, George. That what was a really once in a lifetime event is now happening once a generation. And the things that were generational are happening pretty much all the time. I'd like to throw a question out to Andrew and Joshua. Josh on your podcast, Me, Myself, and Disaster, you get the opportunity to interview some amazing people, and I'm interviewing amazing people today, and they're working in the disaster space. In your experience, just how significant are the effects of climate change on extreme weather events?
Speaker 4 [00:09:33] Yeah. Tim, I think it's a it's a it's a really good question. It's a big question to unpack in such a short amount of time, but I'll do my best. I think, um, I think one thing I want to leave people with here today, and we had Craig Fugate, he was as some of you may know he was the head of FEMA, the American Agency for Disasters, and he was, you know, the head advisor to President Obama. When we had him on the podcast, he really stressed to Andrew and I that, you know, the key is to remember we often talk about, you know, climate change and and the impacts of that on disaster. We often think about that through a lens of 'future'. But I think for Craig and something he's been talking a lot about, it's about that the change is actually here. That the effects that we see, we're experiencing them now. And I think that's really big for us. I think it's totally shifting the conversation around how we look at some of these things because a lot of the time we think about the future and what do we need to be doing now for those challenges, but really we actually need to shift our mindset and our thinking to 'it's a here and now problem'. And I think as well, Robert Glasser, again people may know we had on the podcast, you know, talking about, you know, when you talk about in the context of climate change and this discussion, that 1.5 degree rise, we've essentially locked that in now and again, you know, we need to look at it in the here and now. That 1.5 has been locked in and the consequences because of that 1.5 degree rise. It's not a matter of, or a conversation around how we prevent that now. It's really a conversation around how do we actually deal with this and how do we adapt to it. So I think there's probably some things to just think about when we talk about the impact of climate change on extreme weather events. And, you know, a recent example that, you know, some work's been doing in this space is within the Pakistan floods. Again, many may be aware and watching the news of what's been happening in Pakistan. We had Dr. Ayesha Siddiqi from the University of Cambridge on, who's been doing a lot of research in that space. And there is some research currently going on now looking at, you know, how can we actually link disasters with that anthropogenic climate change. You know, where are those, let's look at one of those concrete links between the two and how much are climate change actually exacerbating the problem that we see on the ground. And I think that just lastly, you know, it's in terms of how significant, you know, for us as an industry, if you look at it from a disaster industry perspective, it's a game changer. At the moment where, you know, if you look at the infrastructure, the system, the resource, the strategies that the industry uses, a lot of those were designed 10, 20, 30, 40 years ago for a world that does not even think about the consequences that we're facing now. So it's really been, I guess, a real eye opening moment for the industry because, you know, the whole industry in itself is having to redefine itself and how we operate in and with disasters. And, you know, again, I will kind of stop here because I know this will be the discussion we have today. You know, really challenging ourselves around what actually disasters, what are disasters. You know, they're not they're not natural. They are really a consequence of the decisions that we make as individual governments and communities. So I might leave it there becuase I know we're going to talk a bit more Tim, but you know, from my perspective and the podcast, that's what we're seeing at the moment.
Speaker 1 [00:13:00] Thank you Josh and I hadn't thought of it before as a disaster industry, but that's exactly what we have. And we have people like yourselves who are professionals in that space. Andrew the work that you and Josh do in disaster management is varied and really significant. You've been on the ground during the three Lismore floods. Can you tell us about the work that you do and what you're seeing experiencing firsthand with the increased number of extreme weather events? And what's the effect of that on the local communities?
Speaker 5 [00:13:35] Yeah, and I guess either lucky or unlucky, I've managed to be on the ground for three of those Lismore events, and that was in 2017 and most recently two this year. And it really is like it's, it's quite hard to describe because you kind of go into Lismore where the event happens and it's just a bombs hit the place. Everything's is eerily quiet, there's large amounts of rubbish outside houses and then sort of each afternoon you head back to the hotel, and in Byron Bay just half an hour up the road, everyone's out having dinner and it's just like a normal sort of place. So it's quite, it's quite weird to sort of think that people are so close, some are so disaster hit and some are so living their lives as normal, I guess is what we're sort of experiencing now. I was over in Geraldton earlier this year as well or I think it was last year for the cyclone and that's why I sort of think that things are certainly changing. We are a seeing a cyclone hit as far down as Geraldton and caused such damage because houses there are not designed to be built for cyclones. It's a disaster because we decided to build in that location and we didn't build houses that were set up to the standard that is required for the future and to be prepared for that future risk. So I think my view, I guess, of seeing these disaster zones is one of alomost a FIFO worker. I fly in, I fly out, and you see how vulnerable the communities is, but for them it's all very clinical for you, but for them it's a far more life changing experience. Most of my work is really around providing early warnings, running community meetings, engaging with communities, and then I work in my role in the New South Wales Government, building out volunteer numbers for future sort of disasters and building capability. And we often hear in that is people sort of say, "oh I never expected this" or "this is the worst sort of flood I've seen in my life". But we're seeing that everywhere. And that's because I think it's disasters are certainly getting worse and the consequences are getting worse for people. So while the flood might be the same height or the same depth or the same speed, it's causing a greater influence on people's lives. People are building in those more vulnerable locations. So the impact is bigger. We're also seeing that increasing reliance for help. So people are becoming so dependent on that help and people are becoming more and more vulnerable with the compounding and cascading disasters. So we're in this kind of constant disaster cycle now where we sort of don't know how to sort of end this. But as I said before and as Josh alluded too, they are only disasters because we've chosen to live in these locations and by whatever means we're there. We have to sort of work out something now to sort of combat this and combat that future risk. So I think we're going to see more of this in the future. We're seeing in Sydney, the recent floods we've had in Sydney, about six major floods now. Each is getting slightly larger with just the below the sort of main trigger points for those big evacuations in places like McGraths Hill so the future is a little scary; but we are seeing the consequence on those communities starting to ramp up until becoming more and more dependent. People more and more impacted by these compounding and cascading repeated disasters keep happening.
Speaker 1 [00:16:38] Wow. And that was three times you've been to Lismore and three times it's been inundated. And I think that also echoes what Joshua was saying about our need to adapt, because this is here and it's not going away. And I think I agree with you, Andrew, that the future is scary and we need to adopt new approaches to where we live, where we rebuild, and how we rebuild back better. I'm going to throw a question now to you, Vanessa. Vanessa, you live in Vanuatu, which is a place I have on my bucket list I need to visit at some stage. And Vanuatu is rated the country at most risk for natural disasters by the United Nations. Can you talk us through some of the extreme weather events that Vanuatu is experiencing and what this means for a country that has the front row seats at the effects of climate change?
Speaker 6 [00:17:46] Yes. Thanks, Tim, and thanks for having me on the panel. So I thought I'd give a bit of context about Vanuatu first, because people might not be aware. It's a small island, developing state in the Southwest Pacific. You should come over Tim. Make sure you take it off your bucket list. It's only 3 hours from Sydney flight, but it's not that well-known to some Australians. It's quite a scattered archipelago of islands. There's around 120 islands in the country. 83 of them are inhabited and it's very geographically diverse. There's some islands that are larger with mountain chains, you know, up to two kilometres above sea level. There's other islands that are inhabited that are small atolls where the highest point above sea level might be four or five metres only. So when we're talking about climate change and disasters in Vanuatu, the impacts can be very varied depending on the geographic nature of the island and how, how populated it is. Yeah. Speaking to what George said before about cyclones. That is one particular extreme event that Vanuatu is very familiar with. What George mentioned about the trends of cyclones that they are projected. The number is projected to decrease, but the intensity is expected to increase. That is a reality that Vanuatu has gone through. We've actually had two category five cyclones in the space of five years, which is before unprecedented. First of all, there was Category five Tropical Cyclone Pam in 2015. At the time, it was the most intense cyclone that the Pacific has recorded, but since then it's been capped, which is also quite scary. It went through the central and southern parts of the islands and a very slowly. It was building up for many weeks beforehand and then you could prepare as well as you could. But then it just tracked very slowly through the islands. The destruction was very severe. And then again in 2020, just after the borders closed, actually due to the pandemic, Tropical Cyclone Harold struck the northern and central parts of Vanuatu. And again, very slow tracking over from a west to east direction. And it caused destruction to some more remote parts of Vanuatu as well as the second largest town. So. Yeah. It's, it's those extreme events. Cyclones are the most well known that Vanuatu is known for. But actually there's, there's more climate change impacts happening in extreme events. Um, there's some slower onset events that Vanuatu is now facing, especially sea level rise, ocean acidification, marine heatwaves is something that Vanuatu's too is facing. And yeah, the impacts are pretty severe for most of Vanuatu, who is rural by 75% of the country is based in rural or remote areas.
Speaker 1 [00:21:23] Well, thank you for that, Vanessa. And our heart goes out to communities when they are impacted by things like Harold and the floods in Lismore. And I don't know from where I'm sitting I feel helpless at times like this. And as we see the impact of sea level rising as well, you know, and it angers me in a way. But I'm going to move on to Robert. Robert, you're a PERL Fellow, and for those who aren't aware, PERL is the programme for emerging leaders in research and at the University of Wollongong. It's a very competitive fellowship, so congratulations on being one of our PERL Fellows. One of the issues that we face during these extreme weather events is how we can mobilise support and assistance for those affected. And you've done a lot of work with the CALD communities, the communities that are culturally and linguistically diverse. Can you tell us about that work?
Speaker 7 [00:22:28] Thanks very much Tim, and thanks for the introduction as well. Yes. So the way I think I should mention first when Josh and Andrew's spoke I think the way they concluded something quite striking that I think we have to come back to, which is the idea that disasters, what we call natural disaster, are not actually natural disasters. So we have natural hazards. But what we do is sort of actions we take is what determines whether those natural hazards we eventually culminates in disasters. So what that tells me, it's that disaster risk reduction and the actions we take as community, as governments, it's quite important to ensure that we don't have situations where natural disasters are leading to the natural hazards are leading to disasters. So my work really focuses on how can we better use information technology to support vulnerable people in times of natural hazards. So one of the work I've recently done its called EmerCALD, and I should thank Josh wh is here with us today. While he was still in the SES he provided a lot of support for those projects. So EmerCALD basically was focussed on how can we make emergency messages more accessible, more understandable to people who are not, who don't have English as our first language. So we're talking about migrants, people who are according to what Tim mentioned they are culturally and linguistically diverse communities, so CALD communities. So that project we worked with the Multicultural Community Council of the Illawarra, the SES was also involved in that project, thanks to Josh and his team. Now I was really focussed on community engagement. So we also the project also involved seven different language groups in the Illawarra region. So Spanish, Italian, Macedonian, Mandarin. About seven different language groups. And what we're looking at is, what the messages that are being pulled out from the SES, how well do these messages, how well are they understood by people from those language groups? So because I remember from several discussions with SES staff members. One of the question that came up is, today is do we really have this concern that they don't understand this message? How true is that? Yeah. So we thought we carry out this like sort of community engagement project and, you know, get in touch one on one with the people that are really involved in this and see how well they understand this message. So we've got the messages from the SES. So they will be presented to them the top five messages that they would normally go out to during the floods and storms. And something was quite interesting. So we had a different like it was more like a spectrum of people from different. Linguistic skills. You know, people from those different groups, we brought people who had different levels of language capabilities, basically. So people were born here meant they went to school here so they could speak English well. Or they are first parents. Their parents also were people that were born overseas. So we need to hear from them how well they unedstood those messages. What was quite striking is a fact that a lot of the people who were born here couldn't even understand those messages properly. And I think this was also we had SES staff there to witness the process that the message that are being put out to people from culturally and linguistically, linguistically diverse backgrounds are not getting across. Importantly we wanted them to also look for people who have bilingual backgrounds so meaning they can speak English and their first language to see if they can help in the process of translating those messages from English to the first language. And what we also found is that this group with a bit of support in terms of getting through those technical jargons, that you always find in all those messages that it was, we found that it could help in translating those messages. And those messages were really helpful and more understanding for people from CALD background. So what we're doing going from here, it's now we're looking at how to develop a system that can help these different communities to, you know, translate messages from English audience through messages from English and on one end as well, from English to the different language groups. So at the moment I'm working on that project, currently developing a tool that's going to rely on what artificial intelligence and also having humans in the loop as well to help check for errors in that translation to ensure that communities, people from CALD background are not disenfranchised during the emergeny. That's just one way of helping to improve disaster risk reduction for people CALD backgrounds.
Speaker 1 [00:27:41] Thank you, Robert. That's such important work because we need people to be able to react quickly, rapidly in dangerous situations. And I like your distinction between the natural hazards and the disasters. Its' a bit like they think that accidents don't happen. They're actually caused by something and the hazard is something we can't avoid. But the disaster is certainly something we can. I'm going to move back to Andrew now and ask you a short question that probably has got a really long answer because Joshua mentioned the need for climate adaptation. So I'm going to ask you the question what does that look like and how quickly do we need to act?
Speaker 7 [00:28:19] It's a big question and I think something in terms of when we should have acted probably a long time ago, because if we had the disasters we're facing today it would probably have less consequence than they would have had otherwise. I think the point that Josh made earlier around disasters are natural and the environment doesn't cause disasters. It is really our sort of impact. Ilan Kellman, who is someone who we spoke to on the podcast, who's a professor of disasters at the University College in London, he said, we need a stronger umbrella to deal with the impacts of climate change because while we sort of see the world changing, we need to kind of adapt to that quite quickly. And we also need to support those who can't afford a stronger umbrella so those who are most vulnerable. So I guess I'll summarise the sort of the answer and be quite quick in terms of what we need to do is understand the actual risk profile of what we actually face. So what's our risk profile today and what will be in the future? While the impacts of climate change have and infrastructure is often the solution, we sort of turn to to say, I'll build a bigger flood levy or a higher bridge or houses that can be washed out and sort of restored to or have life there more quickly afterwards. Heat resisted infrastructure. They are certainly methods, and that's certainly one part of it. But there's plenty more, and things around land use planning. I know as we see the debate in play out in the public at the moment around floods and whether we should be building on floodplains. These are long term discussions they are almost sort of generational shift to go that we might be able to live there now and in five and ten years. We need to be planning for sort of 30 and 40 years and beyond the sort of the short term election cycles to kind of go, what are we going to be doing in 30 and 40 years to get off these floodplains and live in safer areas? I think there's also that idea and a concept I think relates to Robert's project around Early Warning Systems. I know the UN published just recently some research around having 24 hours notice of early warning can actually cut costs by 30%. So it's a huge instant saving there and a way of adapting by just putting in systems to allow people to get out of their place, move their furniture, move their belongings up. And that's what has been happening in some parts of Western New South Wales, even today as we sort of face floods there. But we've got early warning systems in Australia. And building that community connectedness is really important and I think that's really we can combine similar things together. So around having sort of really heat resistant infrastructure, for example, that might actually encourage community meeting points. So actually people understand their risk and they know what to do and they have that connection and community to actually work together to take action when there is a disaster and adapt to climate change. So I think it really revolves around that local approach and I think we need to empower local government more in that space to do more with climate change adaptation. They are the ones that sort of front the community every day and are there on the ground. But it's not just government. It's more than just the government and the private sector. We need to have these agencies, both in government and the civil society, working together. So there's are big sort of challenges, and it's I guess the question I'll probably put to the group almost, or to everyone listening today is how do we as sort of civil society and people appreciate what that risk is going to be and feel empowered and able to do something about it. That we are not just rely on government or rely on the private sector, incentivise it. We take action early and we can consider what that means for us in terms of adapting to that climate change future risk.
Speaker 1 [00:31:45] Thank you for that, Andrew. That actually feeds in well to my next question, which is for Vanessa. Vanessa. Vanuatu, has traditionally relied on international aid during extreme weather events. And in fact, it's every country's reaction that when an event happens somewhere else, that we try and help. And Australia has received help in the past. But when COVID closed the borders and Vanuatu had to rely on its own support internally. Can you tell us a bit about the experience of that and what lessons were learnt?
Speaker 6 [00:32:24] Yeah, sure Tim. So I guess first it's good to acknowledge that actually, Vanuatu. I mean we heard before, it is the it's been ranked as the most disaster prone countries in the world. So it's good to acknowledge that natural hazards are not new to Vanuatu. And so traditionally reliance has actually been within the Indigenous communities of Vanuatu. And it's really only in recent history that international aid has played a part. I mean, traditionally Ni-Vanuatu people have been recovering from cyclones and other disasters for thousands of years, especially volcanoes. And we're on the ring of fire here so there is a lot of experience with that and there's a lot of local disaster planning and coping mechanisms that are present in indigenous society. In fact, some islands don't even have a word for disaster because cyclones were not seen as disasters in some cases because they were just part of the natural system they brought good things to communities in terms of regeneration, similar to I guess bushfires for Indigenous Aboriginal people in Australia. But it's, it's the intensification of cyclone impact that means that local coping capacities might be at risk of not being able to see recovery through without more severe impacts to health, and other of the types of impacts to human security. So there's a lot of strength in Ni-Vanuatu communities already that should be drawn out of what we call the 'informal system'. I don't really like that term myself, but it should be really, we should be building upon that to localise our disaster response mechanisms in Vanuatu. However, as you said, yes, there has been a recent history of international response in Vanuatu. So in 2015 when Cyclone Pam hit, it was quite a shock to Vanuatu just because of the strength of the cyclone and the international humanitarian community and the international humanitarian structures that generally come in through UN OCHA. Office of Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs came in set up in country, and that was the first time that the Vanuatu government had seen such a big international surge capacity and there were many, many different organisations that came in. That had benefits, but it also in hindsight created a little bit of backlash for the government from the government of Vanuatu because you know, disaster response doesn't happen in a neutral political arena. It's you know, there's lots of other forces that are playing into it. And the strength that the international community showed in that time was seen as a bit of a threat to sovereignty. And, you know it overwhelmed the local disaster response management structures in Vanuatu. And and there were clashes between things like international standards of what relief should look like and what the Vanuatu government's idea of providing relief should be. There's a real strong narrative now in Vanuatu that aid shouldn't create dependency. That there's a very strong national narrative around resilience and reliance, self-reliance, which comes from a long history of Indigenous resilience. So. That was Pam. And then in Harold, it was this very unique situation where the border had shut three weeks beforehand, there was a lot of fear over COVID at that time. And Harold struck as a nationally significant disaster. But the government chose not to bring in any surge capacity because the fear of COVID was more than the fear of not being able to respond to the disaster. So it was a good test of domestic disaster response systems. It was a very challenging time. I happened to work in the provincial government for both Pam and Harold, even though they struck in different parts of the country. So I had a good comparison. But yeah, there were a lot of challenges in Harold with things like things that the international community brings, like, for example, the Australian and New Zealand French armies coming in with just significant ship capacity and significant volume of supplies. Instead, we were relying more on localised distribution plans for relief. That was the supplies that we were able to get in-country at that time. And some relief did come in on planes, but ships were definitely not permitted at that time. So the response was slower. People in more remote parts of the islands, especially in Santo, which is a large island with a significant number of inland mountain communities. They were walking to get their relief distribution, such as food aid, which was in the form of tins, tinned beans, tinned meat, rice and walking it back over a number of days back to their communities. So. Yeah, it was just a very different disaster response landscape to Pam when the Australian army came in with big helicopters and you know, we're able to drop things everywhere. But that's not to say that one was better than the other. I mean, some of the communities that were serviced through Harold, you know, showed a lot of resilience in being able to, uh, to rely on food that was sourced from damaged gardens for up to 3 to 4 weeks after the cyclone, while aid was waiting and without any expectation that aid would come. So yeah, it's very interesting to think about how Vanuatu is going to progress and come up with a very localised and culturally appropriate disaster response plan across the islands.
Speaker 1 [00:39:29] I thank you for that, Vanessa. And it is interesting to think now that the indigenous people of Vanuatu have lived with cyclones for centuries and they have appropriate structures that they can rebuild quickly and so forth. And maybe it's the structures that have been imported that are the ones that get damaged by cyclones and need that international response. We're running low on time. So I'm going to move on to Robert. Your research is focussed on social media. We heard a little bit about that and its use during the extreme weather events. What should we be doing moving forward?
Speaker 7 [00:40:10] Yeah. Thanks Tim. So just so just a bit of background, like I mentioned previously. My research basically focuses on trying to explore new information technology like social media to better support disaster risk reduction. And so I've worked on a project called PetaJakarta. So this was mainly focussed in Jakarta, Indonesia. So looking at Twitter as a way of mapping flood situations in real time to help the citizens and government of Jakarta to better manage floods situation. But more recently, I've led a project called #RecoverSouthCoast. So this project is basically looking at the role of social media in supporting recovery from the 2019, 2020 bushfires within the south coast region of New South Wales. That project we interviewed a lot of victims of the bushfires. We interviewed councils, the council's that were involved so Bega Valley Council, Eurobodalla, and also Shoalhaven City Council. Now what came out from this research is quite striking. So the first thing is the way social media is used. We know that it's been used a lot in this disaster response, but recovery, social media explained it will even an important role, equally important role in disaster recovery as well. So we find quite a wide scope of areas in which social media was used to support recovery for that particular event. So things like mental health and emotional support, post-disaster recovery and infrastructure services, even insurance claims, animal welfare, things about like information support, solidarity and social cohesion. So a lot of areas in which social media play a very important role, including business and economic activities. So going from here, so to answer your question, like what we should what should we be doing now? There is research revealed as well that there's a lot of gaps in terms of capability within council. And if we need to progress, we need to look at the ways in which we can build capability within councils, within our emergeny agencies that we could fall back to. So in real time, we could tell, for example, the situations on ground. Our research has revealed a lot about how social media has been used in a way to manipulate conversations and narrative on discussions about recovery activities. You know, some of those discussions are being led by both support accounts and trolls accounts. What is important that if we can develop, if we can like agencies and councils could invest a bit in developing the required capability. So something for example, like social media command centre, we've seen this done in the United States of America, the American Red Cross, they've done this like a decade ago, and that works very well. So in real time, you can tell for any specific recovery activity that you're interested in the topic. You can tell them real time what is happening, who is leading the discussion? What are the people, what is it about and what are their needs? You know, so and I think this sort of information is important. If we need to be able to take actions in good time to help support people will need help in disasters. Now. I think I will leave it there because of time. Thank you.
Speaker 1 [00:43:49] Thank you, Robert. And I think that, yes, it is something we could talk about for quite a long time and maybe we should open up the Twitter hashtag in relation to to that. I'm going to move on to George, because Robert talked a bit about the bushfire recovery. During the Black Summer Bushfires Australia in 2019 / 2020, there was a lot of debate online about whether the worst fires in Australia's history were a result of hazard, hazardous conditions caused by climate change, severe drought or poor mitigation. What can we do as an educational institution like UOW to educate climate change deniers about the reality of what we're living with?
Speaker 6 [00:44:33] Yeah, that's a really good question, Tim, and I think it's important we try to do something about it, because I'm just reading this morning about Emmanuel Macron's citizen's assembly on climate change adaptation and mitigation policies, where they've got 150 randomly selected people from around France and put them together to formulate what policies the French government should adopt to address climate change adaptation and mitigation, and as the first phase of that, they gave them a series of lectures on climate science. And of course, there were quite a number of, you know, a small number of deniers and sceptics amongst those 150. And the experience was that most of those sceptics, and deniers changed their views as a result. So there is evidence, I think, that education works, particularly when it's provided in a forum where people are going to be receptive to it. So a couple of years ago during global climate change week, Sam Marx from the school of Earch, environment, atmospheric and life sciences gave a public lecture. And his public lecture was basically his third year course on global environmental change, condensed down to one hour. And it was fantastic. It was just so good. And I think if you can take something like that and maybe provide it as an online learning modules with then some scope for some face to face discussion and you made it available to the public and UOW could do that. I think that would be a great thing that we can do, to educate people about the real science of climate change. And a lot of deniers and sceptics, they're not bad people, right? They have just formed their own views based upon the information available to them, their own models, they've creating in their own minds. When they do that, they've got some assumptions they've made that are perhaps wrong, some assumptions they have made even subconsciously. And through that process of learning, they'll find that a lot of those assumptions they made are actually wrong and their models aren't fit for purpose. And they'll become of aware of maybe some of the assumptions they have made, maybe subconsciously as well, that ended up leading them to, if you like, a poor conclusion.
Speaker 7 [00:46:39] Oh, thanks, George. I think I agree with you that the role for education is really important. It gives me a chance to plug the carbon literacy programme that we have announced and when the when we get to the final questions, I'll put up a QR code. So people who are students or staff of the university can actually enrol in this carbon literacy project and actually get that understanding of the climate science. I'd like to finish up the panel questions and then we'll look at what's happening in the Q&A by throwing something at Joshua. What does the future risk space look like and how can initiatives like your Australian Young Professionals in Disasters help?
Speaker 4 [00:47:27] Yeah. Look, again, just in the in the essence of time, Tim, I think, you know, we've spoken about, you know, what that future risk is going to look like. And I think that's very clear. I think the picture in front of us has almost been painted. And I think, you know, right now it's very much about individuals, organisation, governments really putting their hats on and thinking about what are the solutions moving forward. And I think, you know, if you boil it down to its most simple components, really, when you look at the disaster space and what AYPD is looking at, it's really looking at, you know, as disasters become more complex, you know, as they become more frequent, the need to have individuals that understand these problems, that have the skills to solve these problems and actually operate the industry, that also increases. So I guess for AYPD, there's probably two key strategies that we really are looking to drive. And I think the first one, and Andrew touched on it earlier, it's really about understanding that disasters at the end of the day are really the nexus of all things. When you see a disaster impact the community, it disrupts everything from the natural environment to the economy, to social issues. Everything becomes disrupted. So when you think about if the problem encompasses everything, well, then also the solution has got to encompass everything. And you know, what we think about in the disaster space is that, you know, we really need individuals from right across the sector because everyone has a role to play when it comes to disasters and reducing systemic disaster risk. I mean, if you look at Andrew and I, we started as engineers from UOW, myself environmental, Andrew as a civil engineer. And it was only by sheer chance that we stumbled into the disaster space. So AYPD and that aspect is really looking at, you know, how do we connect, how do we cross-pollinate, how do we actually bring not only more people specifically into the industry, but also how do we help other industries within communities and society actually understand what their responsibility is and that they actually have some levers to pull. I think just quickly as well, the second thing is, is very much around, as I said before, you know, just purely this this numbers game. You know, I think really as these disasters become more complex, we've almost escalated on a scale in terms of the involvement of help that we've needed. You know, we've looked at you know, we all know that often in incident management, the principle around, you know, we deal with that at the lowest local possible level and when we're dealing with an incident. But as that escalates, as that capacity, as that coping capacity becomes overwhelmed, you need to go to that next level. And you've obviously seen how local government stepping in to support communities, then states and territories. The federal government now through NEMA, is looking at how do we support communities. But, you know, I know for us, AYPD, for people across the industry, you know, we potentially may get to a point where countries need to step in to help developed countries with disasters. You know, we think a lot about and as Vanessa said, we think a lot about obviously, you know, developing countries and what we need to do. And there's some fascinating stories around how that's been done well and how it has not been done so well. But, you know, we potentially may get to a point where a disaster so big happens that a developing country like in Australia, like a New Zealand, like in America, may actually need support globally. So for AYPD, it's very much as well around not just obviously it's Australia, but what about the Asia-Pacific neighbourhood. I think we've really got to start viewing disasters as a neighbourhood issue and that neighbourhood really for us, as Australia is across the Asia Pacific. So yeah, AYPD very much came out of the fact that for Andrew and myself and Mitchell Clout, our other founder, no one was doing anything. So for us, you know, we really wanted to be part of the change and drive something. And I guess that's where AYPD has come from.
Speaker 1 [00:51:32] It's such a fantastic initiative. Congratulations on setting it up. I'm now going to move to some of the questions that have been posted in the Q&A. And we've got one I'll probably maybe address this one to Vanessa and George. What are the three top priority areas for governments to fund to improve Australia's, and following on what Joshua just said, our neighbourhood our Pacific neighbourhood infrastructure to mitigate the impacts of disasters such as floods, fires, cyclones and sea level rising. So maybe, Vanessa, what's on your wish list for collective governments to to fund?
Speaker 6 [00:52:12] Well, it depends which government you're talking about, really. But I can speak with experience in Vanuatu here. And actually it reflects what a lot of the other panellists have been saying about where more strength is needed, and that's at the sub national level because a lot of disaster response comes through voluntary networks. Everyone has to get involved. And, you know, I think there needs to be less of a dichotomy between government responsiveness and you know, civil society response. So I would say in Vanuatu specifically, there needs to be better decentralisation of disaster response strengthening. Love the idea of what Josh was saying about looking to the broader neighbourhood. I mean. Yeah, as Josh was saying, there's going to be disasters that are so great and we've already seen it with the Australian bushfires. You know, there so overwhelming in size that it becomes frightening with where you reach the limits of your capacity. And that's one thing that Australia and the Pacific island countries need to think about because there's going to be limits to our adaptive capacity. So, I mean, an area that I work in is displacement and climate related mobility. And the Pacific countries are looking to start planning for that because there are Pacific island countries that are at very urgent risk of inundation by sea level rise within the next decade. So I think, yes, better and quicker ability to coordinate and learn from each other, I think is quite important. That was only two but I will pass to George.
Speaker 1 [00:54:06] I think that there was two, maybe two and a bit. George, maybe you can give us two for Australia.
Speaker 3 [00:54:15] I don't know if I can give you two Tim but I suppose I look at this in a slightly different way. I think to respond to disasters you need to have the capacity to respond. And if a system is going to have capacity to respond you can't be always driving that system at its limits. And I think we've just become accustomed in today's society to drive everything at its limits. We do everything as efficiently as possible. We trim off all the excess. There's no fat. And that leaves you with no capacity to respond. You've got to have a system that has spare capacity. If you've got a system that has spare capacity. If everything is not being done at its limits, then you can respond. And that's I think a really big mind shift that's got to happen in our society. We've got to learn to leave spare capacity so that we can respond to these things. And to be honest, I don't know how we do that.
Speaker 4 [00:55:07] I might just jump in there, too, because I think that's a really good point that George makes. It's something that, again, Craig Fugate, you know, many of you would have known Craig was brought in after New Orleans and obviously FEMA had suffered a fair bit of reputational risk about, you know, going quite slow in terms of responding to that and Craig Fugate talks about that when he came in and asked people, you know, how can we make things go faster? How can we increase capacity? A lot of people, you know, on the other side of the desk to him said, well, you know, we've got to wait to hear what the problem is. We've got to you know, we've got to wait to hear what the impact is. We've got to know what the data is. And, you know, Craig talks about how he eyeballed them from the other side of the table and said, how many cyclones, you know, how many disasters have we been through? How many hurricanes have we been through? We know. We know what communities need. Let's start going early. Let's start going with what we think and we can always dial it back. And I think that's what George is saying is really important. It's about saying, not afraid, because the end of the day, you know, if you went too little, too late and you have fatalities, that's not acceptable from a community point of view. If you go harder and you go earlier and you have some excess, then I think, as George says, we have to be comfortable with that and say, you know, that is just the cost of where we are at the moment and the decisions that we have made in the past where we as communities decided to live. That is the cost of having that. That is the cost of what, you know, we need to accept as communities. So I think it's an interesting point from George.
Speaker 1 [00:56:41] Okay. Well, thank you for that. And we're just about out of time, so I promised I'd do a plug for the carbon literacy programme. So the QR code there will get you in. But you have to be a University of Wollongong member of staff or student, and you can self enrol in this course and learn about climate change, the climate science and make yourself an educated person who can converse and convince the climate deniers that we actually do have climate change. So I hope you got a chance to shoot that on your phone. I'll stop sharing. And I want to give a big thank you to our panellists today. Now they've come from wide and far and they've given us their expertise and it's fantastic to know that we've got such great people who are thinking about these things. And I think that idea that we need to develop local capacity and capacity that can help our neighbours and that we need a reserve, we can't be running on empty all the time. We actually need to have something that we can call on in disasters. So thank you very much, George, Robert, Andrew, Josh and Vanessa for joining us this afternoon. Thank you for your insights. This I think it's been a very special event. Thank you very much to the large number of participants who joined us and thank you to the questioners. Sorry we couldn't get through more questions today. I hope you'll join us for more global climate change week events. And Maron if you can put the link into the chat. Perhaps we can show it on the on the screen. But we've got a whole heap of events that take us right up to the 18th of October. In particular on Saturday night, we have the Op Shop ball. So if you haven't got your ticket and you don't have your 1970s retro gear from Green Connect or Vinnie's get them now and come down to the innovation campus at 6 p.m. on Saturday and join in the revelry and the retro fashion show that we're going to have. So thank you all. Stay safe, stay dry in the next weather we have and keep doing the fantastic work you're doing. My name is Tim McCarthy and it's been lovely to share this event with you today.
A Healthy Career: Nutrition and Dietetics Alumni Panel
Professor Eleanor Beck hosts an informative panel discussion with three incredible Nutrition and Dietetics alumni. Meet Dr Katherine Kent, Cameron McLean, and Dr Gemma Sampson as they share their journey after graduation and share some advice for students and recent graduates about forging an exciting career.
Speaker 1 [00:00:08] So for those of you who don't know me, my name is Eleanor Beck and I'm the Professor and Discipline Leader of Nutrition and Dietetics at the University of Wollongong. I've worked at, I didn't train in Wollongong, I didn't do my undergraduate nutrition or dietetics at Wollongong, but I've been there for a very long time, so it's very nice to be hosting an event that includes some alumni and also gives an opportunity for us to reach out to some of our current students and our recent graduates and talk to them about some different opportunities that perhaps they may not have thought of or perhaps they have been thinking a lot about and are really keen to go down that path.
So I’d just like to start the evening by acknowledging Country. We Acknowledge that Country for Aboriginal peoples is an interconnected set of ancient and sophisticated relationships. The University of Wollongong spreads across many interrelated Aboriginal Countries that are bound by this sacred landscape. From Sydney to the Southern Highlands, to the South Coast. From fresh water to bitter water to salt. From City to Urban to Rural. The University of Wollongong Acknowledges the Custodianship of the Aboriginal peoples of this place and space that has kept alive the relationships between all living things. The University Acknowledges the real and devastating impact of colonisation on our campuses' footprint and commit ourselves to truth-telling, healing and education.
And as we are an educational institution, I’d particularly like to highlight that we would, that we very much respect the Indigenous knowledges of the lands that we're coming to you from today. So there's just been a quick note in the panel from the group talking about where they're coming from. So, feel free to add that as well because it's very nice to see where people are joining us from the evening and to try and work out who's the furthest away.
We have three panelists this evening and by all means it doesn't cover the full breadth that you may become with your nutrition studies, or for those of you who may go on to become dietitians as well, those of you who may work in public health or those who might work in more clinically focused areas, those of you who might work like to work in aid organisations. Obviously there's a full breadth that we might cover with our degrees and to be honest that's the most, that's the best part of the nutrition studies that that you can undertake and that you may have already undertaken. Because from my perspective, I've had a whole heap of different jobs in my life, yet I've only ever had one base university qualification. So hopefully that people here tonight can inspire you that way a little bit as well.
So we've got Dr. Katherine Kent. Katherine did her, she's a lecturer in Public Health in the School of Health Sciences at Western Sydney University, and she completed both her undergraduate and postgraduate studies, her Ph.D., at the University of Wollongong. And then she then headed a long way south down to Tasmania to do a postdoctoral fellowship. Her research has a lot to do with some flavonoid rich fruits, and she's also looked at the documented effects of COVID 19 on food security. She's pretty passionate. I know Katherine very well, and she's very passionate about inspiring the next generation of public health and nutrition professionals. So, I'll let Katherine introduce itself a little bit further in just a moment. But you might just want to say hi and I think..
Speaker 2 [00:03:44] Hi everyone, it’s a pleasure to be here.
Speaker 1 [00:03:46] Yeah. Okay. And Cameron? Cameron graduated from university in 2013. He was the person who was so lucky because I must have taught him! He has a Master of Nutrition and Dietetics. He's an advanced accrediting practising dietitian and works at St George Hospital in Sydney in general medicine and renal supportive care. He also has a big responsibility in being a person who looks after a lot of the dietician assistants in the area where he works at the Health District. He's also one of our very, now becoming one of our senior Ph.D. students because he's getting quite close to finishing and he is investigating the dietetics practice around people who are undergoing alcohol withdrawal and you may realise that they’re a vulnerable group. So he's a lead researcher in his hospital role, but I think tonight he'll be able to talk to you a lot about those clinical roles that he's undertaken. So welcome, Cameron.
Speaker 3 Hi everyone.
And finally, we have Dr. Gemma Sampson, who's an advanced sports dietician, and she's also an accredited practising dietitian looking in particular at sports performance and endurance athletes. She comes to us where she brings together this whole range of clinical nutrition, food industry, product development, brand collaborations, corporate wellness, as well as the individual counselling as well. Her doctoral research explored nutrition knowledge behaviours and beliefs of endurance athletes, and how they might be affected during performance and what they're actually having of intake. And for those of you who haven't had the pleasure, you can follow Gemma on places like Facebook and Instagram and see some really cool photos of her travels around the world following endurance athletes. So welcome, Gemma.
Speaker 4 [00:05:42] Thank you. So good to be back.
Speaker 1 [00:05:44] Yeah, great. Wonderful. Okay, so today is going to be pretty casual. We're going to have some questions. We're really happy to have people posting some questions in the chat and we'll try and get to those as well, but will certainly leave a little bit of time, will aim to leave some time at the end just for sort of some open questions as well.
So, I thought before we even start to talk about just everybody's work history, I guess I wondered if people wanted to talk firstly just about how you figured out what you were going to do, what helped you decide your path. You know, at that very endpoint when you were either studying or getting to a point of starting to look for jobs. So perhaps I might get you to start Cameron, and you can lead us into talking a little bit about your journey from that point as well.
Speaker 3 [00:06:37] I think I always knew I kind of wanted to have some role involved with patients. Like most new graduates, we like to help people with nutrition in their lives. And I think it was a community placement that really paved the way for everything for me. I was quite fortunate to do my community placement with the drug and alcohol unit in the Illawarra Shoalhaven, which really exposed me to quite a vulnerable population, which is often overlooked. We ran a community program helping them with their food choices and it was when I came to St George Hospital in my role here that surprise, surprise, these patients fall into my clinical caseload and it kind of got me questioning a lot more about what we should be doing for them, which is why I got into studying and researching in this area.
Speaker 1 [00:07:25] Okay. Thank you. And Katherine, what about you? What sort of led you on that pathway to academia? I suppose because you've travelled a little bit around the country for it as well.
Speaker 2 [00:07:36] Yes, I am. I’d just like to point out for all the students here today that I'm kind of flying the flag for those of us who are studying nutrition who don't go on to do dietetics. I'm not, I'm not a dietician. I did an undergraduate in Science, Nutrition and Public Health. So as I was approaching the end of my degree and I hope it's okay to share this, and I'm sure there's heaps of students who are in the same spot as me, I did not have a single clue what I wanted to do, and I'd actually turned down an offer to do the Masters of Dietetics because I knew I just really didn't want to work in a clinical setting. Opposite to Cameron, I really didn't want to go down that path, but I just had no idea what I should do.
And I think what my career can show you is that you don't need to go on to do dietetics if you don't want to. There are lots of other great career pathways in nutrition. So one of the subjects that I did in my undergraduate that I loved was actually a research based subject. I'm sure there's a variation on that currently still in the undergraduate degree and I completed that and I think I did pretty well in it and just really fortuitously, Barbara Myer, who I am sure is still a professor in the department teaching lots of you, sent me a SOLS mail, which is kind of like a message through the e-learning platform saying, “Oh, you should consider doing an Honours project with me next year.”
And I met up with her to discuss it. And truthfully, I ended up grilling her quite a lot about her job, what a research career would look like, why she liked her job. I was really forthright with her about what it meant to be a nutrition researcher or doing nutrition research, and I was very interested in the idea of doing research. But truthfully, the project sounded really boring. It wasn't in the field that I wanted to study at all. Sorry Barbara! I hope she's not here tonight! But what I ended up doing was sending me on a bit of a spur around to all of lots of the other nutrition lecturers at the time. And I ended up asking them all what kinds of projects they could offer me in research for the following year. And Karen, who I've seen has joined here, Karen Charlton said she's here with Anne McMahon, was talking to me about a project with cherries and cognition, and after I left that meeting, I kind of went home and actually Googled cherry juice and cognition because I thought “Surely she doesn't actually mean cherry juice as in the food”. But yes, she was. And she had a project offer that was looking at cherries and cognition. I thought that sounded really interesting and I ended up enrolling into Masters of Research to do that project with Karen. And from there we expanded that research and I ended up doing a Ph.D. with Karen. So that was kind of my journey. I really fell into the opportunities that were available to me at the time.
Speaker 1 [00:10:44] And that's great. And I think as we go on today, it would be really good to highlight those jobs because there's a big crossover of jobs that people can do with or without the qualification. And just like any base degree, you know, you can then use that to build on your experiences and what you want to do. So I think that's really, really important. And we always tell the students, because most of us in the team now are getting a little bit older, the majority of us all did some kind of undergraduate science degree. And it's interesting because Karen Charlton will tell you her undergraduate degree is in zoology, so she somehow ended up as a dietitian. But Gemma, perhaps your path might have been just a little bit different and certainly you've ended up in some exciting places. So maybe you could tell us a little bit how you got drawn in that direction.
Speaker 4 [00:11:31] Yeah, no, my career path and how even how I got into nutrition is a bit diverse. I grew up overseas, I spent all my teenage years in Zambia as a kid till I was 17, I think. So I moved back to Australia for Year 12. I did Year 12 in Australia, but had one subject that was still remote. I was always really interested in nutrition and health and I think I didn't really know exactly what I wanted to do. I knew I want to do something related to health and nutrition and fitness. I think my, my, my dream degree was actually a dual Exercise Science and Dietetics degree which is I think it was four years or five years at the time.
And because I didn't really know what UAI (University Admission Index) I was going to get, I mean. I started 2004 and I graduated 2008, so that was a while ago. I don’t know what it is now but then it was a UAI. I basically just ranked them in order of the UAI that I needed to get in. And so I think I got eighth on my list. And so Nutrition and Dietetics was high up there. So I think physio was another one. And I got into the, the undergrad Bachelor of Science in Nutrition. And then in third year, I got the invitation to upgrade into the dietetics leg.
And I think for me, I'm interested in a lot of different things. I loved the clinical but I also like the research and, and I like lots of different things. I get bored quite easily, so I like lots of different things. So, I just saw Kelly Lambert was in there (the webinar chat). She was one of my lecturers back in the day. And I think having her, she was so passionate about clinical dietetics as well, and I think that was really helpful for me because it didn't necessarily, wasn't necessarily the area that I specifically wanted to work in full time, but I could see the value of working in clinical and seeing patients individually and also in sort of groups, and bits and pieces.
And so yeah, from that point onwards, my career has been a bit of a blend and a mix going from clinical to community to industry to private practise, back in between and backwards and forwards. So yeah, I've got quite a diverse range of areas, but I always knew that I kind of, I always knew that I wanted to do sports nutrition and just didn't really know how. And I think at the time there was some people in my life who were like, Yeah, but is that really a career or is there really a job in sports nutrition? So that's kind of why I did go down the clinical route for a period of time. Also, I wanted to get experience and build my own confidence because I think having that confidence in your experience and your, your skills and ability to support the people that you're working with is really, really important. And so I think that's that I'm really glad that I did that sort of clinical work, but there was been a few points where I was like, No, actually this is what I want to do instead, and let's go down that pathway and maybe take a few steps backwards to stop earning a bit and go back and study a bit more to progress forwards. Yeah, it's good fun.
Speaker 1 [00:14:38] Okay. So I do want to get back to overseas and overseas qualifications, but that's might be a little bit down the track. But I'll use what you were saying about that postgraduate study to ask all of you. But maybe, Gemma, you could start about your journey to postgraduate studies, because I know when I did Honours in Biochemistry in 1989, I hated it. And if you had told me I'd ever do a PhD, I would have said, “Over your dead body now”. And yet we look at all of you as well, and you've gone at some point to do postgraduate study. So, I think it's, tell me a little bit about that. Obviously, you had the dietetics in the beginning, but then you've gone on to do other things. So, what drew you to that and do you feel it's been absolutely necessary or do you think it's just been an adjunct or something that came with time? What do you think?
Speaker 4 [00:15:23] I think it comes down to what you want to do. I think essentially what you want to do and the industry that you want to work in. So, I did, I did always know that I wanted to do a PhD, but at the same time I was very clear for myself that I didn't want to just do anything. Because again, if I don’t care about the topic, I'm not going to be able to do it. And so, and I'd spoken to people who were like, “You've got to really 100% love your topic because otherwise you'll kill it”. And so again for me, my interests have sort of evolved over time. I was at one point interested in, I’ve sort of collected degrees I guess, but I was interested in international aid work and working in humanitarian sort of zones. Working in that field it was pretty much a prerequisite that you had at least a Masters in order to get a job. But so, I did a Masters. My first Masters was in Public Health Nutrition and with a heavy focus on international aid work. And but it sort of was a bit of a dead end. I mean, I love the research. I love the opportunities that it provided. But in terms of entry points into jobs, there was a lot of jobs, but they all sort of wanted people with ten years' experience. There was no, really no real entry levels into that. So that sort of a bit was a bit of a closed door for me, in 2011, 2012.
And again, I always knew that I wanted to do sports nutrition. And I think this is where the importance of networking and meeting people and just taking opportunities. And I mean, I'm very outgoing. I love meeting people. I love getting out there and going to events. So I always go to a lot of events. I joined the Sports Nutrition Register in the UK. I was going to events and there'd be people that would be presenting and they were in the same town as me. So, I'd gotten into cycling and triathlon at that point and there was some lecturers from Liverpool John Moores presenting and at the time I was, they were recruiting all the time for male athletes, but never for female athletes.
And I'm like, “dude, like, come on, like what's going on? Like, I would do all these studies, like if you just had them for, for women.” And so, I sort of went up and confronted them about that and they're like, “Well, maybe you should come and do it for us.” And I was like, “Maybe I will.” And so that kind of opened up the conversation for me to meet the lecturers at Liverpool John Moores and, and I had no intention at this point of time of doing the Masters because I'd already come back to Australia to do the sports dietician course. I was already technically a sports dietician, but I think going back to the confidence thing, I don't really feel, I didn't really feel like I knew enough to be able to give advice or to have people pay me to give them nutrition advice. And so, I was like, “Oh, I need to know more, need to know more.” And so, I decided to do the Masters, which then led to other opportunities. And then my doctorate, which I finished last year. Going back to whether you need to or not, again, it does come down to the industry you're in. So, I worked for a pro cycling team a couple of years ago, and in that industry I would never have gotten that job if it was not for my doctorate and the research that I was doing and my connections.
And so, again, I didn't necessarily need it for the work that I was doing, but in order to have that opportunity open, present itself and have that conversation. It was, it was almost like a requirement. And so, again, it comes down to the field that you're working with. And but I think if it's something that you're really passionate about and for me, my doctoral research, I did a professional doctorate, which is, I guess what you call is an applied, a very much in applied PhD.. And so it was heavily based upon my practice and things that I was saying and questions that I came up with. And I'm like, “Well, why is this happening and why are they doing this?” And that's a key part of the professional doctor versus a more traditional Ph.D. is that it's either your research is impacting your industry, your area, but also yourself. And so a huge component of reflective practice within it, which I really like because I guess over the years I've learnt more and more about behaviour change and just realised that half the time it's not even the food I'm talking to people about, it's all the other stuff going on in the background. And so, for me that's kind of what led me to go down that route and to increase the time.
Speaker 1 [00:19:50] So you feel that something that progressed with your career and I guess that's something that might be relevant for Cameron, because obviously Cameron’s general job is of course that you didn't need any other post-graduate qualifications other than your entry level dietetics at that time. So how do you feel? I guess some reflection on all the good jobs you can do that without that that extra study, but also maybe then what led you to it?
Speaker 3 [00:20:16] I guess like I've worked here at St George for several years now and I've had lots of opportunities given to me. And I guess dietetics really sets you up with an analytical brain. You're questioning things, you're a problem solver, you're looking for evidence. And I guess over the last couple of years, I've had the chance to, like Eleanor was saying before, develop a workforce around the Allied Health Assistance using the research skills I've been developing over the years with UOW. I've led district competencies to really highlight what the allied health assistants can do and try to influence the TAFE New South Wales and how we can advocate and really I guess use their skills around influencing the future workforce of AHAs and how they can help nutrition and dietetics.
Speaker 1 [00:21:09] And most of the people that are in your workplace wouldn't necessarily have other post-graduate qualifications. Is that right?
Speaker 3 [00:21:16] In terms of dietetics, yes. There's one other lucky PhD person in the department. And yes, most people here are entry level.
Speaker 1 [00:21:26] All UOW graduates, of course, hey Cameron?
Speaker 3 [00:21:29] I think most of us are. Yeah.
Speaker 1 [00:21:32] And what about you, Katherine? Because obviously and now, you know, in terms of your scope, you were very interested in that research early on. But what are some of the other things? I guess, did you feel that you absolutely would have needed that or the other jobs you think would have been great without, with your three year degree.
Speaker 2 [00:21:50] Oh, absolutely. There are, there would have been a lot of jobs that I could have targeted straight out of my three-year undergraduate degree. But it just so happened I was interested in getting some more research training. And for those students who are here that are probably thinking “I don't even know what a PhD is”, that it's really that training in designing and conducting and analysing research for generating new knowledge. And so it's definitely not the case that you have to go on. And I know we've got three people here with Ph.D. journeys but you definitely don't need that to have a great career in nutrition.
But for the job that I have now, which is a lecturer, so kind of a more junior colleague to what Eleanor is here and where I do teaching students and conduct my own research. That's kind of the aspects of my job, and a PhD is required for this kind of career path or this academic career path. I think there are other post-graduate qualifications that people might want to pursue and Gemma has definitely spoken of one there where you may want to do a Masters in Public Health or Masters of Public Health Nutrition, which could develop some different skills. But really for me it was really critical, I think also because I didn't quite know exactly what I wanted to do.
And in contrast to Gemma’s experience, I was kind of interested in doing, you know, I wasn't so passionate about one particular topic from the beginning. It really morphed into, you know, learning a bit about this and learning a bit about that and trying different study designs and really learning how to design and conduct research. And the PhD for me was really critical in terms of developing that, my written communication skills, my oral kind of communication skills, managing research projects, you know, data analysis and problem solving skills. So a PhD was a requirement for me, but it's not a requirement for everybody who wants to work in nutrition
Speaker 1 [00:24:14] Absolutely. And I didn't graduate from my Ph.D. until I was 41. So I figure I obviously had a very happy and fulfilling career before that without this extra qualification. So it really isn't something that's critical. Just because we happen to have pretty high powered, exciting alumni panel for you this evening.
But you mentioned something really interesting there Katherine, because you were talking about skills. And one of the things we're always trying to go back to our graduates with, because in class, everyone's getting overwhelmed sometimes with the detail about this condition or this biochemical pathway or this whatever. And we're really encouraging students to remember, what are the skills that you're learning at the time. So I don't know if you want to, can reflect on that, Katherine, and talk about what are some of those skills that you think even if you hadn't have ended up working in nutrition? What are some of the skills that you learnt that you might have applied to going on if you were going to be a teacher or if you decided to go work as a health promotion officer or, you know, a range of different things that might not have been specifically nutrition.
Speaker 2 [00:25:17] Yeah, yeah. I was thinking about this earlier and I jotted some points down and I think I've already mentioned, I guess, that research subject that I did and that I felt was a really pivotal point in my undergraduate career. And the reason for that is the topic of my research project was actually in public health, so it was about driver behaviour research. The topic could have been anything that I would have been interested in this subject. I think the skills that I learnt within that unit around designing projects, collecting data, analysing data in a real life setting was one of the most important subjects for me, and I got the most, I guess, transferable skills from that particular subject. It really gave me a taster of what research would look like. An opportunity to network with my peers in my class, but also with a real life stakeholder. I was working for the council. I'm doing a particular project with them and I think that was a really good opportunity because it gave me that idea about what a work environment looks like and how my skills that I had been developing in terms of looking in the literature, looking for literature in the database, writing a report and those kinds of skills that students might not automatically think of that they're getting all that training in. But I could see how that would apply to a real life work scenario. And in terms of other skills that I think has been really relevant for me and they are quite nutrition related. So I am wondering how relevant they might be for other disciplines, but some really fundamental skills in understanding how dietary assessment techniques work and utilising the food works and food comp databases to analyse dietary data was a really key skill that I developed in my undergrad, and I hate to say it, an undergraduate me would just be so shocked for me to say this right now and I know a lot of people in the room will cringe. But subjects like epidemiology and introductory statistics, thr latter of which I actually did twice because I filed it the first time, that's the truth, actually taught me some very key skills that I've been building on and using quite a lot in my everyday career. Yeah, so sorry to tell those people who don't like statistics, but I have found it quite useful going forward.
Speaker 1 [00:27:45] Katherine, it's funny that you mention that. We've got a research project at the moment where we're hoping, we're hoping to interview students and we were a bit short on Bachelor of Nutrition Science students. We're looking for ways that we can better engage students in statistics so that they don't ever fail and have to repeat it. So feel free to email me, anyone, if you're really keen to be interviewed. We've got plenty of the dietetics students that we haven't got nutrition sciences yet. Gemma, what do you think? What are some of those generic skills that you maybe be picked up that you think have just helped you broadly and would help you in any career?
Speaker 4 [00:28:17] I think probably the most important skill is probably communication and being able to communicate messages in different formats. And yeah, I think one thing I found interesting, I remember when I was when I was studying, was that often that other people got better marks than me and would be able to cram their exams and get the high scores. So, my scores didn't always look great compared to other people, but I was always happy to like, look stupid and ask the question if I didn't know or to try and learn how to explain something and be like, okay, I think it's this. And try and explain the concept in different ways. And that's something that I, I think we did. I loved the counselling, the nutrition counselling sort of components and the fact that we had actors to come in and do counselling, nutrition counselling sessions. I don't know what the situation is now, but I remember that's one of the things we had to do way back. And yeah, being able to convey a message, whether it's nutrition, these are very transferable skills to being able to, whether it's selling yourself or trying, how do you educate someone. But it's not just educating them and telling them the knowledge. It's like, making it relevant to them and at their particular education level or language skills and those sorts of things. So I think, yeah, communication I think is probably one of the best skills that's really important.
Speaker 1 [00:29:50] And what do you think, Cameron? Well, any skills that you learnt or things that you learnt that were really helpful.
Speaker 3 [00:29:56] I think I agree with both Gemma and Katherine. Obviously communication skills in a hospital setting, you talking to patients, their families and their carers with different health literacy levels. So you have to adapt your style, but you also have to talk to various levels of the medical profession. So junior and senior medical officers, you might have to convey your message in a different way and I guess use your personal skills to try and influence their decision making around care. You might have to talk and advocate across all organisational level if it's beyond patient care. So like senior management. So I think communication skills and how you can pitch and adapt the way that you talk to different people is really important. But also like what Katherine was saying, I think really those strong, critical and analytical thinking skills that come with a science really, like you have to be able to critically appraise the information that the patient's giving you to make your nutrition diagnosis and assessment. But also, if you're going to be, I guess, like working out evidence-based practice and new research, like how can you critically interpret that and use your statistics knowledge and understand whether or not what the papers taking is right or wrong to kind of really inform your decision making with patient care as well.
Speaker 1 [00:31:12] Yeah. And look, I'd say something that I think is a good skill or something that I've learnt about and I think I've realised the importance of it further as my career goes on is we really trying to teach all about nutrition science students and whether they're becoming dietitians or not about social determinants of health. And I think that's made me a much more empathetic person to understand that. And I like to think that that's our graduates going on to be good people in the world. And maybe that's something, again, that you can apply not just in your work life but in your everyday, but, you know, in everyday life. Now, my next question is about was there anything that surprised you about the world of work? And I could tell you the biggest surprise I got on my first day was turning up at the hospital, someone showing me around for 30 minutes and then saying, go for it. I just remember being shocked, thinking, you mean really? Anyway, what do you think Cameron? Is there anything that's been a particular surprise to you about the world of work?
Speaker 3 [00:32:15] I have to agree. It's like you get thrown into the deep end on your first day, and here's your pager, here's your ward list. Off you go. I guess that's just the reality sometimes of working in a hospital setting. I guess the other surprises for me would be, you know, I think on placement, you get maybe sheltered in a little bit from what you might be seeing in real life and in a clinical setting, you get exposed to some quite confrontational patient situations which you might not be ready for. Sometimes it has nothing to do with dietetics but it’s the social things that you have to be prepared for and carry the weight with the team. But I think as well, I don't think I realised how much communication is actually involved. You know, you're, you're writing in the medical notes, you're speaking to the nursing staff to hand over your plan, you're talking to the allied health, you talking to the doctors, and then you have to write letters. It's very, that was a big surprise to me. It was like, you don't just go see the patient. It doesn't stop there.
Speaker 1 [00:33:15] I think that's really interesting because you gave that big list and none of them included the patient. So that was just the, the peripheral stuff. The seeing the patient, that's actually the easy part yet that's what we focus so much on at uni. Katherine, what do you think about, in that, in that sort of different field, what, what surprised you?
Speaker 2 [00:33:34] I just think within my career I feel really lucky and I feel that we need to highlight to students, I guess this is just a positive message, how wonderful it is to work in a field like nutrition or nutritional science. And the reason for that is, I think that not every career and job opportunity has this constant challenge and constant updating of knowledge. And if you're really passionate about food and nutrition and healthy populations and contributing to that, we're constantly learning and re-learning and being challenged by new information. So I think it's just a positive message in terms of just, knowing the career opportunities that my friends have taken, not everyone is as in love with their career as well as what I think a lot of our nutrition scientists and dieticians are. We're very lucky.
Speaker 1 [00:34:37] Yeah, absolutely. And what about you, Gemma? What from your perspective, what's been a big surprise?
Speaker 4 [00:34:46] Yeah, I don’t know. I got a bit stuck on this question, to be honest, because I was like, is there anything that really surprised me? And like, I mean, I suppose I'm very independent. And so even on placement, I was I was lucky. I had great placement. So I got a lot of independence straight away, which for me suits me very well where I heard of other students who had basically supervisors wanting them to rewrite drafts of notes 20 times before they were allowed to write in the notes properly. And that would have just that would have killed me. And yeah, so I think for me, like the jumping in headfirst is definitely my personality sort of style, which is probably why when I moved to the UK, locuming was great because you actually do walk in and they go “here you go, the hospital is yours” and so I suppose, yeah, the thing that's been most surprising for me I suppose in the world of nutrition is, is, is the psychology component. Because I remember as a, as an undergrad we had Psych101 in our first year and I remember being like, “What's this about? Like, that's got nothing to do with nutrition. Why are we doing this?” And kind of probably at the time brushed it off. But then the more experience, the longer I've worked more I'm like, oh, it's all about the psychology. It's, it's, it's like and it's probably led me to do a lot of the doctorate stuff as well because I'm like, I need to learn more about like how to the behaviour change, how to get them to do what I want them to do or what they want to do. So, yeah, that's probably been the most surprising thing.
Speaker 1 [00:36:14] Okay. And you mentioned about going in and doing locums in the UK. For those people who are the dietician qualified people in the audience, do you want to just give a brief, brief summary of that in terms of how easy you found it to use your qualifications overseas?
Speaker 4 [00:36:31] Yeah. So again, I worked as a dietitian for in Australia. I graduated, I was lucky and I got a job straight away. I think because I moved. I was willing to go to the country for a few months. I got a locum role straight away in the country and then I got a year's contract in Sydney after that and at the time there wasn't really many jobs in Australia as a dietician.
My dad was born in the UK so I could get a British passport through him, and I was dabbling and thinking about doing a year or so overseas. So I thought, “Oh yeah, why not send out the paperwork?” And I think the paperwork, so to work as a dietitian in the UK it's a protected title. And so you've got to be registered with the HCPC, the Health Care Professions Council, and I think it was about $1,000 or something, the registration. And the paperwork was quite a bit, it took about, I think I submitted it in October, and I got it in February the next year and I moved to the UK in July.
So I went thinking I'd be there for a year and then seven years later I left the UK. So I yeah, there's a lot of paperwork involved. Once you're in, you're kind of in. I think the Australian, the CPD, the professional development process with Dieticians Australia is a lot better in Australia, it's a lot clearer, but there's a lot of agencies that are always looking for dieticians.
The difference between Australia and the UK, where most dieticians in Australia work, private practice or in the UK pretty much it's like 1% that aren’t in the hospital. It's all hospital, clinical.
And so if you aren't, if you're a dietitian in the UK and you aren’t in a hospital, then they're like, well, you're basically not a dietician, you've given up on your career, you're a lost cause. And so it was interesting then for me, moving from dietitian in a hospital to industry to clinical to a few different sort of areas over there. So because there is such a, the culture of dietetics there is all hospital work and all clinical. There's agencies always looking for people to cover holidays or sick pay or whatever. And so I did. I was very lucky. I mean, I was happy to go anywhere. I didn't really care where I was. So,I went to really rural, random places most of the time. And I was working in oncology for a long time, for a couple of years between about three different hospitals. So they would be like, “Oh, we need you for three weeks here, then a month here, then a month here.” And I'd just sort of go hop between the different hospitals and support the teams there that needed support.
Speaker 1 [00:39:08] But I imagine that's a wonderful learning experience because it's like being back on prac. You get to go see a different thing all the time. Sounds good.
Speaker 4 [00:39:16] Yeah. No, exactly. Because I get bored easily, so I need a lot of stimulation and lots of interesting sort of things to do. And so that was great for me because I got to meet different people, try different things out, and they'd be like, Yeah, I don't like that or I like this. And you can see, and also then you can help different departments because I think, Oh, this worked really well here like. Why don't you try this and you can give suggestions? You're coming in with a fresh viewpoint as well. So that was always fun.
Speaker 1 [00:39:41] And just so everybody knows, we do fill in the paperwork for people wanting to go the UK quite regularly. It might be a fair bit of paperwork, but it's never been refused. So our qualifications from UOW are recognised overseas, so that's a good thing.
Katherine, I might just turn the conversation a little bit different about some of our professional societies and the networking and some of the roles we've had there. And Katherine's done a lot with Nutrition Society of Australia and I'm not sure Anita is online as well, but she's our Wollongong branch, I don't know what you call them - Convenor, President, chairperson....
Speaker 2 [00:40:15] Regional chair.
Speaker 1 [00:40:16] Regional chair. I was trying to give it some fancy title, but that sounds okay. But Katherine, maybe you want to talk a little bit about how networking with those groups in professional societies has sort of helped you both personally and professionally?
Speaker 2 [00:40:31] Yeah, absolutely. So for the students who are online, I'm not sure if you know, but you can at the moment right now, even though you're an undergraduate student, join your professional society of the Nutrition Society of Australia. And this is especially what's relevant for both those students who want to become dietitians, but also those students who are not going on to be dietitians.
So the Nutrition Society is a voluntary registration scheme, I guess we'd say, within Australia. And I guess my involvement with the Nutrition Society I would say has been really critical in facilitating my career. And so I started out just like you guys going to events as students, sitting in the events about learning about nutrition, nutrition career pathways and learning about new research that was going on and that really helped from a professional development perspective.
But what I think it was really helpful for was networking with other nutrition people locally. And then when I became a Masters student and then a PhD student, I was going to do more national events. So, networking with other research students, going to conferences, going to student masterclasses, and that really helped me in terms of developing up my peer kind of networks, getting some mentoring through that network, but also just developing a lot of friends who are working in nutrition science across Australia. I did work as the student representative of the Wollongong group for a little while and I think they, Anita, would gratefully accept undergraduate student representatives to help in terms of things like developing up local events. And that really gave me insight to how this kind of group of professionals worked at a regional level.
And then when I was a postdoc and I was working in Tasmania and this is how all things happen, I find someone taps you on the shoulder, but through, through knowing people, through that Tasmanian group network, someone tapped me on the shoulder and said you should do the webinars for the Nutrition Society. They really need somebody. And I've been doing that role for quite some time now in addition to other jobs like Anita is doing in terms of running the regional group in Tasmania, running events, going to conferences. And I find it's been really, really beneficial to me both as a student and now in my career in terms of keeping up to date with all of the latest nutrition research, but most importantly, developing up the networks that I have with other nutrition scientists. And I do feel that I get a lot of opportunities in my career because people know me through the Nutrition Society and they know my kind of work that I do and they think, “Oh, Katherine might be interested in this” and they'll send me an email. So it has been really beneficial to me, and I would recommend that the students who do join as associate nutritionists throughout their undergraduate degree and if they, if they'd like to.
Speaker 1 [00:43:48] Yeah, absolutely. And I think if you look at, say, amongst our team that are teaching the students at uni, we're nearly all members of both NSA and also where we have dietician qualifications, we're members of Dieticians Australia. Dieticians Australia also has free membership for students and I just never understand why students don't join. I think the networking through NSA and DA is pretty amazing and I would not have got my job here if I had not had some great networking arrangements with people that I'd met through projects. And, you know, it is while it is volunteer work, it is like having professional development all of the time. So I can just really encourage that, and I might use that sort of mentoring thing to just talk a little bit about one of our next questions. And Cameron, I think you've been probably a a mentor for some new graduates in the past, and maybe you'd like to talk a little bit about that and how you find by being a mentor mentee and what that means for you in your work.
Speaker 3 [00:44:57] Yeah. So when I first did the APD program, I had a lovely UOW mentor, one of the lecturers, Dave Meredith, who supported me through that first 12 months of being a new graduate. It really helped in getting you to like think critically and never give you the answers and help kind of guide you through those processes with things that were coming up in your career, like whether it be job applications or conflict situations or complex cases you were managing at work.
But also like I guess it's someone to talk to, doesn't have to be about work or your career. Like if there was also something else going on in your life, a mentor is someone who can really help, I guess, talk through those things and get you to understand and point you in the right direction or refer you to somebody else. But I have mentored some students from UOW as well. Recently one just finished the APD program. But I think being a mentor it really helps you reflect on your own career and your own skills and kind of not to make you sound like really good, but it kind of makes you think about where you started from and where you've gone and really being able to apply, I guess some of those situations where you can draw your own learnings in and help guide the individual through that situation to something that can help them as well. So, I guess like a I think a mentoring relationship is usually it's really mutually beneficial to both people.
Speaker 1 [00:46:31] Yeah. And I've beenn I'm about to get my 30 year dietitians badge, which I realise actually it's 31 years since I graduated, but I mustn’t have joined DA in the first year because my membership number has a 92 in it instead of a 91, but getting my badge in the next conference. But it's really important to realise that I still have mentors sometimes in the workplace, but I make an effort to always have some mentor relationships external to my workspace as well. And they're not necessarily formal now like you might have when you when you're a new graduate in some positions. But it certainly helps me be able to talk through some issues and learn new things. How do you think that's work for you? Gemma, sometimes you've been acting as a sole trader, and how important do you think that that is for you now?
Speaker 4 [00:47:17] 100%. I think regardless of where you're at, having mentors is really valuable because, and the same thing goes if when I'm mentor, because I've mentored people through the APD program as well and there's, there's so much, like nutrition just keeps growing, but there's always new things to learn. And so there's stuff that students now will know, whether it's tools or techniques or research that I wouldn't even be aware of. And so I can really say it's like a mutually beneficial situation that you're both learning from each other and you get challenged because you're like, Why do you do that? You're like, That is a good question. Why do I do that? Because the way we do things may not be the best way. There may be other ways. It might be the best way for you, but there may be other ways that you could use that might work more appropriately for a different person.
So from professionally, I think mentoring is really, but again like it doesn't have to be formal relationships all the time. It could be that one conversation. And this is where linking with the networking is so important. It's actually just, yeah, not being afraid to reach out to people and ask them for advice. Because what I've found is that most of the time most people, those few steps ahead of me are they're willing and happy to give advice or some pointers or some tips and information. And you just don't know where that that leads. And it may not even be in your profession. So I mean, for me, we had a lecture when I was doing the Masters and on psychology, sports psychology and football. And I'm not interested in football at all, but what I was really interested in was the behaviour change stuff that he was talking about because I was working with jockeys and boxers at the time and I'm like, I'm giving them all this advice and like little tips and drip feeding and it's like weeks and weeks and months before they actually even try something. I'm like, Well, how do I get better at that? And I want to be better. And so I went to this psychologist for advice and tips and he's like, Oh, I think you should research this and try this. And like, I think you should do a professional doctorate and you're like, Oh, I didn't even know that existed. And so yeah, like that person. It's a pivotal point. Just this one conversation from this one person that I may not ever see again that it's. Again. I think it's so put it's just put yourself out there and to meet, network, learn and and see how that can improve just yourself but also that other person as well.
Speaker 1 [00:49:47] Yeah, absolutely. Now I'm mindful that we don't have heaps of time left, and I've got a full list of questions that I can keep going. I've probably saw one question in the chat, but I'm presuming people haven't been typing questions in the Q&A. There's no burning questions. So if they are, what I'd suggest is if we can if people want to quickly type those, because we can try and make a couple of minutes forward at the moment. But a question that I did see in the chat was just about the kind of how and when you went about this networking and how does it start. And I guess my theory is that sometimes it's almost like osmosis that you work through, but I don't know if any of you want to comment a little bit on that.
Speaker 2 [00:50:28] I'm happy tom I'm happy to talk about networking a little bit. I'm really passionate about networking. And networking has been critical for me in my career journey. It's opened up so many new doors that I guess students might be confused about. How exactly do you network, is that kind of where we're getting at?
Speaker 1 [00:50:47] Yeah, I think I think it's a little bit about that. Well, it's easy for us to talk because we've got this network so we can gather lots of people. But. But where does where do you think it starts?
Speaker 2 [00:50:57] I mean, if I have to be honest, it starts with networking with your peers. So I'm not sure if the students are actually thinking to themselves that when they're making these networks in class, talking to their peers, that they're actually networking. Because I hate to break it to you, but all of your peers are your future colleagues. So, you are already developing networks within nutrition. And I think peer mentoring is a really great way to get to know your peers more closely and to also help each other through a lot of, I guess, situations that you might find yourself. Networking occurs, I guess, when you're going to events and you're meeting people. So signing up for things like a local DA event or a local Nutrition Society event is really important. And students could also find some opportunities to network, I guess, more broadly than nutrition, perhaps with students in the School of Social Sciences who are studying public health or those types of things.
I also want to acknowledge the importance of networking with your lecturers, because I wouldn't have had any opportunities had Barbara Myer not been able to pick my face out of a room full of people. I think that was because I was someone who was engaged in class, talking, like Gemma saying I didn't know all the answers to all the questions and I certainly was not the smartest person in the room. But I think students can sometimes think they fly under the radar. But I think the lecturers and the other nutrition staff at UOW are a great place to start in terms of networking. And they do know you and they know you well. So, use those relationships to your benefit.
Speaker 1 [00:52:47] And and I'll just put a tip. Now, if you don't come to lectures and ask questions that we actually don't know you as well. So that's, that's my little pitch as a lecturer to really encourage you to attend and ask questions and engage because that's how we get to know you. And then automatically we're much better at acting as a referee for you because we can say, “Yeah, they're really engaged in class. They ask meaningful questions. If they don't understand stuff, they come and ask.” And that's that's a really important thing. So that would just some questions there about finding mentors. And I can see that there being it's answered about mentors for final year graduates, but maybe perhaps Gemma or Cameron, if you have anything to add on that in terms of we have formal APDs that you need as a new graduate dietician, which is something we talked about. And it's a tricky thing until you get to that point to know who you should have as a mentor. But I don't know if either of you would like to comment on that at all.
Speaker 4 [00:53:41] Yeah, I would just start. I think like Katherine was saying, it does come down to networking and coming and opening up and having conversations with me. So Kelly Lambert was actually my, my mentor for the APD program and part of that was having conversations in class and curiosity and, and recognising that, okay, I trust this person. I like their approach, clinically like their view on the world. And yet I suppose being brave and putting yourself out there to be like, is this, is this possible? Do you have the time, the capacity for this? But linking on with like other placements, for example. So one of the things I don't even know how I started doing this, but we all the placements I went on, I was networking with the other dieticians who were supervising me or I was working with and and I asked them all if they would be willing to share CV's and job interview applications because I was like, how do I do this? I don't know how to do it and just ask them questions about what do I say, what do I write and then learning from them. And I remember one dietician sort of saying she'd been in a role, I think it was a local hospital, and she just assumed she would get this next role based on her experience. So she didn't even prepare for the interview and flopped the interview. And basically her boss was like, “you should have gotten that job. But this person presented that they actually prepared and took the time and effort.” And I think it was a few years later before she actually got the job that she wanted to. And there's so much that we can learn from people, even if they're not formal relationships and mentoring sort of relationships from that perspective.
Speaker 1 [00:55:24] Now look, I've seen a question come up, Cameron. We don't have heaps of time and we've still got a couple more questions so I need you to do the speed summary of what's a typical day look like for you, Cameron, in the hospital?
Speaker 3 [00:55:37] I get to work. I have a coffee, waste some time. *Laughs* No. I guess like working as a hospital dietitian, you have a caseload so you screen your patient lists to see who you may or may not need to see, and you work out who needs to be seen. Often you might be covering, so you might have to prioritise your patient list. You might have some other work to do as well. I work in general medicine, so the types of patients that I see, patients with eating disorders, super morbid obesity, complex mental health and substance use disorders, as well as end stage kidney disease patients. So I guess what we do for those patients is we conduct a nutrition assessment, formulate an intervention. It might be oral enteral feeding, but really collaborating with the whole MDT. When you're coming up with that plan, it's never just you as a solo practitioner coming up with something for a patient. In a hospital setting, you work with all of the allied health and various levels of the medical team. Yeah.
Speaker 1 [00:56:42] Okay. Sounds it sounds exciting. Now, I accidentally clicked on answering this question live, so I'll quickly answer it, but it was just about people going straight from their other studies to do Masters and PhD. And I think I think in terms of PhD studies, Katherine is the only person that went straight through there. Everyone else here has had gaps which kind of led them down that path. Just a quick question on how that worked for you. And also there's a question that Katherine that talks about what kind of jobs you would have thought you might get immediately you finished. And I know you've probably got good knowledge on that from your NSA and your work in nutrition science. So maybe just a quick summary of that.
Speaker 2 [00:57:21] I think it's a double barrelled question.
Speaker 1 [00:57:23] It was. It was, but it has to be the quick answer.
Speaker 2 [00:57:25] They were going straight from my undergraduate into a Masters, actually worked great for me. I really liked it because I knew that I was really interested in research and that's what I wanted to develop my skills in. So that's why it was a good choice for me, where the others I think have gone on to other things and come back to develop their research skills. And in regards to your question, yes, there were jobs that I was looking at definitely in more public health, nutrition, and I actually had a double major in public health and nutrition for my undergraduate. So, a little bit different. But jobs that I was looking at were things like working for program for Healthy Cities Illawarra, running some community nutrition initiatives with kind of non-government organisation. So those are the types of jobs I was thinking I could go into. But if you're looking to move into public health after graduating, I would want you to question whether you think you need some extra training, such as enrolling in a Masters of public health or a Masters of public health nutrition to really learn some key skills in and in public health more broadly, that might set you up to be more competitive in a public health job, say working for New South Wales Health and all that type of thing.
Speaker 1 [00:58:48] That's great. Thank you. And just to as a final question there, that in the interest of time, I'll just probably answer because we get asked to do a lot at the university, which is about how you might go about looking at work experience. And there are lots of volunteering opportunities in terms of people can do things with Meals on Wheels or other of the voluntary organisations that might be supplying meals with people. It would teach you an incredible amount about what you need to do, you know, to understand that people have all different needs and come from all different backgrounds. There's probably not experiences available in clinical settings, and that's because there's just too much. Well, so many students already in the hospital system, but also, as is highlighted in a time of COVID, especially, the the amount of regulations and training and things you need just to step foot into a hospital ward. It's quite hot at the moment, but I just really go back to that thing that all the panelists have talked about today, these skills that you have that you might get from somewhere else. So you might be working at McDonald's or you might be working at Hungry Jacks, which is where I worked. And you can say, well, I learnt to talk to people, I learnt how to be very efficient in my job. I learn a little bit about, you know, food service or something. I'm picking the obscure examples because what we need to do to be reactive to a modern world where the role of the nutritionist is going to be big and needs to deal with big issues about food security and climate change and what diseases might come with that as well. If we think of those things, then we need to be start thinking of how we're going to transfer our skills across that big range of range of positions. So I hope everybody has very much enjoyed our discussion with everybody this afternoon. We really appreciate your attendance and we particularly appreciate Katherine and Cameron and Gemma for giving up their time to give some messages across to new graduates and to people who might be graduating soon. So, so thank you very much for your attendance.
Future of Work for Women Webinar
An in-depth conversation with some of today's trailblazing female leaders about the lessons we've learnt in a post pandemic world and how they will shape the future of work for women.
Professor Grace McCarthy [00:00:27] Lovely to see all these people joining in locally.
Vice-Chancellor Patricia Davidson [00:00:38] The great thing about the digital world, this is one of the pluses of coping.
Professor Grace McCarthy [00:00:44] It really is. We knew how to do it before. We just didn't make it.
Vice-Chancellor Patricia Davidson [00:00:49] Yeah, we didn't have access to the tools. You know, I can remember in the old not that long ago, I had to apply to get a teleconference number. You know, not everybody could just.
Professor Grace McCarthy [00:01:08] Well, we did have video conferencing in the company I worked with 20 years ago, but if you showed us a screen. Like an Excel spreadsheet, for example. You really couldn't see the people until we ended up with this kind of email, spreadsheets and look at the people and find ways around the limitations of the technology at the time.
Vice-Chancellor Patricia Davidson [00:01:32] Yeah.
Professor Grace McCarthy [00:01:33] We still got people joining in. So we're just going to take a minute or two while people are joining. And this is the bit where in real life, though, people would actually be able to have a chat to each other while they were waiting. So people can still do that. They can introduce themselves in the chat if they like, and actually just say where they are, for example, this afternoon. Jillian. Jervis Bay. Beautiful. And Karen. Hello, Karen. I see you hope it's not too cold in Canberra, but Elizabeth and Dharawal Country. It's just wonderful to see people be able to join in from around. We've got Sydney. Dharawal Country. Melissa in Bulli. Julia. I can't hear you. So now you are muted it. Trudy from Dharawal Country. Oh. Welcome from New Zealand. Lovely to have you with us, Ross. But Linda's also in Sydney. Rihannan from Dharawal Country. Elizabeth from Dharawal Country.
Professor Grace McCarthy [00:03:48] Hello Anu from Wollongong. Kathleen is in Austria. The webinar suited her time zone yea. We've got Aliya from Dubai.
Vice-Chancellor Patricia Davidson [00:03:57] Wow.
Professor Grace McCarthy [00:03:59] Alicia from Newcastle. And we've got Lisa from Sydney. We've got Sydney Olympic Park's Marion, Melbourne, from Hobart and Tasmania. We've got Chris in Wollongong. Isn't this fabulous? Just getting that wonderful group of people from all around. Jane is in Shellharbour. Diana's in Sydney. We've got mad Gilbert and we've got Sarah and Sidney and got to go country. Natalie in Kiama Dharawal Country. Julie. Hello. Julie from Dharawal Country Wollongong. And I think, you know, we might actually make a start because what I realise is that we have such a limited time together and we have this amazing power hour with a power panel to discuss this really important topic. So before I start I'd just like to let you know that we are recording the event and that is so that those who can't attend will be able to catch up later. And we are going to start, as we always do, with an acknowledgement of country. And the acknowledgement of country is an Australian tradition. And it's really important and it's where we acknowledge that Country for Aboriginal people is an interconnected set of ancient and sophisticated relationships. And the University of Wollongong spreads across many inter-related Aboriginal countries that are bound by the sacred landscape and intimate relationship with that landscape since creation. From Sydney to the Southern Highlands to the South Coast, from fresh water to bitter water to salt, from city to urban to rural. The University of Wollongong acknowledges the custodianship of the Aboriginal peoples of this place and space have kept alive the relationships between all living things. And the university acknowledges the devastating impact of colonisation, our campus footprint. And we commit ourselves to truth telling, healing and education. Now, we have such an amazing panel that if I were to read out all of their impressive achievements it would take the whole hour. So I'm just going to welcome each in turn, and then you'll find their bios on the link for the event. So first of all, I would like to welcome Professor Patricia Davidson, Vice-Chancellor and President of the University of Wollongong. Welcome, Trish.
Vice-Chancellor Patricia Davidson [00:06:53] Lovely to be here, Grace.
Professor Grace McCarthy [00:06:56] And next, I'd like to welcome Lindall West, Managing Director of Ombpoint, an early intervention service for workplace conflict. And today's webinar arose from a conversation with Lindall. So thank you and welcome to Lindall.
Lindall West [00:07:09] Thank you.
Professor Grace McCarthy [00:07:11] And now I'd like to welcome Bryony Binns, who's a partner at PWC Australia, where she's a member of the future work team and a whole lot of other responsibilities as well. And Bryony is also chair of our advisory board. So welcome, Bryony.
Bryony Binns [00:07:25] Thanks, Grace.
Professor Grace McCarthy [00:07:26] And last but not least, good morning to my wonderful colleague, the Dean of Business in UOW Dubai Professor Payyazhi Jayashree. Welcome, Jaya.
Professor Payyazhi Jayashree [00:07:36] Thanks for having me. It's great to be here.
Professor Grace McCarthy [00:07:39] Well, today's topic is timely, and I know we're going to run out of time, but please post any questions in the Q&A function. We'll try to get them. If you can't, we've got some ideas about how we might actually continue the conversation after the event. And please also join in doing some live polls this afternoon. And here's the very first one. So does your workplace facilitate a hybrid work model? Some days in the office, some days working from home? So you could just click yes or no and we'll see what kind of a spread we're seeing. So Meg, can you display the results then? If we've got, if people have been able to vote. So most people are saying absolutely yes. So 89% of people have said yes, they do. So you can see why it's so important. And for many reasons, women have been more impacted by COVID-19 than their male counterparts at work, they often do more housework and more care for young children, more care for ageing relatives. And domestic violence levels rose over the past couple of years in what's been called the shadow pandemic. And we see many women in health care with high levels of burnout and exhaustion. And many women in retail and hospitality who lost their jobs during the pandemic. And that will impact their superannuation long term. Women often work part time in precarious employment, and even prior to the pandemic, Australia was not performing well on gender equity. In 2022, the World Economic Forum Global Gender Gap ranked Australia 43rd out of 146 countries. New Zealand, by comparison, ranked four. So some progress may be made, but hopefully we'll hear about some of those things this afternoon. So as we're coming out of the pandemic, we hope, there are mixed signs. There are some signs that women are more mobile because of the opportunities of hybrid working, but also some worrying signs that women who take advantage of hybrid working may be disadvantaged in terms of their career. So today our focus is on what we can do to ensure that the future of work for women not only helps women recover from the disadvantages they've suffered during the last two years, but that we actually make real progress on gender equity because every organisation wants to hire the best people it can and to get the best from those people. And some of those best people are women. So if you don't employ women and keep women, get the best from them, you're not serving your organisation well. So we're going to have, now, the first question for the panel and it's a nice, simple, straightforward question so I'm going to get straight to Trish, our Vice-Chancellor. And Trish, how do you think hybrid working will impact on women?
Vice-Chancellor Patricia Davidson [00:10:52] Well, I think, as you mentioned, Grace, it's a two edged sword. On the one way, one hand, it's really emancipating. It gives a lot of flexibility. But on the other hand, I think we've got to be very thoughtful and intentional to maintain our visibility and our presence. And I often think, you know, it's fine for people like me whose career is established, but I think women will need to look to support other women and the whole workplace will need to focus more on sponsorship, that is creating, intentionally creating opportunities for people because it's not going to happen as organically. But to me, I think the benefits of the flexibility are going to outweigh the risks. But it's we have to make sure that we guide the agenda and to make sure that we're not invisible in this process.
Professor Grace McCarthy [00:11:49] Well, thank you. That's an optimistic note. Let me go to you, Lindall. Do you share Trish's optimism?
Lindall West [00:11:55] Yeah, I do. And certainly the pandemic for me was one of those watershed moments where we really shifted the dial quite considerably. You know, we've been talking about working from home for many years, but it really hadn't become a reality. The pandemic obviously meant that everyone was at home quite quickly. But what I'm observing at the moment is sort of a shift back to when are people coming back into the office. And I think to Trish's point, we need to be much more intentional about what work gets done in the office and what work needs to be done together. The reality is that nobody really wants to be turning up at the office and watching their manager on a zoom call the whole day. So it really is about making sure that the time spent together is actually intentionally good time and for activities that are really important. I also think that there's this sort of sense of, I call it perhaps the privilege effect where a lot of the people who are asking employees to go back to the office are actually those senior managers who live five kilometres from the city, who drive into the car park underneath the building and can't understand why the person who has to travel an hour and a half on a train is is less interested in coming back to the office. So I think that as as leaders, we also need to be reflecting on our own behaviour and biases and thinking about the general workforce and the sort of things that they're dealing with in that return to office.
Professor Grace McCarthy [00:13:20] Great points, Bryony, did that resonate with you?
Bryony Binns [00:13:24] It does, Grace. I think for me, zooming out the question that you posed in terms of how does hybrid work or how will it, how is it likely to affect women? Well, what is really interesting is that we really are living through a bit of an experiment. And I know that you in academia will be sort of chomping through the results of what we see in the next couple of years. But I think what is interesting is just at the outset, recognising that women do have a preference for hybrid work. So it will absolutely impact people. At PWC last year, towards the end of last year, we did a survey called What Workers Want, and you can have a look at the results of that survey through our Australian website. What we were really focussed on there was actually the great resignation, not hybrid work per se, but what we did see was that the results really did show preferences amongst cohorts that were quite different but very consistent within the cohorts. And very clearly women were more likely to be carers is more likely to work part time and all of those cohorts very clearly opted towards hybrid work. Which raises another big question for me, and that is where we have. And so going back to our survey, there were 10% of respondents in there who didn't have a hybrid workplace and I'm not sure, but it may be my hunch is that some of those people will be working in workplaces that don't lend themselves to hybrid work, frontline workers, workers in caring industries, education, etc., which might be more stacked towards a female workplace, which means that even though women want hybrid work, they might actually not be able to access it in all areas given and notwithstanding all of those different attributes. So I think it will impact women and I agree with Trish and Lindall that it's yet to be seen as to whether or not that's going to be negative or positive. The concern for me is that we make sure that when we're thinking about it as well, that our thoughts in our conversations sort of tend towards what we do for that portion of the workforce that may not have access to that kind of flexibility.
Professor Grace McCarthy [00:15:26] Thank you, Bryony. And Jaya, what are you seeing in Dubai on this?
Professor Payyazhi Jayashree [00:15:33] So this is a very, very relevant question and something that we are all discussing here at a general level. I would think that women have been constantly told that they can't have it all. But hybrid work has given the kind of flexibility and agency to women to be able to balance and prioritise family and work in a manner that works for them. However, the downside, as you said Grace a little while ago and all the colleagues here is a double shift of paid unpaid work, which does impact work life balance, particularly amongst women with children. And we must understand that while we may have moved substantially from the heteronormative ideas about gender roles in reality, when we look at the data around the world, in fact, Gender Gap Report, I think the Global Gender Gap Report 2021 has given this data that on an average, women do spend about 2.5 times as many hours on unpaid domestic work and care as men. And we also have to acknowledge the issue of intersectionality amongst women. There are those who have privileged access to education, access to care facilities, but those who do not have. So the challenge for all of us here, in fact, in one of the research that Grace, you and I collaborated on, one of the reasons we saw for the leaking pipeline was a lot of women had to make that conscious decision to step away and start looking after their families because the care worker duties was primarily done with women. So the issue really is how do we, you know, take a multi level perspective micro, meso and macro level, at an individual level or at an organisational level, at a national level. Because again, governments have a role to play in how do we make sure that we subsidise childcare creches for females? So lack of affordable childcare is something that has to be taken up at a national level. So how can we try? And UAE is really doing a lot in this respect, which probably is noteworthy that, you know, females are being given a lot of priority, particularly with regard to paid leave, maternity leave, caring for their children. In fact, you know, 60 days of maternity leave here and opportunity for almost resuming work for one year after the baby's birth. And if you have children with special needs, she'll be granted childcare leave for the period from the expiry date of the maternity leave to the date on which a baby completes one year of it. So it is a very inclusive way that UAE has been looking at this whole issue. But yes, we need more data from the ground up in a contextual manner to be able to address some of the challenges that are very unique to different populations, I think.
Professor Grace McCarthy [00:18:31] Thank you, Jaya. So in terms of gathering data, let's try a second poll. Meg, could you put up the second poll, please? So the second is, what do you see as the main benefits of hybrid working just top of your head and it says long answer. It doesn't really mean long answer, it just means a couple. Anything that comes to mind when you think about what the benefits of hybrid working might be.
Lindall West [00:19:07] Grace perhaps more people are actually filling out that survey there was a couple of questions in the Q&A box, just around different levels of flexibility. And I think it's it's a good point. Hybrid works for a certain part of the workforce, but it certainly doesn't work for the whole workforce.
Professor Grace McCarthy [00:19:22] Absolutely right. And it can't. I mean, there are some jobs that are offered. Well, at least it's limited types of flexibility, depending on what the actual role is, who needs to be there together at the same time for certain customer service hours, for example. So it's yeah, it can create that sense of inequity of some people can and some people can't. So what are we going to do about that to compensate for those who, for organisational reasons, don't get offers? The flexibility which is different from if people choose not to take the flexibility, if it's on offer, it's it's going to be a difficult one to manage the sense of that sense of justice and injustice. Meg, can you kind of show some of the answers that are coming up. Okay. That's not working very well in terms of we're definitely got something we'll have a look at. I will see if we can find a way to dig out those answers afterwards. But we'll go on to the to another question that I'm going to just throw open to the panel. So. We talked about the fact that when we mentioned that women may be disadvantaged, they take advantage of flexible working in terms of their their careers. And we know that some managers have a bias towards the people that they see in the office or the people that they see working and their confidence in their ability to do the work. So how do we manage this? How do we actually try and prevent that bias affecting the judgement of how effective women are being if they're working remotely? And what are we going to do to make sure that managers trust their employees to be equally productive, whether they're in the office or at home? Bryony I'm going to throw that one to you to start with.
Bryony Binns [00:21:09] Thanks, Grace. It's a really interesting question. There's a couple of things I think we need to think about. But what is interesting to me is as an employment lawyer, is that I think there's a bit of a vein of questions. I'm saying coming through on the chat about these is that we've always had the capacity for flexibility and we've always had some protection through anti-discrimination laws and some provisions that now exist in the Fair Work Act. I say now it's not that recent since 2009 showing my age, but there has always been some capacity in relation to flexibility. What has changed is that those provisions generally have allowed an employer to refuse on the basis of reasonable business grounds and in very general terms, it's a different legislative language. But historically, if I think back to practising in this area of law, at the beginning of the 2000, you often had an employer say and to pick up on some of your language, just say Grace, it's customer facing, they can't possibly do it from home, etc., etc.. So we got to say no to a flexible arrangement. Well, the technology doesn't work. It's not there. What Covid has showed us is that though that type of response doesn't cut it anymore. And so that that's interesting because it kind of places employees in a different position where they are now on the back foot to be employees have more power in the context of that legislation. So it's very important that employers actually think about finding a way to make things work, particularly where we have a consciousness of this proximity bias, which is more likely to indirectly discriminate against women. So I think a couple of things. First of all, we had for some time in ATAR circles, it was talked about the frozen middle. So middle management having become you know, the importance of middle management was very much ameliorated by shift towards flatter structures, which everybody likes and like that flat kind of non-hierarchical structure assisted by digital technology, solutions for management, etc.. And I think we need to now look back to thinking about how middle management works as part of that really important management of personnel when they're not at work. We also need to remember that hybrid where he's in about remote work. It's about meaningful time in office and not in office because personal connection training, supervision is still important. But the most important thing, and this is at the back end of the sort of discrimination dispute that might come and land on my desk as a lawyer is if something hasn't work worked, you better be able to explain it. What that requires is actually putting in place a very clear framework of expectations around what is required at the beginning of an arrangement, which I think is the biggest challenge for employers. We need to be part of a conversation both on the employer and the employee, and to reset what the expectations around productivity and output are now. To measure performance, which, if performance is no longer based simply on time in office, has got to be a good thing for women contributing in the workplace.
Professor Grace McCarthy [00:24:28] And that was a really interesting answer Byrony and Meg has just kind of shared some of the the responses to the last poll. And one of them was about increased productivity, which is interesting. So last year the Productivity Commission did say if people can be more productive when they're at home than in the office, sometimes we just need to get the balance right. But not all managers see that they are used to dealing with things by the number of hours in the office and the long hours culture was really, in some industries, particularly strong. The other answer is a lot of the benefits people are seeing in this hybrid working all to do with flexibility and being able to balance home and work life better. So Trish, on this question of that Bryony was just talking about the sense of how are we going to make sure that women aren't disadvantaged if they take those options that are available through hybrid working? Do you have any thoughts on this?
Vice-Chancellor Patricia Davidson [00:25:25] Well, I think Bryony made an excellent point about expectations. And I think, you know, I think we have to be clear about that. You know, service level agreements are a bit extreme. But I, I think that's part of what am I expected to achieve? I think good communication is really important. And one of the things that does concern me a little bit is this is the potential to increase disparities between, you know, professional women and women who have less options and choices. And one of the things that makes me a little bit anxious is the potential for catalysing the workforce where where we are, where we are now that people will think, well, if they're not working here, maybe I can outsource this. That's one of the things that worry me. And I think, of course, it's going to be the more vulnerable that are going to be more likely that that's going to happen. So I think we have to be better at communication more generally and expectations. And that's probably going to be really crucial conversations like, you know, adjustment of schedules. But I think it's is going to really change the way we performance manage, the way we communicate. And so these are going to be many more management skills that we we need to to get at. But can I say, as the Vice-Chancellor of the university, I see amazing productivity. I've got, you know, and I think it's great to see that people are auto correcting, but then, you know, we're not exactly the real world. Sorry, Grace. I mean, that in the nicest possible way. But what you know, we are professionals, we're trained, we have resources. But it's it's people in industries that could easily be casualised and moved off that I'm concerned about that.
Bryony Binns [00:27:34] That's actually there was an, an article I think was in the AFR a couple of days ago that I think the CEO of Charter Hall, who may have a vested interest in people coming back to work, made the point that those who those sort of are in industries that remain at home are more likely to have their roles digitised or offshored. Because if your worker can work anywhere, and if the work can be more cheaply done in another jurisdiction, then there's no reason for it to be around. So it's a very valid concern Trish.
Professor Grace McCarthy [00:28:07] Yes. That we used to think about offshoring for manufacturing industry to countries that are cheaper labour, but now this can affect services more than ever before. Jaya, I'm going to bring you in this conversation because one of the related questions in the Q&A was about, can it affect women because they're not in the office as much to develop business relationships? That reminded me of some of the research that of what we saw in our research as well, that the importance of being able to build those connections and relationships may be harder to achieve online. What do you think?
Professor Payyazhi Jayashree [00:28:41] Absolutely. In fact, in our research, what we saw was one of the most important reasons why women were unable to reach leadership positions was because many of them were not part of the strategic conversations that was necessary for them to develop the career competencies, the strategic competency. It was considered to be a driver for the career capital that is necessary for being part of those male dominated upper echelons. So to see that and when we look at some of the data, again, LinkedIn data shows that women are 26% more likely to apply for remote working than men. And if these unconscious biases of these implicit biases exist, then it essentially means that women are more likely to be disproportionately affected. And that would, you know, set back all the progress that we have made to to achieve gender parity at the top. So having said that, there are ways in which we could address the bias. And Bryony and Trish made some excellent points there, which is very, very comprehensive. And one of the one of the things that we might want to look at is we might have to track the allocation of work consciously with intention to see are we, you know, are the strategic assignments to routinely being given to those who are physically present or those who are part of those corridor conversations when I'm going out for a stroll because that if and over a period of time, if you see that there are some implicit biases that is impacting the kind of opportunities that we're giving to men and women or those who are present with those who are absent, then that is something for us to really address. The other thing. And if from what we are seeing here, I agree with Trish that productivity did increase. I think in the last year itself I saw maximum research outputs in my faculty which which is very, very, you know, just fantastic because people got that space and time. So clearly, you know, in academics, people love the thought of having that space to start thinking about their research and start publishing, etc., which is which is great. They don't have to come to work every day, but at the same time, people who are working remotely, I've also seen that sometimes they lack the kind of connectivity that is that comes naturally and spontaneously when they are part of work. So at some point when remote working numbers increase and perhaps at an institutional level, we might have to think about a formal position or maybe informal, a champion of a remote community so that, you know, he or she then makes sure that they bring the people together to really identify what are some of the issues so that we can continue to have an equitable and, you know, workspace, inclusive workspace, which gives everybody equal opportunities.
Professor Grace McCarthy [00:31:30] Thank you. Yeah. Meg, can we run the poll, please? Just to get a sense for whether the people on the call. So do you feel disadvantaged by choosing to work from home rather than the office? And when you're ready, we'll just show that one. Just gives us a feeling for whether this is already affecting people. So it's great. I mean, two-thirds of people don't feel disadvantaged when they choose to work from home rather than the office. So that's really good. And what we want to make sure is that as this hybrid working increases, that we are able to make it something that works for everyone because we want to get the best from our people. So what do to think then about what organisations can do to help women to thrive in this post-pandemic workplace? Lindall, can I start with you this time?
Lindall West [00:32:44] Look, I'm going to pick up on a couple of points that Jaya made, actually, that I think it's become incumbent on CEOs and chief people, officers in every organisation to start to think about promotions and to think about performance appraisal ratings, etc., in the same way that we've been thinking about it with things like gender over the last few years. So really putting a lens on it to say, okay, of the promotions that we've got coming through in this period, how many of them were people who were entirely remote, entirely in the office and and hybrid to make sure that we're getting that balance right? I also think on organisations agendas, we need to be thinking about a leadership programme that looks at how do you create an inclusive environment when you're managing remote working. Because the reality is that whether it's people that are in the same offices or if it's in the same location. So the point around outsourcing work to people in other countries is that's going to require the same skill set of leaders. They're still going to have to be able to lead a team that's not all in the same place. The last decade, I've actually led global teams and haven't had the ability to have that team in one place at one time at any point in that decade. And so it does actually challenge you to think about how do you get other data points rather than just the one hour meeting that you have with that person once a week to understand what is their productivity, how are they performing, how they're peer relationships, etc.. So it is a harder job when you have to do that. But by the same token, that's exactly what leaders are actually going to be required to do going into the future. And then I think the other simple tip that we should have for leaders is you should actually work from home at least one day a week, one day a fortnight, because it turns the dynamics somewhat. So a lot of leaders are out there saying, yeah, hybrid is fine, but I really mean hybrid is fine for everybody else but the people that I want to promote and the people that I want to support need to be in the office. So if we turn that around and actually have them working from a different location, that will help to equalise things.
Professor Grace McCarthy [00:34:51] I've just had some Internet problems, so my apologies. My Internet is breaking up a bit. So if I just disappear or break up, just carry on the conversation, that's the best thing. That's our plan B, basically, just to carry on regardless. But yeah, Jaya perhaps we go back to you. Is there anything else that you wanted to bring in about that idea about helping women to thrive, what organisations can do?
Professor Payyazhi Jayashree [00:35:21] This is a very, very relevant question and something that almost all of us are continuously looking to, you know, I mean, we are becoming part of those conversations now, something that, you know, the data that is emerging is that the underrepresentation of women is really in those jobs which require disruptive skills. So when we look at, again, taking a data based view, we see that in cloud computing. I was just just just doing a quick search. Women make up 14% of the workforce in engineering, 20% in data and AI, 32%, which is kind of worrying because primarily because when we look at the ambitious jobs switch that men and women make, clearly the organisations are changing business intersections with technology is becoming more and more normalised. Digital disruption is taking over our lives. But are women making the jobs switch? And that's what is worrying. It appears that that while the current share of women in cloud computing is about 14.2%, the figure has only improved by point two percentage in the last two years. And the share of women in data and I realise there has been a massive decline of women switching to these roles in the last couple of years, which, which perhaps is something that we need to research. In fact, one of the global research opportunities that Trish led for us has led to a number of one of our research grants is on AI inclusivity as to how do we ensure that we first identify where the gaps are, where are they currently underrepresented? Because occupational differences is also a key explanatory factor for wage inequality. And that's a question that I know you will probably be going into later. And as as the emerging role with lower female representation are seeing higher than average remuneration, all of these disruptive jobs are the ones that are higher paid and therefore women are not even reaching those disruptive roles for whatever reasons. They are definitely going to be, you know, out of that labour market or the equity in pay that you're talking about. So how do we address the inclusivity? First is re-employment of women, redeployment of women into these positions, more active, you know, learning and development opportunities, particularly given the accelerated automation. And also, I think it is important that universities have a role to play because it is not only organisations at an institutional level. We need to look at the dynamics of diversity in our classrooms and try and see whether the programmes that we are offering are also, you know, intersecting business and tech in a manner that men and women are both developing the kind of competencies that's necessary for them to move into these positions.
Professor Grace McCarthy [00:38:16] Fantastic. Thank you. And that's a good segue way for you, Trish, so I can see you want to come in here on this.
Vice-Chancellor Patricia Davidson [00:38:24] Thanks. One of the things, and I think Olivia put a really great question in the chat, and I think Olivia has really only been in the workplace for 20 months and 16 of those have been in Covid. I think if we look at women's leadership development, it often focuses on that middle range of, you know, from sort of middle to more senior. I think what I think we really need to do is go back and really look at some of in particular those entry level positions who have likely been the most disadvantaged. You know, younger women with, you know, been homeschooling because I think that they just as we've seen learning loss in children not being engaged, I feel we're going to have a developmental loss in in not just women, but men who are earlier into the workplace and who have not had a head start. So I just think it's also going to challenge us as leaders to think of more segmented approaches to leadership development. So I think Olivia had a great question.
Professor Grace McCarthy [00:39:37] There are fabulous questions in the queue, and I might actually maybe pick out a couple more of them. So is higher productivity the result of longer hours and consequentially having a negative effect on wellbeing? Does anybody have any thoughts on that one? So we've told you about possible increases in productivity.
Vice-Chancellor Patricia Davidson [00:39:55] And I think it's I think that is right. You know, I think we need to have much more self-regulation. So. It's easy just to, you know, just be sitting at a desk all day and not having this same opportunistic activity of going to the watercooler or going to buy your lunch. So I think it's you know, it's it's how we then develop those those boundaries between home time and work time.
Professor Grace McCarthy [00:40:29] Absolutely. Bryony, did you want to comment on that?
Bryony Binns [00:40:32] No, I think there's some interesting commentary around productivity during private, particularly for office space roles. So some studies have shown that there's a big gap between perception of busyness and actual output. Certainly, workers did spend more time at their screens, but productivity, I think, spiked early on during COVID, but then waned over time, which is what we know about knowledge workers, where I take it that doing productive long hours for a short period only and they've become pretty useless over time, which sort of goes to this idea of having to find another way to think about how you measure productivity, which really does focus on health and well-being for people who are very much engaged in knowledge work, but certainly did have a more time at the computer and they did have an impact. I wonder over time that there was too many Zoom meetings. Everybody got Zoom fatigue and it stopped being. There was there must have been a point in time know just stopped being productive because we are on zoom too often. Not to have any research about that. That certainly wasn't what I felt. But I do think of already said it a couple of times. I do think that one of the big and to pick up on something that Lindall said in terms of how can we assist women you know in that hybrid context are really big ones for me and it is for me as an individual, as a lawyer, I've always worked in professional services firms where my the way that I've billed clients, the way that my value to an organisation has always been measured, is based on time, which I don't think is the right approach. What's interesting, about ten years ago, after there was a bunch of work coming out of the US in terms of the limits of how useful you could be in the days and knowledge worker, I think IBM had found that maybe it was about six or 7 hours a day. We actually began to see large corporations out of the US impose billing limits that would not pay for more than 7 hours of lawyers time per day, because I didn't think that we were much with much of that, which I thought was very interesting in terms of with buying power is but a good argument in terms of how we should measure productivity in output.
Professor Grace McCarthy [00:42:53] But thank you Bryony. Lindall, over to you.
Lindall West [00:42:57] Yeah. Look, I agree. I think that this is a real opportunity. We're seeing it in the media play out at the moment with some of the big professional services firms not to pick on anybody, but in terms of the whole concept of billable hours and and, you know, whether that's productive or whether it's the right business model going forward, both for clients and for the employees. And I think, you know, as much as we've talked about casualisation today and other pieces, we're also in a talent shortage. And so this is the time to really make those shifts, because whilst there's not enough people to go around, organisations will be forced to rethink the way things operate. You know, if we leave it another three or four years, perhaps that shift goes back to employers.
Professor Grace McCarthy [00:43:47] Absolutely wonderful. Now we've talked a bit about things that managers and organisations can do, but there have also been calls for governments to do things to address some of those structural issues and challenges. So my question for the panel is, if you were the Prime Minister, what is one thing that you would do that would make life better for women in the post-pandemic world? And Trish, I'm going to start with you, because you can be one of our voices to government. You have the contacts, the connections you could advocate for us.
Vice-Chancellor Patricia Davidson [00:44:18] Well, I think childcare is is really important. And, you know, there was. And then the other thing that I think is going to emerge as being really critical in this era, and I think someone coming in in the chat is the quality of the Internet and broadband. And it's not just for work. It's access to health services. It's access to so many things. So I think, you know, addressing the digital divide is something else that I would advocate for.
Professor Grace McCarthy [00:44:47] Thank you. Lindall, what would you do if you were the Prime Minister?
Lindall West [00:44:53] Parental leave. It's got to be one of the areas that we that we really lean into. I know that there's been discussion about it. We need to provide incentives for males to be taking parental leave. That's that's for me, the main thing we need. We need to stop talking about caps on remuneration. The reality is a lot of women leave the workforce because their husbands earn more than they do. And so we need to equalise that so that they can remain in the workforce. I think that the push for gender pay reporting is actually a positive one. Probably a decade ago I didn't think that, but I think it really holds organisations to account and I think that's a real opportunity for us to sort of press forward on that. And then I think the other thing is that we've got to get more females into industries that are male dominated. And likewise, we need to get more males into industries that are female dominated. So things like education and caring, and those sorts of things, the pay rights in those in those sort of industry sectors will go up if we have a more gender balanced workforce. And I think that's that's one of the things that we need to be doing. So whether it's giving tax incentive for organisations on returning ships and things like that, let's get more women back into into those different areas.
Professor Grace McCarthy [00:46:08] Fantastic. Jaya, could you just say something about the STEM and the UAE? Because we talked before and it was something like 50, 50 male or female STEM graduates and Australia was about 20% female in STEM. So what's being done in the UAE that is actually helping to develop the pipeline for women to go into some of the male dominated industries?
Professor Payyazhi Jayashree [00:46:35] So this is such an important question, Grace, because UAE has taken a lot of conscious steps in ensuring that they are creating a gender, just, you know, environment, context. In fact, that's where the Global Gender Gap report UAE has is amongst the most improved countries in the world. In overall index, the state has climbed claimed about 6% in just one year, which is which is due to the intentional effort. And it is ranked in the top 25 countries in the world for political participation, and 50% of parliamentarians are women as compared to about 22.5% in 2020. I think New Zealand has about 28.3%. So clearly, you know, and they have also led to a lot of reforms because, you know, there are this equal number of women in in strategic positions. Women have a very strong voice here, which essentially means that continuously we have seen a lot of reforms. And one of the most recent reforms in the new UAE labour law that came into effect in February 2022, was that women should receive the same wages, men for the same work or work of equal value, which which I thought is outstanding. So there is continuously the kind of effort that is, you know, being made by the government to ensure that women have an equal voice. And you're right, with regard to women moving to these disruptive positions, as I was saying earlier, one of the reasons why women are hesitant to make this ambitious job switch to tech intensive areas is because of lack of role models. And across the world we see that data, right. We need to see women succeeding in these positions for us to develop the confidence and to break our own internal voices that tell us that you can't do that, you are not good at maths you are not good at science. So in the research that I did here, this part of the world, one of the one of the things that I was looking at was asking women who are already in the senior positions of leadership as to how did you reach this far? Rather than asking what prevented you from reaching this far? You know, used a little bit of appreciative of enquiry to focus on the positive, what went well here and across the board everybody said that it was because early on in my childhood I had female role models who were just breaking all kinds of biases, supportive family, early opportunities to succeed. And now UAE has seen, I think there is a 50% split across arms, across engineering, across the stem. So in our classrooms we see it, which is all because of the bottom up and top down strategy combined. So it has been a holistic kind of an approach that the government has taken that start with schools and then try and incrementally break the biases at every step. I would also think the important area that we is now working on is a public private partnership through things like amoretisation, where there is a conscious effort to ensure that people are getting the right opportunities. So yeah, it is, it is a really a lot of vibrant conversations and discorse on gender equity publicly. So I think all of that has helped in incrementally shifting the kind of culture.
Professor Grace McCarthy [00:50:01] I think that's fantastic because a stereotype that people will sometimes have is about the Middle East as one amorphous block, as if every country there was the same and underestimating completely the changes that are happening and happening so rapidly in the UAE, which is actually a very young country, ancient culture, but young as a country. So I think there are things we can definitely learn from the UAE here in Australia. So I'm very conscious of the time. So I'm going to ask each of the panel sort of one last question and the fabulous questions and the Q&A. We will take them and we've got some ideas about how we might actually share some answers and bring them back to everybody that's been on the call today. So the last question and of course, it's a nice, simple one, which means simple questions always get long answers. But when thinking about this tenor of the whole conversation we've had today, all these different kind of ideas that are buzzing around in our heads. If you were to give a, let's say, a female friend or just one piece of advice about how to succeed in the post-pandemic hybrid world, what would you advise your friend? What would help her to succeed in the post-pandemic hybrid world? And Bryony, I'm going to start with you this time.
Bryony Binns [00:51:25] I think Grace I would, I would recommend to my friend to be aware of all of the issues that we're talking about. So first of all, to become aware of what might become an impediment in that kind of hybrid working environment. And then to become very clear on two things. One, what is their role, what's expected of them in their role and asking for feedback in terms of how to be successful. But two, understanding that hybrid is about being remote, but also being in the office and recognising that there is still benefit to being in the office, in at work, and making an effort to understand how to achieve that best we did with the workforce with their manager it, with their team etc..
Professor Grace McCarthy [00:52:12] Great. Thank you, Bryony. Trish, over to you.
Vice-Chancellor Patricia Davidson [00:52:17] One of the most powerful quotes I've heard in the pandemic was I was just reading a report from Salesforce, and the line was, don't move problems to the cloud. So I guess I think my point is that some of the issues that we've been talking about have been there for a long time. And so but my advice was to be be thoughtful and intentional about how you position yourself. Work on your visibility through social media. Make appointments intentionally to see your boss. Just don't let it go to chance because I think that was always an issue. But the risks are higher now, so just make a plan, work on your profile and keep moving forward.
Professor Grace McCarthy [00:53:12] Thanks, Trish. Jaya to you.
Professor Payyazhi Jayashree [00:53:15] So in addition to all that attrition, my colleagues, you'll see I would probably just add to that by saying we also might want to reclaim the word success. It need not mean explicit outcomes. It could mean leading a life where you focus on balance, focus on mental health, focus on physical fitness, being present. You know, I was listening to Eckhart Toll the other day, which and he said something which kind of stuck with me that we are human beings. But I think we focus a lot on the human element. There's a lot of doing, but we don't focus enough attention on being, on the being element, which is really about nurturing our inner selves to be able to do. I mean, during COVID and post-COVID, a lot of us have had personal losses. And, you know, we are conscious more than ever that life is finite. And therefore it becomes extremely important that each one of us takes the responsibility individually to start leading life in a way which we find is more fulfilling, because through that process, we can create more impact in the world around us in a meaningful manner.
Professor Grace McCarthy [00:54:32] Thank you. That was beautiful Jaya and Lindall, for your piece of advice for your friend and this brave new world of hybrid.
Lindall West [00:54:40] Look, at one point, we often talk about giving employees the skills and the confidence to have conversations around conflict, etc. But I think I would actually say it's those two elements that my friend needs in this brave new world, the skills and the confidence to both tell your manager about how you're contributing to the organisation, the skills and confidence to ask for what you're worth and the skills and confidence to walk away if your organisation is not supportive.
Professor Grace McCarthy [00:55:08] Great. Thank you. Well, I really am just going to take this chance then to thank each and every one of you for Trish and Bryony, Lindall and Jaya. Meg and the Advancement Team, Kelly and Clare, and all of you for being with us this afternoon for such a fascinating conversation. The recording will be available and the link will be sent to you. But also we will take those Q&A questions and do what we can with them and get those back out as well in some form. We'll see what's the best way is to deal with them because absolutely there are some fantastic questions and I just see one that I'll just pick out, which was about co-working spaces and would that help? And yes, it would. Co-working spaces give you the advantage of being able to work locally, saving the planet in terms of commuting time and pollution, but also having the social connections. But even if the co-working space is still if you can, needs to make those connections with your own organisation as well. So this new world is all about balance and balance for better we can all try and doing our bit to make it a better world. So thank you everybody for joining us and have a wonderful evening.
Professor Payyazhi Jayashree [00:56:22] Thank you
The Future of Law and AI
Traditionally, the law has been slow to adopt new technologies. However, legal practitioners are already using AI to automate tasks such as document review, contract analysis and predicting court outcomes.
Speaker 1 [00:00:05] Before I begin, I would like to acknowledge the traditional owners of the land on which I'm broadcasting today. The Gadigal people of the Yuin Nation. I acknowledge their elders past and present, and their young emerging leaders. I pay my respects for the ongoing custodianship of Yuin lands, and I acknowledge their resilience and survival as their territories bore the brunt of the first wave of British invasion and its colonial aftermath, which are ongoing. I also pay my respects to all first peoples joining us today. These lands are a stolen lands. Sovereignty has never ceded and treaties are yet to be negotiated. This always was and always will be Aboriginal land. So hello, my name is our Armin and I'm going to be the participating chair of this panel. So I'll also be introducing everyone to you. I'm a lecturer in the School of Law at the University of Wollongong, where I research at the intersection of technology, science and law. My current projects investigate the ethical and legal implications of cutting edge developments in artificial intelligence, big data genetics and neuroscience. I have previously been involved in ethical AI projects, including a project funded by DFAT. I'm a coding nerd and I'm currently collaborating with colleagues at University Sydney to prototype AI power tools for potential use in education and research. My hair is actually blue and it's not a visual effect. So next, Terri Terri's the executive director of the Center for Legal Innovation at the College of Law. She works internationally with leaders of legal businesses to help them identify and analyze emerging trends in order to develop strategies to deliver services and products in the neo legal ecosystems. She's the driving force behind the College of Law, Global Initiatives, networks and programs, including the Legal Permanent Lab and the Innovation Incubator Program. Kerry has received widespread recognition and acclaim as an industry thought leader and advocate for women in law. Next. Alex. Alex is a manager in KPMG's Legal Operations and Transformation Services Team and specializes in the Legal Transformation Advisory and Product Design and development. He has broad experience in digital transformation and innovation across the telecommunications, property and legal industries, as well as expertize in legal service design and legal product development and legal operation. Alex has previously held transformation and innovation roles at Gilbert and Tobin Vicinity Centers and NBN. He was also responsible for researching and writing Australia's first research report on the Internet of Things and consumer issues. Finally, Lyria. Lyria is the director for Allen's Hub for Technology, Law and Innovation and a professor and associate dean of research in the Faculty of Law and Justice at UNSW Sydney. She is the co-lead of the law and policy theme in the Cyber Security Cooperative Research Center and the Faculty lead in the UNSW Institution for Cybersecurity. Lyria's research explores issues around relationship between technology and law, including the types of legal issues that arise as the technology changes. She has also worked on legal and policy issues associated with artificial intelligence, as well as the need for oversight for law enforcement intelligence. So welcome, everyone, and it's so great to have this panel about some very interesting topic. If you have any questions, please post your questions in the Q&A section. And if we have time at the very end, we will try to answer as many questions as possible. So the whole reason for this session is, as you know, AI has been affecting our lives in many different ways. And it may sound surprising, but in today's world there are many good AI's out there that the public can access and build this stuff. And we are kind of at the point that we can more confidently predict that the future of the legal profession will be affected by how we are going to embrace and leverage these new technologies, including artificial intelligence. And that's why today we are going to have that discussion. And before I begin and talk about anything, I'm going to just add something very boring probably about the definition of AI. And as many of you know, there is no clear definition of what is AI. And some people don't like the even the term AI. But in general, in today's discussion, we're going to talk about two different types of AI expert systems and machine learning. Expert systems are those that are kind of old fashioned, as we call them. It's just simple. Some say algorithm, even their programing. One example is if you buy alcohol from Woolies, the system would be like if the person is buying alcohol when you're doing it online, the delivery person then has to check their ID and then it says if they're checking their ID after check whether they are above 18 and if the answer is yes, then give them the alcohol. So that's the if then they're programing and we are providing all the information and rules for the system. However, in machine learning, we usually give a lot of data to the system and if we provide enough data, the system will learn the rules. So it will find the the patterns. Then it will be able to, with some accuracy, predict some outcomes. There are huge differences between these two types of AI. Many people don't consider expert systems. The first system that I just discussed as an AI and if we considered it as AI would be some kind of mad AI scientist, because I've been making these kind of automated systems since high school. So yeah, we will discuss further why this distinction is important and as as much as we can, we will refer to as we discussed, we are going to say whether it's expert system or machine learning, because machine learning is the type of AI that in today's world, when we say AI, people are usually referring to machine learning and not expert systems. Okay, so with that introduction, let's start the conversation. Let's start with this question. What are some of the current uses of AI in legal profession? How about Alex start with that one.
Speaker 2 [00:07:05] Yeah. Thanks Armim. So in the kind of role that I do, it's predominantly consulting and a lot of that consulting is to in-house legal departments. So a lot of what I'm seeing is, is how much demand we're seeing in a lot of the use cases that are coming from general counsel and their teams, but also what law firms are adopting and what they're offering in these legal functions. So one of the I guess the biggest and probably most valuable use case at the moment is using some kind of AI system for document analysis and review, particularly large scale review. So a great example is the due diligence component of M&A. So a couple of specific use cases would be using AI or OCR optical character recognition to digitalize some contracts. So believe it or not, a lot of legal functions still have paper contracts, and often they might need to scan them and upload them into PDF. These systems can be quite good at taking those images and turning them into text or turning them into information unless there's a blur or a coffee stain or something like that. And I've seen that those limitations in the past and other use case related to document review is the ability to extract key information from documents. So if a document is structured in a certain way, such as a contract, these algorithms can extract information and compile it into structured data. So if you feed it a thousand documents of the same kind contracts, for example, it can be taught to recognize that if they say contract date, hyphen, space, date format, that date can be extracted and put into a table, for example, other use cases.
Speaker 1 [00:09:08] What is the accuracy of these kinds of systems? So it's a machine learning system.
Speaker 2 [00:09:14] It it varies among different vendors and different providers. So some providers have been in the space for quite a while. They have a lot of data to have taught the models. They do a lot of supervised and unsupervised learning of the models, but it varies. I wouldn't say all of them are 100% yet. Maybe some of them accidentally get 100%. But we are seeing kind of studies out there that get pretty close. So 99% and they kind of compare that to human review as a gold standard. But it varies wildly and that's kind of one of the challenges with the legal industry is that anything less than 100% is quite risky. And so building that accuracy is, I think, the key enabler to building the trust, which will then lead to adoption. But just very quickly, some other use cases is using different forms of AI called NLP, so natural language processing. And what that does is effectively turns human language into some form of insight or decision. So really a good use case is a chat bot. You speak to a chat bot, it understands what you want and it directs your query accordingly. A lot in the legal industry e-discovery, so the ability to basically search, locate and extract insights from large troves of data has been used quite a lot. So Gilbert and Cobin, where I was working previously and KPMG have quite a large capability in this area because there's, there's a lot of demand for it in the industry. And another use case more broadly is around prediction. So AI's is very good at analyzing large troves of data and finding patterns. And as a result, it can be used for things like predictive litigation. So predicting outcomes of litigation. Although there are biases, you can predictably triage matters. So a lot of hospitals, for example, use AI to triage requests based on prioritization rules and also any predictive analytics. So being able to analyze large troves of data and predict what kind of workloads will come in the volume of workloads, the nature of workloads. But those are kind of broader use cases that I've seen across the industry.
Speaker 1 [00:11:41] Great. Thank you, Terri. Do you want to add any?
Speaker 3 [00:11:45] Yeah, just just a couple and. Hi, everyone. Thanks for having me. Yeah, I think it's some taking some of those point source solutions, kind of single purpose solutions in a way that Alex was referred, has referred to and to me how they have then become connected together. So whether they've become connected together as part of a contract lifecycle management system or whether they have become connected together in such a way or allowed or supported the ability to kind of create self-service kiosks, I guess. And legal research is obviously another one there that it gets used for, but kind of flipping out of the practice of law stuff and flipping into the business of law stuff. You know, obviously we're using this to kind of undertake a whole bunch of different analyzes around things like billing and pricing and performance reviews and marketing for client preferences. So lots of different applications across the board. I think in kind of the legal world, whether it's, you know, whether it's a practice of law or the business of law. And I know Lyria is going to tell us some really cool stuff about the courts.
Speaker 4 [00:12:59] Okay. On that note, I thank you for having me as well. So some of the stuff that that happens in courts is also happening in practice. Right. So we talk about, you know, the use of AI in legal research. Well, you know, judges sometimes do that, too. So, you know, leaving aside that kind of thing, perhaps some of the you know, it goes sort of from low stakes to sort of higher stakes, sort of low stakes end you've kind of got things like automated filing systems, right, where this is beyond digitization. So this is beyond the ability to sort of do basic e-filing where it's done not with paper, but with digital files, but to the point that those files can kind of be pre scanned and tested against criteria, for example, so that say if it's not the right in the right format or something like that, that will be detected and the and the filing will be refused. So there's sort of automation in that kind of context. At the high stakes in you've got things like the use, particularly in the United States, although it is also used elsewhere of sort of risk assessment tools in the context of things like sentencing. So this is the sort of very controversial end where essentially and a lot of people have heard of systems like Compass and it's become, you know, sort of broader controversy around the use of these things. But essentially, the idea is that you have a risk assessment tool that takes, you know, properties of humans and works out, you know, what is their propensity to re-offend based on historic data of people like them and people not like them? And whether or not those people ended up re-offending. It then assumes you're going to do the same thing, more or less probabilistically, as people like you gives you a score, and then that gets factored into a sentencing decision. It's not automated end to end, so it's not I don't think anyone's doing it that, you know, the computer says seven years in jail or anything like that. But the idea is that these kinds of scores in the United States in particular get factored into sentencing decisions. There's all sorts of other uses, you know, one can keep going. And again, a lot of them parallel. So, you know, using things like natural language processing in the context of transcripts and so forth. But perhaps we'll go from examples into a more interesting conversation.
Speaker 1 [00:15:26] Yeah. We have AI courts or AI judges, right? In Estonia, for instance. Last night I was talking to someone about Estonian and their digital governments and it was just amazing. But I was very surprised that they call some of the courts, some of the judges in their system that these are AI judges. But as you said, there are not many of them are not that are matters that are very sensitive or rigid. Yeah.
Speaker 4 [00:15:56] So there's two ways in which that can work. And it mirrors your sort of expert system machine learning distinction from earlier. So you can absolutely take the kind of, you know, relatively simple areas of law often dealt with in local courts, found without proper color or whatever, you know, those kinds of things and turn them into if-then-rules. right. So it is then that, it is then that resulting in, you know, therefore your fine is $250 and in particular in the sort of low stakes decisions, and particularly where there is the ability to appeal, where you do feel that that is the right answer for your case. You know, that's relatively, you know, of often quite low stakes. And then you've got this sort of potential idea at least, and I'm not sure if anyone's going this full scale yet of using machine learning to determine things and often discussed in the context of higher stakes matters. So you could, for example, think about something like family law, property settlements and put that through a sort of machine learning thing and sort of the judge going through and, you know, working it out and forming views on particular things. You can have some sort of like, you know, the split is going to be this and this is how much money this person gets and and so forth, again, based on a sort of machine learning analysis of earlier outcomes. Now you can do that at the law firm end as just a prediction, like when you tell someone if you fight is in court, you're probably going to get X. And again, that that's kind of okay. I think when when you start talking about doing that kind of thing in court, it's really quite deeply problematic. And you have to ask a lot more questions about what it really means to exercise judgment versus to predict an outcome.
Speaker 1 [00:17:44] Yeah, so we have this bail and system program being developed in Australia by Judicial Commission of New South Wales that it's going to use machine learning system to help predict the bail decision and bail decision makers. What do you think about that? Do you think that's a high risk matter and it shouldn't exist because we are still developing it?
Speaker 4 [00:18:05] I can keep going, but if anyone else wants to come in, let me know. So I think that comes up with very similar problems to the systems being used in the US in the context of bail and sentencing that I spoke about earlier. So first of all, the first question is what variables get used? So if you look at the US system, the COMPASS system, that, as I said, often gets spoken about in this context, there's all sorts of variables in there that I think people would feel really uncomfortable using in a bail decision. So one example of a variable is whether your parents are divorced or still together and if they split up, how old were you when that happened? Now, that might indeed correlate with things we might know from psychological research or sociological research that that might have an impact on criminality and so forth. Probabilistically, again, not not destiny, but even if that's true. Right. And you know, I'm not going to be the statistician here. It's a real question of whether we should be making decisions, whether that's sentencing, bail or anything else around variables that are beyond the person's control. You know, it's one thing to say, here's a decision because you've committed 20 offenses and they're really high scale and people have died, versus saying something that your parents might have done, which is really relevant to you because of the statistical correlation. And I think those two things have to be kept very far apart. So partly I want to know about the tool and what it does and what the variables are. The second problem is that leads to all sorts of errors in these kinds of systems and there's all sorts of feedback loops. So as an example, if you have, you know, you sort of you're learning off the data, you're giving people bail and then you're seeing what they do, do they turn up to court? Do they commit crimes and so forth. But the only people you're measuring after you implement the system is the people to whom you've granted bail. So you end up with a sort of natural statistical bias in the collection of data that skews ongoing results. What that means more or less is that an error that you originally have doesn't get fixed, despite the fact that the system continues to learn. I can keep going, but I think broadly the answer is A it depends on the system and what gets used and how it's assessed and what, you know, what its performance criteria are, including things like differential impact on different populations, and so forth. But second, I suppose it's a little bit of a be careful because sometimes things sound better than they actually are and there's a lot of marketing spin in these systems.
Speaker 1 [00:20:36] Great. Thank you so much for that, Lyria. So next question for you, Alex. These systems that we discuss, some of them are not necessarily about their accuracy, that AI increase the accuracy. It's about how much time and cost we save. Right. So considering that how helpful these systems could be, how is the business in your organization? Because that's what you do, right? Departments come to you and say, how fast do you find what is what type of AI or legal technology, legal tech is useful for us? So what I want to know what is the trend, how things are happening in the changing in the last couple of years? Do you see more people, you know, more departments and organizations approaching you? Or things hasn't changed?
Speaker 2 [00:21:24] Yes. So we've certainly seen both from my experience, our collective experience with talking to our global teams, as well as obviously keeping finger on the pulse through industry surveys and things like that. We see a bigger interest in AI tools and it does fluctuate. So we see some years where when legal departments are asked, you know, what have you adopted? AI becomes high or what are you planning to adopt? AI Is top three in the list, for example. And then we have other years where it dips because their focus has shifted towards contract lifecycle management or matter management, for example. So I think overall there is an interest there but until the tools, until there are clear use cases, until there's clear needs, and until this clear trust, I think that will really drive the adoption of a lot of these tools. In law firms the use case is quite a bit different. So if we break down, what are the actual jobs that are trying to be done or what do they want to achieve from the adoption of AI. Legal departments it's typically around. Currently, most of the demand is around document reviews. So it's around being able to automatically extract information from documents, do comparison between documents because that actually assists them in their day to day job, which is reviewing negotiating documents. And it gets rid of a lot of that crappy manual work and human error that that really is the value proposition for these kinds of things. On the flip side, we have law firms who are still using it in the same way, but they're using it either internally to become more efficient. So using it for due diligence, for example. So instead of having an army of juniors working till three in the morning doing document review and sipping, you know, coffee endlessly, you can use these tools to maybe not do the entire job, but at least you can cluster, you know, the 36 out of 1000 documents that look like employment contracts. So lets cool lets send them to the employment lawyers or it can at least extract some data with varying levels of confidence so that you don't have to. But I think right now the best we're going to get is a hybrid approach. And again, the adoption of eDiscovery is much larger in law firms because they actually offer it as a client service because they actually have the the scalability and they have enough demand coming in for them to justify an e-discovery team and e-discovery tool. Whereas if you go to a legal function with, let's say, 30 lawyers across the Asia-Pacific, they're not going to invest in buying, procuring, assessing, training on these tools, using the tools, maintaining the tools, teaching the tools, because it's just not worth it for them. So, so I think in terms of buying AI specific tools, most of where I'm seeing it now for legal functions is, like Terri said, where the AI module or feature is part of a bigger solution. So contract lifecycle management is a really good use case. So these systems effectively help with the end to end process of managing contracts from drafting to negotiation to execution to post execution management. So where does it fit into that? Well, if you pull in a contract or a contract being negotiated, the AI can check and pull out any information from the contract, keep it in a table so you can do reporting. You can set up automated notifications when something is about to expire, things like that. But I haven't seen too much adoption of tools that are just AI, like a chiaro or a luminance or anything like that.
Speaker 1 [00:25:22] So considering that, again, it's going to save us, save the partners a lot of money and some of them are considering it. And it seems the movement is being very slow comparing to some other industries. Would you tell me or agree that for inctance in medicine they are much ahead of law? And what is the reason why? What is holding us back?
Speaker 3 [00:25:46] Well, you know, I could shorten it for you Armin by saying so much tech, so little time. But I guess I really do think in part that's true. It's it can be kind of quite overwhelming if you're trying to match, and I think it's always important to match a client needs to what tech you you need to buy if you need to buy any tech at all but to make sure that you know what needs your kind of trying to service before you start. But I think once you start along that then it can be kind of quite overwhelming. I think the situation on choosing tech is improving for a bunch of different reasons. One of them is that there are more sophisticated consultancies like the one that Alex works in and the other big fours. And of course some law firms and Alex has mentioned some of those as well that now have actually been through the process themselves. So effectively, they're advising on something that's a lived experience versus just looking at a bunch of demos, so they've really got that. But I think the other thing that's really helping in that respect is the rise of platforms, and they come in kind of with different hats on. But there are other sort of platforms where you can jump in like reynen court, you can jump in, there's a whole bunch of pre-selected technologies. You can try them out, you can demo them, you can choose which ones you want and then deploy them. So you've got kind of a built in level of being able to both trust the folks that have choose those and verified them, but also being able to try them out. But I think we're also seeing something I was going to say is basic, but it's not basic because it's becoming increasingly sophisticated. But something like the Office 365 suite where we're seeing, you know, pretty much everybody's got that right. And so we're just seeing that functionality increase all the time where there's just more and more available, where people are already familiar with a certain part of that platform. So it's not a huge leap for them to start becoming familiar now. But another part of that platform, and I think we're going to see more and more of that. So I think we are going to see, for example, the platforms that are dedicated just for litigators or just for kind of deal makers. We're going to kind of see that collection, that verification, that thinning out process, as well as folks that are already in the market, just expanding their products as well. So I think that's going to help a lot. But going back to what Alex is saying as well, I think I think it is an issue with trust. I think it's a lack of familiarity. I think that time really is a big issue for a lot of people that are trying to make these choices. So it's not any one thing. It's a combination of things. But but I also want to say that it's inevitable, if you look at every other industry as you referenced Armin at the beginning of this, we know that we're going to have to get on board and now we've got catch up to do, which fortunately we can because of the nature of technology. But it's it's just kind of like it's it's not negotiable. You know, we've got to jump on board. So things are improving, I think, to make the decisions easier. But I do still think we are at the point that for many it's quite overwhelming.
Speaker 2 [00:29:08] Hmm. If I can probably add to that as well. Yeah, absolutely. I think we're kind of shifting towards the topic of what's actually driving that demand and what are the enablers. And I think from my point of view, the first one is trust. So, you know, lawyers are trained to be risk averse. Their job is to be risk averse. And they you know, they have a natural tendency towards, you know, skepticism towards certain things. So that trust threshold is usually a lot higher for that kind of industry just because of the nature of the work and the riskiness of the work. So how is that trust enabled? I mean, a couple of the ways that we've seen it overcome is an understanding of how the system works. So from their point of view, they put a document in or they ask a question. Something happens in the background and then they get an answer. You know, you put an image of you putting some kind of image of an animal and it comes out, you know, it's a cat. 93% accuracy. Well, how like, how did you make that decision? So understanding, even at a high level how these things work and make decisions enables trust for that transparency piece, also repeatable and kind of demonstrated accuracy. Because at the end of the day, they're trying to get a job done and that job done is get a contract out, you know, do a review. They don't care how it's done. But ultimately, if they can prove that, look, the accuracy is 100% or it is acceptable, and I think that will that will really build trust as well as genuine use cases because if they don't have a genuine use case. If there's no demand for it, no one's going to buy it, you know, until they until there's genuine demand and people see the value in these things maybe through social proof or as the industry matures, that's really going to drive it as well. So it almost kind of comes to the service designer in me speaking of those four lenses of like a perfect product, right? Is it desirable. So the other use cases for it. Do people want it? Is it a priority for them at this time? Is it feasible? So does it work? Is it accurate? How does it work? Does it fit within our systems? Is it viable? Is the cost worth it? Is the investment in time and effort, training the models worth it? You know, does it work out of the box or do I need to do all this additional work. Does it I add to my workload because people are quite resistant to changing the way they do things. And the last one is usability. We all know that you could have a product - you know name your favorite streaming service, your favorite mobile phone, my water bottle, you know, my mouse. It could have all the features in the world and promise everything. But if it's not, if it's not usable and user friendly and people enjoy using it, then it will fail. So I think trust and those four components feel like a very good product and a very good user experience are what's going to really help it, help it succeed.
Speaker 1 [00:32:08] Great. So Terri said it's inevitable that some organization is going to start using this kind of AI power tools. And if it's going to save them a lot of time and cost that would mean it's going to be, their services would be much cheaper for a client so that we could see some kind of competition there. And that can be a starting point for many businesses to adopt, you know AI power tools. Right. And with that, can we say there might be, you know, more access to justice? Lyria, what do you think about that?
Speaker 4 [00:32:48] So I think I mean, there's certainly it is the case that there are some tools that can be built to enhance access to justice. I think that's that's undeniable. So, you know, what is access to justice for a lot of people, they just want to know something relatively simple. Right. They have a legal question. They want to get an answer that applies to them. And we can build those pieces again, that expert system point, like we can build those systems now. Similarly, people might want to know, you know, is it worth bringing litigation? How much money am I likely to to get in damages or whatever? And then again, you can have systems that can at least give people a clue to what that answer might be. And that answer might be more of a machine learning system. The question is not whether there are systems we can come up with that could potentially increase access to justice. I think it's a question of, you know, starting from, you know, the other way around, what are the access to justice problems and how many of them can be solved by these kinds of systems? And the truth is, if you ask the question that way around, I don't think AI is sort of an easy answer to what is a very complex set of access to justice problems. You know, I think there has to be a whole range of different solutions and there might be some computer system parts of that puzzle, but it will not be by any stretch of the imagination, the whole picture.
Speaker 3 [00:34:09] I just want to, if I may, just jump in and underscore something there that Lyria has said. We tend to sometimes jump into and assume that technology equals increased access to justice. But, of course, if you don't have access to technology, then you don't even you don't even get to the first steps. So, and I know you mentioned that, Lyria. I know that's something close to your heart as well. But, you know, I just want to underscore that because it's not the same. Tech does not equal access to justice for those reasons.
Speaker 2 [00:34:41] And I think it can help facilitate. So the things that Lyria's saying, and Terri are saying involve kind of automating what, it's effectively automating or increasing access to certain bits information. So having that kind of expert system where it can at least say, okay, is your matter and doesn't need to be complicated, it can say iss your matter relating to family law. This, three, four, great of that is it related to this this. And at least it can help triage a material percentage of those queries that would otherwise have had to go to a lawyer. So they'll have to wait for it. They may not have the resources to reach that person. They may have language barriers, for example, or knowledge barriers. So I think a lot of that automation, if it's done well, can reduce costs, which is another one of the kind of hindrances. Lyria.
Speaker 4 [00:35:39] Yeah, I just. I just kind of wanted to jump in and say that, you know what I was, I suppose, trying to get at in terms of the broad access to justice problem. I mean, the first part of the access to justice problem is do people think of their problem as a justice problem? Like, do they actually whenever they have a problem, do they go, oh, this is a legal problem. Ok, you know, let alone it's a you know a family law might be relatively easy, but people often don't categorize their problems into those kinds of categories. And, you know, yes, you can have research tools that then can.... but I think the more you sort of really get a grasp on it. Maybe this is also going back to Armin your earlier question about, you know, why did they use it more in medicine than law. You know, it's very different kinds of problems being solved in each of those domains. And, you know, it's not necessarily helpful to sort of say more is better in something like access to justice. I think it's really a question of, you know, understanding the big nature of the access to justice problem, looking at where tech can help either in reducing legal costs by making legal service delivery more efficient or by providing people with certain kinds of answers that are really helpful to a bulk of people and then making sure they can find the tools that will give them those answers, which of course, is a big part of the problem. Because when you Google, if you're not careful, you'll get the answer to the law in California. So, you know, there's there's a whole sort of stack that is a little bit more complicated than, you know, it's just the aI bit of the problem.
Speaker 2 [00:37:14] Mm. Yeah. In my experience working clients as well, a lot of the time people are so quick to jump to these super complex tools when really things like an FAQ list or a template email will move the needle faster and further than taking nine months and spending X amount of dollars and effort in adopting some insanely complex system. Like I think people, and this is kind of where just starting small and just really knowing what the underlying problem is that you want to solve, like we advocate, but you don't need to. These tools are fantastic and the use cases are so broad and the user experience is getting better and better. But sometimes it's just a matter of like, let's understand the process and let's fix the process and do what we can. And then we can consider taking the high fidelity approach.
Speaker 1 [00:38:08] Great. So I'm just. I just want to be very conscious about the time. Can you? I know it's difficult. What can you quickly tell me? How do you imagine the future of the legal profession? What's going to be the nature of legal work? Let's say in the next ten years, if the legal departments and organizations and the law court process, if we start adopting these kind of tools. How would you see it? What would be the title of the job? What would be the nature of workplace? Terri?
Speaker 3 [00:38:42] I think that it's almost, I think that it's moving at a pace where whatever we imagine now is going to be wrong very soon. And so that's that's why I always hesitate to predict too much, because the reality is and to go back to your point Armin, you know, just look at medicine, just look at what they are doing with artificial intelligence application in medicine and how it's actually changed the entire mindset about how one approaches medicine, which is all about preventing something before it happens versus reacting to it and trying to cure it. So I think that I think we are we are going to see a digitization increase of the work that we do. Which is going to lead us down a whole bunch of different ways in terms of how we work quite differently, but also where we do it and how we do it. And we're starting to see some of that come through really I think as a result of COVID increasing even a little bit, we've got to get a silver lining out of it somewhere, right. Increasing a little bit in terms of how differently people want to work and where they want to work. But I would say as we look ahead, that the greatest part of being a lawyer is going to continue to be our humanity. And so I think that we are going to sit side by side with technology, stripping out all of those things that can be stripped out. All of the commoditized, routinized stuff will get stripped out one way or the other. We will sit actually at those points, and I think Lyria kind of alluded to it earlier of where we are exercising judgment, primarily where we're exercising judgment. So creativity, empathy, experience, where that is being applied, which will be the more complex parts of trying to determine which way forward. And that will sit in parallel. So I don't think it's going to be either, or. There will be some sure that that we won't continue to do. But I think we're going to sit in that bed. And so to me, that really changes not just the nature of the practice, but the nature of the people in the practice, how we concieve work, but also the people that you'll need and the sort of skills and capabilities that you'll need. And it's way beyond the tech bit because that will become a given like a law degree has become a given to practice as a lawyer. The bit around the humanity bit, that's going to be something that will be a differentiator.
Speaker 1 [00:41:28] That's great. Lyria, you want to add something?
Speaker 4 [00:41:31] Yeah, only one little thing. And I love what you said at the end their Terri about. you know, humanity and that being really important. I think what will make people successful in the future is the ability to work alongside systems. So I don't think we need a world where, you know, every lawyer knows how to code. Some will. That's lovely. And they'll have specialist jobs at the intersection of the two. But what I think will be the sort of recipe for success in using these kinds of systems as well, is understanding them. I think a lot of the time at the moment, systems have actually been used very poorly. I mean, I gave the Compass example, I mean, just saying, oh, we've got a machine learning risk assessment, data driven, let's throw that into parole and bail decisions shows that they don't understand what these tools do. So the people who can understand that and get enough about expert assistance, machine learning, okay, this is what the kind of system can do. Here's its weaknesses before I use it. These are the things I want to test and evaluate, and now I'm using it. Here's how I know I can work effectively alongside it to actually form those judgments. So I understand the outputs and understand the limitations of those outputs. People who couldn't do that, I think that will be that will be the recipe for success.
Speaker 1 [00:42:44] Right. Yeah.
Speaker 2 [00:42:45] Yeah, I think I would tend to agree. So I think the question was around redefining legal education. What is the future of the profession look like? And I, I think I look at that. I use some predictive algorithms. Yeah. All right, cool. That one worked. Okay - ill keep training that one. It was, I think to me its the whole concept of T-shaped lawyers really comes to play as well. So, you know, the traditional view of lawyers being, you know, just very, very good at their specific fields. I think as the world increases, as the world changes and as the use cases require broader knowledge, so understanding of systems, I think is absolutely critical one. The understanding that IT is converging on everything we do. So almost everything will have some kind of digital lens or some kind of technological edge that needs to be understood. But then also those those skills for lawyers to improve user experience. So things like, you know, service design is encroaching on law. It's now called legal service design because it helps improve a user experience. Things like project management, which from other disciplines are now encroaching on law because they're called legal project management, because they've realized, hey, we can look to this other industry and see how they're doing things and apply the same learnings or processes to what we do. Shocker. Incredible, you know, groundbreaking concept.
Speaker 4 [00:44:19] I'm sorry.
Speaker 2 [00:44:21] No. Yeah. And that's kind of that was where I was going with that. But I mean, to Terri's point as well, it's really around the low hanging fruit. Are those low complexity, repeatable kinds of work. That can be automated. And I mean, if that if you're if you plan on going into the legal industry to do low complexity, repeatable work, then yes, maybe you should be worried your role may change from what you envision. But what we're seeing a lot of clients, the key thing that they want in their legal function through legal technology or transformation is the lawyers just want to do more meaningful work. They want to do work that's more strategic, that really drives the needle forward and play that role as a trusted advisor, not just some widget factory that pumps out contracts, you know, simple things. So I think that's really, you know, at the heart of what legal tech and legal ops is there for and what will actually, you know, that compelling vision that will draw people towards it.
Speaker 3 [00:45:26] Terri. Yeah, I was just going to add, I think it's beyond the T shape, actually. And I know and I know we've had the D shape and the O shapes lawyers, you know, since then as well as so many shapes, so little time. But I think that's the reason that I say that, is because I think just to kind of maybe add on to what you were saying there, Alex, I think the practice of law is a multi-disciplinary endeavor, shall I say now a multi-disciplinary business. And I think the folks that work in legal departments have always known that because they're part of obviously a much bigger whole with a lot of other specialists around them. But I think increasingly we're seeing a whole bunch of and this is getting probably a little bit into career options now, a whole bunch of other specialisms that have arisen and are now increasingly prevalent in law firms. I think there has to be if the growth of what's expected of you in terms of not just the content of legal services and advice that you give, but the way that you deliver it, you're starting to get into a whole bunch of specialisms around that. And it's too much to expect lawyers to keep expanding the top of the T to take all of those things in. Certainly they have to understand the context and be all over that. But there are other specialists that can genuinely jump in and do those roles more effectively. They may have started as lawyers, they may not, but I think it is that combined effort of specialism that we're increasingly seeing for good reason in the practice of law now.
Speaker 1 [00:47:02] Yes. So on that note it feels like we are putting too much weight on the individuals to, you know, kind of catch up. How should we redefine the legal education to prepare people you know, future graduates for that kind of legal environment in let's say the next 5 to 10 years. And like personally to me teaching them one a specific skill wouldn't do it because of these exponential you know technology things changing very fast and something new happens everything and it goes in a different way to me. It's like we should teach them how to be adaptable. And as Terri said, learning how to work with people in different fields like multidisciplinary teamwork or what they call flash things, those kind of skills that help them, you know, to adapt themselves and be confident enough to learn anything from, you know, any area of knowledge. I think that's the kind of thing they are probably going to need. Lyria, you disagree I guess?
Speaker 4 [00:48:08] You know, no. I think that, look, I divide these up into several boxes, right. And I was actually just typing an answer to Marcus's great question as well, because it comes to the same point. Some students will do multi-disciplines, you know, they will be data scientists and lawyers or they will be computer scientists and lawyers. And those students will have awesome roles, right, doing really, really cool things. And we can run elective courses to really help students who really want to go a lot deeper into those things beyond the dual degree, obvious example of doing both disciplines fully. What I think everyone needs, though, is a different thing. It's a basic familiarity. So I think everyone needs to have a basic sense of what machine learning is, what its limitations is, how it works, what kind of logic it involves, what data driven inferencing is, all of that kind of stuff. And plus also an ability then to work with people in those other disciplines. So I'll give you an example of a course I'm running at the moment, which is law students and engineering students actually in the same classroom, learning from each other in common problem solving. And it's around a particular area, it's around cybersecurity. So the engineering students are doing security engineering, the law students are doing the regulation around cybersecurity. And they have to work together to answer questions like, oh, you know, you work for a company that is looking to build a fleet of automated vehicles. You know, what are the risks the board should be aware of and do you recommend they go ahead? Obviously, more detail in the tutorial problem than that, but you can only answer that question by getting everyone in a room and working on it together. And it's the same kind of thing about, you know, these kinds of machine learning systems and what gets used and what doesn't get used and how it gets used. You want students who can ask the right questions of people with the right technical knowledge, and that's a skill that we aren't necessarily doing well across the board in universities because we put students in separate classrooms so much, and you know we don't have them talking to each other, but there's lots of opportunities that, you know, universities are doing, whether it's getting them together around particular projects, getting them together for particular subjects. And the more we can do that and expose students to the idea that they will be the expert in the room, but only on one thing. I think the more we avoid the kind of bad applications that we've been talking about.
Speaker 1 [00:50:34] Great. That's. That's amazing. Yeah, I know some faculties are developing such courses that allows students for the first time to to work with the students from other disciplines on one project, like list things together and learn how to communicate. And that's communication part, I think is very important. Again, from a personal perspective, I've worked with people from different disciplines and I found it very difficult to communicate with them because the way they think about the legal issue is very different, the way we think about legal issues and the other way around, of course. Alex, did you want to add something?
Speaker 2 [00:51:09] No, I think I think Terri and Lyria covered it quite well. I think for me in terms of the, you know, equipping future generations of lawyers with the right skills, like Lyria mention I think it's just understanding the how, so how do these systems work? Just at a very basic level. So you have an understanding of, okay, this was the input, this was the output and understanding what goes on in between. And that also helps you navigate these tools and regulate for these tools. The other thing is probably like the what? So what are the actual use cases? Because in reality the actual practice of law will vary year on year. So having a good understanding of what does the modern lawyer do, what tools do they use? Like how are they using technology to deliver legal services and improve the delivery of legal services? And the last one is the why. So understanding why it's there, like why is it being adopted? Why is AI supplementing what we're doing and kind of why do people like it. You know it's actually building that that desirability and that that interest in something which will lead them to pretty much the other things as well. But that's probably my summary. Yeah.
Speaker 3 [00:52:27] I mean can I just add, I would add one thing to that and I think it still is fundamentally important to temporize the curriculum. So I look at something like and contextualize it, I guess. I look at something like technology and it's pervasive. It doesn't matter what subject you want to teach, it has some relevance. And and I think it doesn't matter that the technology that you're learning on, of course you have to update the curriculum but is going to change because the law that you learn at law school doesn't stay the same for, you know, 10 or 20 or 30 years. So you're constantly updating yourself with that. So, you know, if we've got a subject in banking and finance, why are we not teaching cryptocurrencies? If we're teaching a subject in contract, why are we not talking about blockchain and smart contracts? I mean, all of those elements to me are just part of what folks are going to encounter in that subject area. And it doesn't take a lot to contemporaries it. It doesn't take a lot to include it. You know, if we're doing a subject on dispute resolution, why aren't we looking at online dispute resolution? You know, so it's I just think there's a simple tweaks that are also important to put into the curriculum as well as the ones that ought to be mentioned here.
Speaker 1 [00:53:50] One serious problem I see here is that we don't have any kind of map like how the industry is going and what are the needs to kind of inform the universities or the faculties that, okay, these are the themes, this is the direction, guys. This this is what what we need, you know, you need the instance electives in these areas. And that's very difficult to create.What I'm saying is that I know it's a difficult task, but I think that should be a priority if we want to connect the generation that we are educating, what they learn would be relevant in the future to what they're going to do and what the market needs, and to improve their employability. So we are almost out of time and I think we have enough time probably for one question. Just quickly, is there any support available for firms, etc. to individual startups seeking to innovate using air in illegal the space?
Speaker 3 [00:54:47] Yes.
Speaker 4 [00:54:52] Do you what more than that?
Speaker 3 [00:54:53] Yeah, look, I think you could he's a couple of really, really, really fast suggestions. And I'm very happy if you want to grab me on LinkedIn and chat further about it. But there's the Australian Legal Technology Association. Join it. Sorry. And I apologize for the shameless plug. There's a center for legal innovation where we have a bunch of free stuff available. That's why I feel comfortable emphasizing it for you to jump in and kind of have a look there. There are hackers, legal hackers meetings depending on where you are in a lot of different cities where you can jump in and start learning about it. And there are technology incubators and accelerators. There's not a lot of them, but there are some you can apply to them. They are run by law firms, by and large. But there's also some outstanding clinics that are being run now at universities where you really do get a very close connection. And Lyria will know more about those, I'm sure, than than me, and she's involved with at least one of them, I believe, or at least a center that knows lots about them. You should be jumping all over those opportunities as well.
Speaker 4 [00:56:02] The stuff I know is a lot of university stuff and that'll depend on your university and I don't know, University of Wollongong. But what I'd also say as well is that people who've done start ups tend to actually be quite generous to people who are interested in doing start ups. Very! And you can often just reach out on LinkedIn and say, you know, you're looking at getting into that space with other people who've tried it, or succeeded in it. And I think, you know, generally speaking, you find quite a generous response and people will help.
Speaker 3 [00:56:33] I just want to underscore that hugely generous community. Yeah.
Speaker 1 [00:56:38] Yeah. I'm not sure who asked the question, but at the University of Wollongong I'm not sure if we have start up courses looking for partnership, but next year probably we're going to have one, which is developed by me. That part of it would be yeah, a lot of internship and developing legal tech apps.Anyway, so we are almost it's almost time. I'm sorry, we don't have any more time to read the questions and answer. I just want to thank the panel for their time and this amazing discussion. I wish we had more time. One hour is not definitely enough for these kinds of things and I had to skip lots of cooler stuff. And I just want to also thank Trish Mundy, the head of the law school at UOW and UOW Law Alumni Organisers Meg Gibson, Kelly Salmon, Marion Finlay, who who'd been helping organising this session and behind the scenes have been doing things and doing all the communications. Thank you, everyone, and have a great evening.
Speaker 3 [00:57:42] Thank you.
Speaker 4 [00:57:43] Bye bye.
Be Brave. Make Change. Exploring the UOW Reconciliation Action Plan
March 2022 saw the official launch of the University of Wollongong’s new Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP), a plan that sees the University’s reconciliation journey moving from “safe to courageous.” The Reconciliation Action Plan is explored through this panel discussion featuring Tammy Small (host), Professor Bronwyn Carlson, Professor David Currow, Layne Brown and Ash Johnstone. The discussion concludes with a musical performance from UOW students, Jiah King and Keina Brewer.
Speaker 1 [00:00:04] We know that country for Aboriginal peoples is an interconnected set of ancient and sophisticated relationships. The University of Wollongong spreads across many interrelated Aboriginal Countries that are bound by this sacred landscape, and intimate relationship with that landscape since creation. From Sydney to the Southern Highlands to the south coast. Freshwater to bitter water to salt. From City to urban to rural.
Speaker 2 [00:01:12] The University of Wollongong acknowledges the custodianship of the Aboriginal peoples of this place and space that has kept alive the relationships between all living things.
Speaker 1 [00:01:24] The university
Speaker 3 [00:01:25] Aacknowledges the devastating impact of colonisation.
Speaker 1 [00:01:28] on our campus footprint and commit ourselves to truth-telling,
Speaker 1 [00:01:34] healing and education.
Speaker 3 [00:01:53] Welcome to you all. I would like to welcome UOW alumni, staff, students, community. And we've got people zooming in here from all around New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland. So thank you, firstly, thank you for making time to come to our Zoom session today and listen to our journey thus far at UOW. I'd like to start by acknowledging country, following that beautiful video that we've just released here at UOW. So I am on Yuin and Dharawal Country. And I'd like to acknowledge that I am a woman of country first and foremost. And I feel honoured and blessed to be living on this country. And never have I ever lived anywhere where I'm guided by country every day in my everyday life. So I feel really lucky and blessed to be living here in the Wollongong area. I'd like to acknowledge our elders of the past, present and emerging. I'm sure we have people in our audience today who are on the rise up and leading in their places and spaces. So I'd like to acknowledge that contribution as well. I'd also like to acknowledge that we are the most written about people in this world and not by ourselves, but by the voices of others. So I'm very excited to be surrounded by other Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people here today that we're going to be talking about and sharing our experiences of reconciliation with you. I'd also like you to copy in the chat, if you want to shout out on whichever country you're zooming in from, which country or nation you're zooming in from. And I'd also like to just throw this out to Layne, one of our panel members, to see if you might want to add anything to an acknowledgement. We want to discuss the importance of personalising your acknowledgement and making it feel like your own.
Speaker 4 [00:03:49] Thanks, Tammy. Yeah. Evening, everyone. I just began dinner at my house so you could possibly hear, you might hear a 12 year old kid. But who will say what we can do? So, yeah, I'd also like to acknowledge country and thank you, Tammy, for giving me the opportunity to acknowledge your country as well. I'd like to acknowledge that we stand on land that has never been ceded, that has a deeper meaning and a deeper layer of knowledge that unfortunately for many, well, many people I know, don't get the privilege and access to any more. And I'm what I'm talking about is the privilege of knowing your culture and your language and the knowledge of the language of the land and particularly on the south east corner. I always say now that I speak from a south east New South Wales perspective. I'm very mindful that the country that I live and grow up on is very unique and very different to other people's countries. So, I'd like to acknowledge the elders past and the elders of the present and the struggles and that, you know, the overlay of what we're, what we're currently sitting on is, is always, always was and always has been Aboriginal land.
We need to acknowledge that these buildings and these beautiful phone and these cars is just an overlay. It sits on top of what's already here, it's already sits on top of what's already been here and has always been. As part of this acknowledgement, I'd like to encourage you to learn more about the language and the people and the mob and build relationships to where you are so you can have your own personal acknowledgement to the country every day. And some people already have that. They watch the sunrise every day, that's connecting the country on your beautiful, beautiful area in which you live, because we're all part of this land now together. That needs to be a big part that we're going to talk about reconciliation tonight. And these white fellas aren't going anywhere, and neither are these black fellas. So, I acknowledge you all, as well and it's nice to see some familiar faces here.
Speaker 3 [00:06:01] Thank you so much. That was just beautiful. And I think I just imagine what our ancestors would have thought 235 years ago. Would they think that we would be sitting here, leading a platform and having as many participants as we do now? And I just to imagine how proud they would be of us having voices and, you know, being one of the oldest living cultures in the world and still living, living that culture every day. So thank you for that, Layne. I'd just like to introduce our panel members for you today as well this evening. So I've got Professor Bronwyn Carlson. Professor Bronwyn Carson is an Aboriginal woman who was born on and lives on Dharawal country in New South Wales. She's the head of the Department of Indigenous Studies at Macquarie University. An Alumna of UOW, Professor Carlson also taught at UOW for five, five and a half years. Her research interests include Indigenous engagement on digital platforms, Indigenous Identities and Indigenous Futurisms. Welcome. Thank you so much for being here, Professor Carlson.
Speaker 2 [00:07:04] Thanks, Tammy. It's lovely to be here this evening.
Speaker 3 [00:07:06] Thank you. We also have Ash Johnstone. Ash Johnstone is a First Nations Dunghutti woman currently living on sovereign Dharawal country. She's an academic teaching and researching in the Indigenous space and an advocate for Indigenous survivors of domestic family and sexual violence. Ash has worked on diverse projects involving advocacy, environmental sustainability, education, media, racism, language performance, social media, domestic violence, and COVID-19. She's currently completing a PhD with the University of Wollongong. Welcome Ash.
We have the lovely last, Professor David Currow. Professor David Currow is the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Health and Sustainable Futures) here at UOW. He's a former Chief Cancer Officer New South Wales, and the Chief Executive Officer of the Cancer Institute, New South Wales, the State Cancer Control Agency. David is the co-chair of our Reconciliation Action Plan Steering Committee as well. And David, we cannot thank you enough as well for giving your time to us here this evening.
Speaker 5 [00:08:18] Great to be here. Thanks, Tammy.
Speaker 3 [00:08:20] We also have with us, you would have met briefly, is Layne Brown. So Layne Brown is a proud Yuin man currently working as Aboriginal Engagement Officer with Transport New South Wales. He is a UOW alumnus and Layne has previously worked at UOW as a researcher with the Australian Health Service Research Institute and as partner with UOW in his roles with AIME and the Illawarra Koori Mens Support Group. So thank you so much for being here with us, Layne.
And I'll tell you a bit about myself. My name is Tammy Small, a family name Gordon. I’m a Wiradjuri woman, as I mentioned. And I'm the Manager of Projects (Indigenous Advancement) here at UOW.
We've just launched our RAP. If you had the pleasure of being there with us, you would have seen that it was it was done our way and it was done very different. And we had the support of Layne and his dance group in order to make that happen for us. So thank you. Thank you, everyone.
And I just want to let you all the participants know and everyone who's Zooming in this evening, that we do have some interactive activities. You'll see some Slidos coming up and we will get you to interact with them as we move through. If you also if you have any questions, please feel free to put them in our Q&A. We will try and answer as many questions as we can, but we assure you that we will get to some of the questions at a later date if we are unable to answer them all today.
In the Slido, you'll be asked for a passcode as well and you'll see there's that information on the slide when we when we get to that point. So I think I think everyone's waiting, I think they're waiting for us to get started and ask these questions.
So, I'm going to ask my first question to all our panellists, and I'll say your name in accordance to who's on my screen. But this is for everyone, all panel members. And so my first question is what does reconciliation, what does reconciliation mean to you? And what are your hopes for this new Reconciliation Action Plan at UOW? So, I can see. Prof. Carlson If I can get you potentially,
Speaker 2 [00:10:33] Of course you can, Tammy.
Speaker 2 [00:10:35] I was Like, hmm, how do we answer this question? So, I feel like for a long time Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have been a bit disappointed with this concept of reconciliation. I feel it's something that even people who have come before us have strived for and we've seen little outcomes that benefit us, this generation and of course the younger panel members, members here today and this next generation. So, for me, reconciliation would actually mean something that is done and it's not done by us. And I think it's got to be a commitment from institutions to make institutional change and that we don't often see. So, there are beautiful documents. This is one of them as well. And I see the effort that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people make into these documents and into building reconciliation action plans. And they do that with hope for the future. They do that with a hope for something better for the next generation. And as somebody who started at Wollongong University back in oh goodness me, 1999, when it used to be the Aboriginal Education Centre there supporting Indigenous students. And I started with Aunty Rita. We were both kind of mature, well she really was a bit more mature than me, but we're both very mature age people. We went to university and it looked a lot different then to what it looks like now. But I can see that same struggle has just been generational. So for me, I'd like to see a lot of actions put beside, that there is somebody accountable to it, that it's measurable, and that community actually gets to hear how that that has been achieved. Because I'm yet to, in all my long years and feeling very old on this cold winter night here on beautiful Dharawal country, to see an institution make such a commitment and then respond to the community and how they've met it. So, for me, that's what reconciliation is. It's actions by institutions that are held accountable to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people whose country in which they are built on and who make real change for the future. So that's kind of like what I think reconciliation ought to be, should be. And that is my hope that some doing things come from this reconciliation action plan, and I'd like to be able to see that and know that's occurring.
Speaker 3 [00:13:09] Thank you so much for the perfect answer. Of course, it's everybody's business, and let's hope that we do see some, some great change with our new RAP. Professor Currow, can I get you to answer this question as well? So what does it mean to you and what are our hopes for our new RAP?
Speaker 5 [00:13:26] Well, that's, that's pretty tough Tammy, after Bronwyn has answered it perfectly. What can you say? I think there's you know, at a macro level, we want to see institutional change. And as we all realise, whether that's about reconciliation or any other number of things that institutions should be doing far better than they are. It takes real time and commitment from everyone within the institution. And so, at a micro level, this is about relationships and it's about building really genuine, trusting, respectful relationships between people. Because when we do that, then we can start to, to really go down a path of genuine reconciliation that will see change and will see that change sustained and gain momentum. But it, it is about relationships, not just between institutions, but between people. And you and I can, can build that bridge. I think one of the things that I took from the launch of the Reconciliation Action Plan, which is incredibly obvious, but, you know, to which we don't give voice often enough, is this is not the responsibility of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to do the heavy lifting. Everyone needs to, to take responsibility for that. And you know, we've got some great Aboriginal communities in the region around our campuses, not only in south east New South Wales, but that further afield. This is not their problem and we need to make sure that every person in this university and in the communities in which they live is committed to real change. And that's through developing relationships.
Speaker 3 [00:15:32] Thank you so much.
Speaker 1 [00:15:34] Ash.
Speaker 3 [00:15:35] What are your thoughts? I mean, what else is left to say after both of those answers? But I'll have to go. So first, just also acknowledging the sovereignty of the Dharawal people whose lands I'm on here in the beautiful Illawarra. I think, you know, exactly as has been said, reconciliation truly is just about non-Indigenous people and organisations listening to Indigenous people who are the experts on what we need and then following that up with authentic action. It's just about that genuine commitment to action to challenge those systems and frameworks because they do just continue to disproportionately affect Indigenous people in negative ways and just holding each other accountable as well to these promises. You know, it's really easy to say that you want to, to make things better. It's really easy to say that you, you know, you are a champion of equality or whatever it might be. But it's about actually that accountability to those actions. And, and as you know, Bronwyn was saying as well, like just looking back at those promises and goals and saying, you know, asking the community, have we actually achieved those things? So, I think my hope for the new RAP is that room is made and significant resources allocated to those actions that have been outlined. You know, I've read the RAP and there are some really important goals that have been set out in it. And I think, you know, if we can actually resource those and commit to doing them, we could actually see change happen in a really positive way. But it will take people across every level of the university to do so. You know, there's, there's just not enough Indigenous people to be able to make this happen. So, we need to see every single level, you know, entry level all the way up committed to these actions. I think that's probably my hope for it.
- And Layne, if you wanted to, to add anything. But I just think it's really important to reiterate what everyone's saying. It's about coming together for Country, for the importance of caring about Country.
- They’re still coming. We've got connection, joy, overdue, together. Nervous about getting it right. Look, there is a whole ‘when in doubt, leave it out’ situation. But I think sometimes that's why we might be in the positions that we are today. Especially in the in the classrooms. I think there's a lot of ‘when in doubt, leave it out’ and then we see the impact coming here when we have our students. Accountability. Action. Relief. Finally.
Speaker 4 [00:17:48] Yeah, there's a few questions there to unpack, but later on. I don't want to get into that because some of my feelings sit in there. But you know, Dave was at the Reconciliation Action Plan launch the other day and he would have been privy to my little talk. I spoke for about 10-15 minutes about what I, what I thought. And I'll summarise it here. I’m going to touch on what Bronwyn spoke about, is our people have been fighting for this for a long time now. I'm going to try not to get emotional here. You know, our Elders have passed away. Our young ones are fighting. And it feels, you know, they’re 20, 30 years old, it feels like they've been fighting for the rights of their grandparents and of their people. They carry the weight and the burden and we're all getting tired. And no offence to non-Indigenous people who are chipping in, that's great. You’re not the majority. At the moment, we go to these forums and it's led by Aboriginal people. It's run by Aboriginal people and it's really tiring. Everything that's got to do of Aboriginal people is led by Aboriginal people and we're really it was sick of the one-way dialogue and, and I say ‘we’ because there's a collective ‘we’, but this is my opinion. We need to work together. Otherwise what's the point? We can't even hunt traditionally or live traditionally. We have, we're forced to live in this other world, which in the Australian colony and government, and we have to play nice and we have to play by their rules. And it would be nice to get those worlds to meet a bit more so we can have true reconciliation. Yeah, or we get rid of the word altogether. Maybe, but Bronwyn can write a paper about it.
Speaker 3 [00:19:45] Well, thank you so much. What a great way to start off this panel discussion. So, next what we're going to do, is a Slido. We've got a one question for you on Slido.
And I just want to thank everybody who's sung out on which countries they are from.
So you'll see in the chat and we've got our screen shared at the moment. We have our Slido for you. And the question is, what words would you use to describe your feelings on reconciliation?
We just thought we'd gather some responses here today, and we understand the variances that we might receive as well. And I'd just like to thank the Alumni Team for all their help in putting this together with myself and the Indigenous Strategy Unit to make this possible for you tonight.
So just use a passcode and get in. And chuck in a word or a couple of words. For reconciliation, it could be ‘excited’. It could be.. anyone else from the panel, want to chuck out some words as well? It could be ‘contentious’. It could be ‘change’. Hope for what else? What else can we think of that people might, might think for the words they feel about reconciliation. What have we got? We've got excited, support, daunting. It is a daunting experience. So much work to be done. Much has been achieved since the birth of the formal process of reconciliation in 1991. But we still have such a long way to go. You know, there's so much work overdue. Optimistic, communication, transformative relationship, deep understanding, loving this! Overdue, unity, hard work, and exhausting for black people. Yes, definitely.
As Layne has mentioned before, we've been leading these conversations and our ancestors worked hard to their plight for social and political equality for us to even be in these spaces today.
Speaker 3 [00:22:20] Excellent. Knowledge seeking. Lovely. Well, thank you so much for contributing to that. And I will move into the next round of questions and Ash, I have a question for you.
The State of Reconciliation report in 2021 discusses the Uluru Statement from the Heart, and it discusses the institutions coming together and organisations and building businesses really using these within their areas. So, I have a question for you around, you know, a significant part of our reconciliation journey here at UOW, and for many, is truth telling. How does this relate to the Uluru Statement from the Heart and what could this mean for our university? It’s a hard one, Ash.
You know, I think this is something I could probably speak about for hours, but I'll try and keep it brief and just give me a signal if I need to wrap it up. But look, I think truth telling is, is one of those really key parts of reconciliation. And it's not just for Australia on that national level of reconciliation, but for anyone who wants to be a part of that process of achieving equality and justice. You know, I'm a lecturer here at the Uni as well, and one of the things that students always bring up throughout the semester is this kind of sadness and anger that they didn't know about, this history. That they've gone through 12 years of education, have come into a university course and, and now as young adults are starting to learn about this stuff.
So it's you know, it's something that people, people want this. They want to know what the history is. They want to know what has happened. And so, the Uluru Statement, it calls for Makarrata, which is the coming together after a struggle, and it asks for a commission to kind of supervise this process of either agreement making between governments and First Nations people, but also that truth telling about our history. It's, you can't have agreements made, you can't have justice and equality and all of those things without also having truth telling. And one of the things within the statement that that they speak to, it's almost like this this prophecy, they call to it that's filled with hope, that says we seek constitutional reforms to empower our people and take a rightful place in our own country, because this is our country and we need to be able to take our place in this country. It says, when we have power, when we have power over our destiny, our children will flourish. They will walk in two worlds and their culture will be a gift to the country. So, we have this history, we have this knowledge, and that is such a beautiful, powerful gift that we are here and ready to, to share with the rest of Australia. So, I think, you know, for me this process of truth telling is just so vital. If we are ever going to reach that point, if we are ever going to be able to come together and heal, and if we don't talk openly and honestly about the history of this country, but also the contemporary situation that we find ourselves in now, we just damn ourselves essentially to stay in this really uncomfortable place of inaction and inequality.
And so I think if you apply that that call to action of truth telling to a university setting, I think that it can mean asking everybody here at the uni in whatever position you're in to just hold space open for us so that we can speak for ourselves, to never speak for us, and instead just have that strength to take brave action which will make people uncomfortable.
But it's important, you know, you have to be able to take those, those really brave, strong actions to see real change. And I know that like these conversations about reconciliation and sovereignty, you know, they make a lot of people feel very overwhelmed about where do you even start? But I just want to always remind everyone and I say this to students all the time and to everyone here tonight, you know, every single person actually has that power to be a true ally. And it's not just about your own attitudes, but also in your advocacy and your support for Indigenous peoples. You know, look around yourselves. If your organisation doesn't engage with Indigenous people, you can just ask why not? If your project doesn't have Indigenous people informing it and guiding you, you have the responsibility to ask why not. If your service doesn't have Indigenous employees, not just in that entry level position, but also way up at the top and in the boardroom. It's actually your responsibility and your privilege to demand, you know, why not? And so, we have these words around collaboration, community led reconciliation, sovereignty. And these aren’t just token words to be brought at once a year during Reconciliation Week. They're actually those fundamental cornerstones for achieving equality and justice. You know, First Nations people are ready to tell our truth. We have been speaking this truth for a long time. Reconciliation and truth telling essentially asks the rest of Australia, “Are you ready to listen? And if you are, are you ready to act as well?” So, I think, you know, it's that power to act by knowing the truth and then acting upon it.
Thank you so much for that, Ash. I'm sure our participants can, can take a bit away from that as well, which leads us into the theme, doesn't it, for this year's National Reconciliation Week, which is Be Brave and Make Change. And we are hosting this the week before, so we're very much cognizant of that and cognizant of that here at UOW.
But you've mentioned something really beautiful, which I'm going to pass on, and I'm going to ask Professor Bronwyn Carson a question around something that you've, you've mentioned as well, Ash.
So, our inaugural RAP noted that although the university offers a range of Aboriginal based subjects and courses, students can complete their courses and degrees without encountering any content perspective. What could we do to address this?
Speaker 2 [00:28:50] It's a really good question, Tammy, and it does follow on a lot from what Ash has just explained. So, reconciliation action plans are about accountability, right? It's the university is accountable to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the community in which they get the pleasure of having their buildings on and working on and benefit significantly from. And so that accountability actually has some elements to it that are required. So, we have to ask ourselves. An institution such as UOW, main priority is educating the future. Educating young people to go forth and be decent, and humans who want a different world to live in, one that's better. I mean, we should always be striving for something, like striving for something that is better. And so, institutions have the obligation to educate the future. How is it that you have a RAP yet somebody can be educated at your institution and walk away with no knowledge of anything to do with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. And so, this is also about investment, right? So just a little bit from when I was there and I know things may have changed and I'm really hopeful that they have. But when I was there, institution committed to funding from things like the Ramsay Centre, whilst Indigenous Studies as a discipline was in demise. How does that happen?
Speaker 2 [00:30:24] So Indigenous studies is a is a proper discipline that has a disciplinary focus, that's spends a great deal of time educating non-Indigenous people. So, where's the investment from institutions into Indigenous Studies. And that would require Indigenous scholars, who then produce scholarship that educates the masses. Where’s that investment? So, for me, that's how institutions do it. So, you can't possibly think that students could come to your institution no matter what discipline they choose to study and have no Indigenous content. So, there's been a lot of talk for a lot of time around embedding Indigenous perspectives into the curriculum and all this kind of stuff. And there's been no real investment in doing that beyond the level of cultural awareness training. So, it sticks at this level, right? So how is it actually privileging Indigenous knowledges and educating people on an alternate way to view the world or to challenge their own worldview in which they hold? So, it doesn't do that.
Cultural awareness training says be nice to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people that you might encounter and don't be openly racist. And so Indigenous people are then charged with teaching them what an Acknowledgement to Country is, what a Welcome to Country is, and what are the colours of the flag. And they go forth and have no changed behaviour. So, there really needs to be a great deal of work around anti-racism training for people.
Because I can tell you right now, people who know the colour of the flag and how to do an acknowledgement of the country doesn't necessarily mean they don't hold racist views. And so, if they do not, as part of the education spectrum, learn anything about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, other than viewing us as some sort of problem, some sort of something that they can fix, then there is a real issue. And so, institutions really need to think about how are they ensuring that they have a good, solid number of Indigenous scholars along with the support staff, that they are focused on Indigenous students. And where's the commitment to local areas? Like I remember when I was there, I suggested that we have a local unit or a local subject that we teach that is embedded in Dhawaral and Wodi Wodi people’s knowledges and systems. So that would be a unit of study that would be developed by local people. Where is that commitment? That is something institutions could do.
And so, I'm not talking about cultural awareness training. I think for how many years now is cultural awareness training being around and made absolutely no difference to the lives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. I would be very surprised to hear if either Layne or Ash or yourselves had no experiences of racism or discrimination in the institution. I would be really surprised to hear that you floated through those institutions without ever having to think to yourself, “Holy shit, that was racist. Holy shit, why am I putting up with that? I reckon that you'd be greatly challenged to say this has all been roses for me. So these things need to happen and they need to change pretty quickly. We need to move beyond cultural awareness. We need to hold institutions accountable. There's no way you should be able to complete a degree with no Indigenous content. That is ludicrous in this country where Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are the first peoples of this place who are the knowledge holders of this place, yet have no input into the curriculum that's taught to people. So, people walk out of there and it has real world implications, right? I had the student who once said to me, “Oh, I feel really embarrassed. I've been in charge of this employment office where I sort out who gets offered what jobs, and I've always determined who is Aboriginal based on whether they've come from some sort of community outside of urban settings. And after doing Indigenous studies I realised how racist that was.” So at every single level and that person was in business, every single discipline, people need to have a better understanding or at least some understanding of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, cultures and the histories of this country. Because it's not being taught. You cannot rely on settlers to teach it. Indigenous scholars need to be employed, they need to be supported, they need to be able to conduct research and to provide scholarship. And nobody should get out of those doors without having done some Indigenous content. And that's not to say that people will leave and be suddenly anti-racist. I'm not that much of a utopian thinker, but it certainly is a start.
Speaker 3 [00:34:51] Well, thank you so much for that answer. And we do have some points and actions and deliverables in our new RAP that may help us overcome. And we're very hopeful, hopeful of that. But we'll be working very hard in order, as a collective, I assure you, in order to make that happen.
David, Professor David Currow, I've got a question for you. So, what are the big goals in our new RAP? Well, what are some of our big goals in our new RAP that inspire you in your leadership role here at UOW?
Speaker 5 [00:35:25] Thanks, Tammy. In following on from Bronwyn’s really important thoughts, I think the RAP is a great roadmap for us as an institution to actually change. And I know that challenge was put out there right at the beginning by Bronwyn and I couldn't agree more strongly. Institutions need to change, but they will only change if we can work with the people in them. They are not amorphous structures that are anything more than driven by the people and the values of those people within the organisation. I want to put out a very bold challenge this evening. I think one of our real challenges as we think about scholarship particularly, and I love Bronwyn highlighting the issue of scholarship there, is to ensure that we have a critical mass. And I wonder and this is the bold challenge whether that critical mass actually needs to be focused in a few places of higher education to really consolidate it, in order to then populate all of higher education. And I think there is a challenge in trying to grow this in every institution atm, at every step and at every level of academic, professional and student life.
To that end, I really would like to work with the community to make the University of Wollongong a genuine place that is the preferred provider to, to many people from around the country to create that critical mass that that can then really help institutions where this has not been taken up.
And I absolutely take Bronwyn's point, but I think the university is working to, to change. And I see some fellow institutions where that's probably happening a little more slowly and with a little less focus. So, how do we create that momentum and ensure that that momentum is actually generated in every place of higher education? And we think of that in terms of universities. I also put out the challenge that we need to think about technical and further education in exactly the same way that Bronwyn has outlined. How can people have any sort of post-school education without that, that opportunity?
Speaker 3 [00:38:23] Thank you. Thanks so much for those challenges as well. And you're right, we are working incredibly hard here at UOW and we have a lot of momentum. So it's about keeping that that continuing discussion and that traction that we're receiving at the moment. I'm now going to throw over to Layne. Layne, if UOW is successful on our reconciliation journey, what would this look like for our communities within our campus’s foorprints?
Speaker 4 [00:38:54] Yeah, I think. It looks like access. You know, these campuses are beautiful and in beautiful places and quite unique. You go to Nowra and you get, oh, you know, this is a small little university campus, but there's not much like that in Nowra. The campus itself, you know. Our community need access to the land. They need access to those rooms. They need access to the employment. They need a connection. At the moment, there's not a true connection. So, if there's a Reconciliation Action Plan that is authentic, it's got to demonstrate that. It’s got to walk the talk. It's got to talk the walk. And if it's not talking or not walking, it's got to be moving towards that. You know, I've got to come back to access every time. When we talk, when we say university, our mob, Aboriginal people shouldn’t go ‘Woah, that’s a weird, strange word and a funny place. And why would you go there?’ You know, access could be really easy. And, you know, if you want to run an event at the university and I've been going to the university since I started in 2005. I went there as a year 12 student to apply to go into it, into the alternative admissions programme. So, I've been walking the halls there since 2005 and every year new people come into that university. Aboriginal people. The majority of those Aboriginal people are not from this community. They're not from here. Our local people aren't accessing. I'm not talking about traditional owners. I'm talking about kids that finish school. They don't see the university as a place that they can go to. It needs to be a place that they can go to. And it starts off with one, stepping foot on this on this campus. On these campuses all along the coast. And it's as simple as this. I said, let's do a community day or a NAIDOC Day. We'll pick a significant event, we’ll shut down the campus, free parking for all the mob. There's no excuse. We'll get them free bus ticket. We'll get them a free train ticket. Whatever we need to do to get them in and access, and say ‘Hey, this is a place for you.’ Because the more people you get in the door. I was going to look up the stat before this meeting, but I thought maybe I'll just stick a little bit clear. But the stats of non-Indigenous people going to university is so disproportionate. So, the average punter that goes to university used to be about a third of people went to tertiary education after they finished school. Maybe just over, something like 30 to 40%, whether it was TAFE or university, something, they went to tertiary. Aboriginal people, I didn't look it up because I didn't want to see how sad it is. But that's, that's the stuff. There have got to be jobs. I walked around the campus the other day and I saw a young girl that I've known her family for years and she was a gardener. And it just made my heart smile. And that needs to be everywhere I go on campus. We need that access. That is our, that is our community's place. It's not the university, that was our mob space, that was our land, and that was taken. So by having access you're acknowledging that. By having Aboriginal people work there, play there, study there. It's got to be the way. Let them into the gym for free, for crying out loud. Has anyone looked at how much a gym membership is? We’ve had that gym for so long. There's so many ways we could access that place. Yeah.
Speaker 3 [00:42:37] Fantastic ideas. Love the enthusiasm, as always, Layne. Would anyone else like to, to add to that? I wasn't going to open it up, but I thought it's a really good question, you know, and if we are successful, what would it look like for our communities? But I'm happy if anyone else on our panel wants to add.
Speaker 2 [00:42:56] No, I really like that response because it is about material benefit, right? So how are these institutions and I am talking about the people in them, David, most definitely. How is it that they're focused on material benefit for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in this place in which they benefit from so greatly? I mean, I really resonate with that story. I, I was doing family research stuff when Glen Williams was there as a Student Support Officer and said, Oh, what did you come on campus to have a look through the old photos? And I was, I'd never been to a university in my life. Nobody in my family had been to university. I don't even think I ever said university as a word in my life. So going there made all the difference. Coming on campus and, and feeling like you're part of that community was, you know, a wonderful experience. And, you know, you get results when you invest in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, without a doubt. When I think about the alumni that I know from UOW, you've got a range of people, you know who are working in community, who are working in organisations, who are now professors or scholars. You know, that's all just lost knowledge to UOW when they leave. It is lost, you know. So, I think doing a little bit better about keeping people and growing your own is a really good strategy. I mean, you've got a young scholar like Ash, what's, you know, what's the plan? I don't know Ash, I'm just throwing her under the bus right here. What is the plan to ensure a future for this young scholar to complete their PhD, to go on and be an awesome researcher and provide brilliant scholarship to the community? Where's the investment in that? I'm, I'm pretty sure I'd be safe to say there probably isn't any. I look at the demise of Indigenous Studies in many places around the country, not just the UOW, and think, well, that's a great loss. I mean, I mean, they used to be I don't know if you even remember this, Layne, or even Ash. Universities used to offer block programmes to community for, you know, to develop skills. And that often led to doing degrees at the institution and it led to a relationship and connection with the institution. I remember Indigenous health that UOW used to offer those kind of block programmes to bring communities and right from right across western New South Wales and further afar. And a lot of those people went on to do medical degrees etc. So yeah, it's really is about investment, it's about a material benefit for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and Reconciliation Action Plans, I’m like really cautiously optimistic that they might produce that. But I haven't seen any evidence yet to see that. I've seen various reconciliation plans get revamped and I think what's this one coming under the idea of courageous? Is that courageous for us to keep up, the people keep going? Was that courageous for settler folk to do something? I'm not sure what the courageous bit is about, but, you know, for me it is all about material benefit. It is seeing Indigenous people employed, it is seeing that their lives change, having the opportunity to be educated without feeling like they don't really meet the grade. I mean, that's why places like, you know, Woolyungah, the old Aboriginal Education Centre, all of those kind of ways that place has transformed is terribly important. I think each and every one of us had come through and being supported by such support centres, so they're really beneficial as well. But yeah, a material benefit, that's definitely the bottom line for it all.
Speaker 3 [00:46:22] Thank you. And I can assure you that we are working very hard on staff pipelines. And Jaymee Beveridge, who heads our Indigenous Strategy Unit, it’s at the forefront of her mind and there are set RAP deliverables that discuss direct appointments for our HDR students into academic contracts. So we're very much, very much, you know, looking at the pipeline. But I completely agree with that.
Speaker 2 [00:46:45] I’d like to see a few more professors actually, because it's the leadership that's lacking in that higher space. I know I've worked at institutions where there's a lack of Indigenous professors who actually can speak at that kind of level, particularly around developing strategies and making change and institutions. And as much as we'd love to think that they're listening to Aboriginal Torres Strait Islander people, they listen to people with titles. And so, I think it's really important for us mob to be sitting at those tables.
Speaker 3 [00:47:12] Could not agree with you more. Be sure, make sure you shout out and ask any questions that you might have. I can say a few coming through which are fantastic and we'll be sure to get to them at the end of the session if we can or like I said earlier, we'll definitely answer these questions for you following this session. We've got a couple more a few more questions to go. I'd like to throw this out to a couple of people, and this is an alumni question. So how can alumni support the reconciliation journey at UOW and beyond? Layne, can I get your thoughts as an alumni of UOW first?
Speaker 4 [00:47:52] Yeah. I think you need to first and foremost be mindful and present in terms of what reconciliation is and what I mean by that. I’m sorry, puppy’s having a fair go here. And what I mean by that is, what I mean by that is why, first of all, whenever you go to a space, an organisation as an alumni go, “Where's the mob? Who's the mob? Where are they at? Who’s my local elder? Who's my community groups? Are you involved? Do we work with them? Do we have an existing relationship?” And yeah, you might work at a distribution company, right? In sales and you night go, “Well, how does that, how does that relate to me in terms of reconciliation”. Or have you got really low skilled labour that Aboriginal people could be doing and easy access for it, that they don't need a degree? There's good employment opportunities there. And then maybe later on they might go on. But we're talking about, when we're talking about breaking down low SES issues in this country, that's what true reconciliation is about. I've got some really, really good men my age, Aboriginal men. And they got trades nice and early and that changed the trajectory of their lives, having meaningful employment. So you can look around and say, Oh, wait, hold up. We actually work with the community, but we don't know any of the Aboriginal community that we live with or are we just call up Uncle such and such. But outside of Uncle Such and Such coming in at NAIDOC time, when else do you talk to him? Does he drop in? Is it a place that he's comfortable? You know, all that sorts of things is that, yeah, that meaningful relationship. So that would be my starting point really for alumni is if you're actually interested in changing this country for the better, we're talking about changing all the time now, that people are talking about changing and they’ve got to make this vote on it on the weekend. But if you want true change, you can it comes in your own collective action and the people around you. And it's got to be on people to go, “Hold on a second, this isn't right, that's not right. You know, with the Aboriginal people, where's the mob? We need to get them involved.” We can't make you do that. Like I said at the start, Aboriginal people are tired. We can't come to you and go, “Oh, have you heard about the Dharawal people that live in the Wollongong area.” It's not on us anymore, it's on you guys. So yeah, I'll leave it at that.
Speaker 3 [00:50:38] Thanks, Layne. And Ash, you touched on this a little bit earlier with, you know, everybody has a part to play. Is there anything you wanted to add about how can alumni support this journey, support the reconciliation journey?
Yeah, I think, you know, just echoing what Layne was saying there, like if you have if you're in an organisation where you, you only interact with Indigenous people during that, you know, NAIDOC Week or Reconciliation Week and the rest of the year, there's no involvement, that's a really good indication that you're not actually doing much. That's like a really good indication that you're not actually an ally for reconciliation. You need to be having consultation with Indigenous people throughout the year and it does not matter what your organisation does, it does not matter what job you do. There is not a single industry or employer or organisation in this country that is immune to needing to understand things for Indigenous Australians because we also live here. So we access everything. We access transport, health, education, we buy bath bombs and we get our hair cut. Like there is not a single thing that we don't participate in in this country. So, no matter what it is that you do, you know, as an alumni, you have the ability to actually implement consultation with Indigenous people and make your space open and inviting. And I think also as alumni, you know, you have a really powerful voice as a network. If you see the university doing things that you think it should do differently. You can actually use that collective voice as alumni to send that feedback back to the university as well. There's a really strong tie between UOW alumni and the university. You know, events like this, events throughout the year. So as a collective as well, you actually hold quite a lot of power to feed back into the university and to advocate for those things that Indigenous communities are calling for as well.
Thank you so much. Professor Carlson, would you like to add anything about how alumni can support the journey? I just thought I'd chuck it out to our alumni.
Speaker 2 [00:52:41] I've always got something to say, Tammy. Look, I don't think institutions in Australia have really maintained networks of their alumni very well for a long time. Well, particularly not us mob anyway. So I think that that's something institutions can do better because like I said before, you have you bring people through the doors, they go through this, you know, spend years, you know, in these institutions connecting with people. And then you're out in the world and you work in professions. You're a generally well-educated person so you're working in the, you know, making a, decision-making professions, etc.. And so bringing all that knowledge back into and, you know, and treating alumni as this kind of bank of valued knowledge holders, I think is really wonderful. But to Layne’s point as well, a lot of institutions now have Elders in Residence, which are paid positions for Elders to advise on significant issues around strategies and stuff. And these things are really wonderful. And I think about some of the local mob here who, who would just value add so much. But yeah, having a network. So, what does it mean to be alumni of, of Wollongong. You know I was, it is about relationships for me because you know, Jaymee asked me and so I went to uni with Jaymee, and so that's how it operates. But what about people who are outside of our own personal kind of networks, who went through these institutions before me, after me, beyond me and all the rest of it? Where are those people?
And so yeah, really, I'm spending a lot of time and institutions have done this sort of in an ad hoc way and building up their alumni network, but they're really undervalued because people bring back to the institutions they care about. So why? This is a question that UOW needs to ask themselves: “Why would our alumni care about us? Why should they?” And so, when you can answer that to me, to Ash, to Layne, to the community, then that's when you've got your answer. So why would we care about this place? Obviously, you know, for lots of people it's on country. And whilst, you know, my family originates from South Australia, I was born here, I have connection to this place and care for it and people here. So yeah, why, why should we give our time and energy to an institution? What is it that the institution's doing to make us proud? Why do I want to wear a UOW shirt? Why would I do that? That's what they need to ask themselves. So, you know, what is it that they've done for the alumni to keep alumni connected, to build capacity in this place?
Speaker 3 [00:55:20] And what a mighty challenge, you've given our alumni team, and I'm sure they'll be typing some notes now, and they'll get back to me straight away following this and saying, Tammy, I assure you we are doing this. Can you please pass this on? So, we have a pretty solid Indigenous alumni here and you know, as you might know, we've got a dinner tomorrow night as well with our Indigenous alumni coming from another university, not from this one. I don't have any connections, as an alumnus of my old uni and I see some things happening in these space and I get really excited about it. But I think you're right. There's many questions still to be answered.
David, can I just ask you a question on how can philanthropic support assist in terms of, if we're talking about alumni support, in terms of a philanthropic avenue.
Speaker 5 [00:56:10] Money always welcome, Tammy. Look, there are lots of philanthropists who have a particular interest in really supporting people from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander backgrounds. I think to take Bronwyn’s point, if we're going to grow the core of scholars, then we need investment to break cycles first and family to university is absolutely critical. And that doesn't just happen. I think the other aspect of that is, you know, the transition particularly to master's or doctoral studies and then to postdocs, anything that is going to provide greater certainty in those pathways is absolutely critical to the future. And, you know, part of our team's efforts in working with philanthropists is ensuring that they're thinking broadly about how they invest their money. I think the other aspect is that philanthropists themselves have changed in progressively over the last half century in Australia. They now want far more than ever before, I think relationship with the investment that they're making, it's not a grant. They, they actually want to see the benefits that are accruing because they've put their money on the table. I honestly believe that we can grow that area of giving in ways that can really help to accelerate rapidly the graduation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander academics that really can take their place right across Australia and ensure that as people come to universities they are that they are going to predictably experience gaining knowledge that they otherwise would not have had.
Speaker 3 [00:58:29] Thank you so much. And yeah, valuable opportunities to be to be had for everyone there. I think we're going to go through with another slide. So, we've got another poll, another open poll. And here we want to hear from you, our participants here. How could the university support you on your reconciliation journey? Yeah. And what would you like to support with potentially in your workplace or. Yeah, just what would you, what would you like us to help you with whilst you're on your journey. Could be at work. It could be at home in your everyday lives. We got transparency. Okay. That's a great point. Yeah. So we've got a UOW staff member who would love to commit to anti-racism training. Thanks, Prof. Carlson. We'll have to get on to that one, won't we? We do have a school program that we have purchased for staff and will be rolling out to students throughout the next year or so. But I don't believe it has a whole great deal on anti-racism or anything really local at that. More education. Intentional action. Someone has mentioned would like to attend events, workshops and webinars about Indigenous histories and cultures.
Speaker 1 [00:59:56] Traditional workshops.
Speaker 3 [00:59:59] So just general, more training and more education in this space. I want to learn about the local history and culture. I mean, wouldn't that be fantastic if we had a book written about our campus and what was occurring here prior to all the buildings and around these traditional areas? Education and accountability. Sharing. Build Indigenous Studies. Cultural humility training. Agree. And we're very much working on this and we are adding local perspectives, strengthening existing relationships. What about, “Is there anything in terms of cultural cooking classes?” Yes. You know, things that we might be able to as well support with. And it could be things in terms of cultural safety resources. And I guess that kind of the cultural humility training as well. Ethics of passing on information in our workplaces. More open dialogue like tonight's event. Wow. Thank you so much. We've still got three participants, five participants typing. So, I'll wait a few seconds. Fund Indigenous Studies so that we can become a centre of Indigenous research and excellence. Email Ash to talk more. Ash. Love that. Yes. Reach out.
Really, really interested in that and be sure to reach out. Empathy. Pathways to connection. Visible Indigenous language around campus. Love this idea. I think it's fantastic. And I was only talking to Facilities Management Division about this last week, but we need to do it the right way and not just add things. And for the sake of adding. With money. Not just words. Completely agree. And I believe that was discussed quite a bit in in some of our questions that we've had. Well, they were they were fantastic. Thank you so much to everyone who contributed. And our alumni team will gather all that information and see what we may already have to support you in your reconciliation journey or some of the new things that we'll be developing through our RAP and how we might be able to share those resources with alumni as well. So, I have a question I'm going to check out. I'm going to have another question for you, Professor David Currow.
Speaker 1 [01:02:08]
Speaker 3 [01:02:09] Just on that poll, for example. We had the poll. Is there anything else that you can think of how that UOW is able to do to support alumni on their journey?
Speaker 5 [01:02:22] So if we look at the poll, I think there's both education and experiences that that people have highlighted really incredibly and the things that can help them to better understand Indigenous culture. The focus on local is critical in that we need to amplify rapidly the opportunity for experiences. Excuse the dog! Experiences across a range of opportunities for staff, for students. And, and excuse me for one second. Thank you. Across staff and students throughout their time at the university and their formal opportunities. But we've got to create more informal opportunities to where people really can gain experiences that they otherwise wouldn't have. That I think, you know, one of the great things of universities is to offer people opportunities that they otherwise would not have. And they can be encounters with cultural elders who are prepared to sit down and provide education to the most uneducated people who have not encountered this in their life before coming to university. And let's face it, despite lots of policies that are trying to drive universities in the opposite direction, education is not about the letters you have after your name. It is actually about the skills, insights and ethos that you take into the world and continue across your life to develop and refine.
Speaker 3 [01:04:15] Lovely. Thank you so much for that. And speaking of cultural cooking classes, one of our Indigenous students just dropped me off a cooking feed that they just got back from their class today and made. So, we're training them well already. They're already feeding me, which is good. So, thank you so much. I cannot thank you all enough for the time that you have given us this evening to discuss this further. There are a couple of questions, a few, actually, and I think we'll ask the couple and get to get to others at a later at a later stage. David, there's one thing he specifically for you. Would you like to answer that at this time?
Speaker 5 [01:04:54] Of course I would.
Speaker 3 [01:04:56] Lovely. So this person said, I'd specifically like to know Professor David, Professor Currow, his thoughts on this. If we can mandate student students to complete online courses such as Start Smart, surely at the very least similar could be done could be introduced to ensure all students are educated on Indigenous history matters beyond cultural competency.
Speaker 5 [01:05:21] Yeah. Look, Tammy, I think there are a number of areas where the university needs to think about graduate competencies, graduate knowledge, that transcend individual programmes. And that's obviously more difficult in in the vocationally directed programmes. But again, I think there has to be a commitment by the university to educate and that's not just about what people want to study, it's about what people should have by way of exposure. So, I think there's a real opportunity here and we have talked about graduate attributes in many of the discussions since I've been at the university. And I think revisiting that with the lens that we have tonight is a critical part of thinking about that future. You know, do we offer a, a relatively standard programme across part of first year, for example, for everyone who comes to this university no matter what they want to study? And if so, how will that help not only the university, but the community in which we live and the community which we serve to accelerate reconciliation?
Speaker 2 [01:06:45] Can I just add that that should come through Indigenous Studies as a discipline because we all know that student numbers creates the cash that's required to hire people. And so having all these little outside courses and things that people go off to or putting the obligation on the community does not build capacity for Indigenous staff in Indigenous Studies, and that's where the investment needs to go. So yes, people should be obliged to and should not be able to leave the university without coming through an Indigenous Studies department. That way you'd be able to build the Department of Indigenous Studies from the woeful amount of staff that it actually currently has into a proper department. It used to actually have some teeth to it. It used to have five or six staff members. And now you have, what, a couple? Three. But one of those, I might add, is on a contract. And so not full time permanent or invested into. And not turn these individuals into teaching, you know, hacks that you actually invest in their future as scholars. And so, the more money that comes in by students with bums on seats would actually produce that. And I'm very, very much in support of, you know, having the knowledge of local folk come in, particularly Elders and knowledge holders. But that is in paid positions. It's a Wollongong University is an institution who doesn't say to people in law, oh well we won't pay you some old people to come in and talk to you, but we'll get them because they know a lot. So, it's just this kind of stuff just perpetuates it. So, if you bring in Elders, it has to be in paid positions to, you know, to share their expertise. But that shouldn't be at the cost of the investment in Indigenous studies at all.
Speaker 3 [01:08:27] Thank you. Thank you so much for that. We've got time for one more question. So, we've got Adam Gowan and sorry, that quick question before we just had like sorry, I can't see the name now. It's on another screen, but I'll let you know who asked that question, David. So, this question I can answer, and it's regarding the inaugural RAP UOW announced in 2019. Can we get an update on how UOW went achieving the targets within the document and how the new aims in these 2022-2024 document was devised? Thank you so much for that question. When I started here at UOW at the middle of last year, I'll say I actually had a look at the RAP and we worked through whether things were achieved or not achieved. I worked closely with Jaymee Beveridge and my predecessor Jo Goulding on this, and we as a collective decided that we actually hadn't achieved as much as we'd like to. So, we held ourselves back and remained on an Innovate RAP. So it's our second Innovate RAP, and you'll notice if you have a copy of the 2019-2021 RAP, you'll see a lot of the deliverables and actions have been transitioned across because we made a commitment to that, those actions and deliverables at that time. We felt like we needed to ensure that we moved forward and actioned those. So, we did transfer them across to our new current 2022-2024 RAP. So I hope that has answered your question and please reach out if you have any other questions on consultation or look at Reconciliation Action Plan and how we devised and developed that. So, I want to thank all the guests and everyone for taking the time out here to meet with us this evening. And we will be sure to try and include another event before the end of the year, a couple more events and keep your eye on this space, because we do have a whole weeklong of activities coming up for Reconciliation Week, and there are definitely opportunities for alumni and students, staff and community to get in on.
Particularly there's a discussion, an extension of an allyship panel discussion led by Summer May Finlay. So, we're very lucky today to have some entertainment.
We've got a traditionally inspired by country performance, so I'll get all our panelists. Thank you so much to our panelists and I'll get you to turn off your cameras and I'll just stay on for a second while I introduce Jiah King and Keina Brewer. So. It's traditionally inspired by country. Here we go.
There's Jiah and Keina. Jiah is proud Waanyi and Pitta Pitta man who grew up on the South Coast. Jiah is a second-year student, currently studying a Bachelor of Commerce majoring in Management. He was taught to play the didgeridoo by his father, Mark, who runs Didgeridoo Academy, an organisation created to teach others how to play the didgeridoo and to help First Nations boys and men become more confident, connected and empowered. Mark is a very well renowned digeridoo performer who had the honour of playing for Nelson Mandela in 2000. Jiah has been performing since a very young age and loves what his performances bring to others.
So welcome and thanks. Thanks, Jiah. We've got Keina Brewer. Keina is a proud Wiradjuri women who grew up in Shellharbour. Keina is a second-year student, currently studying a Bachelor of Creative Arts majoring in Music. She is a singer song writer and attended Oak Flats High before coming to UOW. So thank you so much. I will leave you with this beautiful performance that's been traditionally inspired by country.
Speaker 1 [01:12:30] G’day everyone, Jiah here. So I'm going to start off by playing a bit of didge for you guys. Quickly, a bit of context. This didge, I may have made some of it, but me and my dad worked on this when I was very, very young about a toddler. And I've been playing it ever since. I've been playing since about a very, very young age on stage, since before that. And I love playing for you guys so I’ll play a bit for you now.
And now can I am going to sing a song for you guys. This is Tennessee Whisky. This is first time we've sang together. Working together on this. Yeah, it's been good fun.
Speaker 3 [01:15:22] Yeah, this is Tennessee Whisky and it's a duet, so I hope you enjoy it.
Speaker 3 [01:19:16] Thank you so much. That was absolutely fantastic. And I for I don't believe you only know for a second that you've only just met and this is the first time. That was just solid. So thank you. And thanks again to everyone and the wonderful panel that we had here. And I can see some of the comments coming through. And we appreciate you. We appreciate your feedback. And please reach out to us if you have any questions or if you'd like to discuss our reconciliation journey here at UOW any further. Thank you. Good night.
Careers in Computer Sciences
A degree in Computer Sciences can result in many different paths. Hear from Mike Fuller from Atlassian and Henri Seymour from Easy Agile, two Computer Sciences alumni who have forged a unique path post-graduation, as they share their own stories and highlight the steps that have supercharged their careers.
Speaker 1 [00:00:40] Today's event is a great opportunity to talk about where a degree in computer sciences can take you. We're really lucky to have Mike and Henri be able to share their stories with us this evening. But it's important to keep in mind that in addition to these stories and these paths, there's always so many other paths to go down as well, which is really, really exciting. So, I guess my first question, I think I'll start with you, Mike, if that's okay, is to talk a little bit about how you figured out what you wanted to do. So, before we dive into what happened after graduation, I wanted to know what were the factors that influenced your decisions and helped you decide what you wanted to do when you graduated, and where did you want to work.
Speaker 2 [00:01:22] Yeah. So, I think like prior to university, I think I was always destined to get into technology. I was the kid that always pulled everything apart and, you know, was always on the family computer, consuming every minute of it. Once I hit UOW, I joined the IEEE Computer Lab. I don't even know that's still a thing anymore, but I met a whole pile of likeminded fellow students and I think from that, that lab, because we were running and sort of maintaining the computers ourselves as students of the lab, it sort of got a keen interest in system administration. And I think that sort of set the path for me on figuring out sort of that was the type of role that I wanted to do post-grad.
Speaker 1 [00:02:09] Yeah, that's great. So, you sort of always knew that you had, you know, that interest. But then once you got to uni, you were able to solidify that even more by the sense of it.
Speaker 2 [00:02:17] Find a particular interest area in that in that field.
Speaker 1 [00:02:20] Yeah, yeah. That's fantastic. Was it a similar experience for yourself, Henri? Or how did you figure out what you wanted to do?
Speaker 3 [00:02:27] I, I certainly I didn't know what I wanted to do. I had some skills, mostly in Maths sort of direction back in high school, but I knew that I might be able to do something with. My dad comes from a sort of engineering background and like he brought up the option of engineering as a degree. I think before that he was like nudging me towards law school, you know, “ here’s also a good option” and I almost ended up in computer science by mistake at that point. It was one of the interviews I did for Early Entry at UOW and they were like, “Oh, you could also come join us here.” Why not do both? It was only a couple of years into doing that double degree that I was like, no I think I'd rather do programming than electrical engineering. It's, there's this loop of between you making the thing and the thing existing that's a lot shorter in programming than it was ever going to be in electrical engineering. And now that I am in the field I am still figuring out where I going.
Speaker 1 [00:03:33] I think that's really interesting, right. You've raised a couple of points that I think are worth reflecting on there. One being that sometimes we do have a push from external factors, whether it's our parents or from other people. And sometimes that works really well and gets us to consider things that we haven't really considered before. But then sometimes it's not always for you. So, maybe law school isn't necessarily the way that you wanted to go. I had a very similar thing from, from my parents. They wanted me to get into business and business alone, which is definitely an excellent degree. But I always knew maybe wasn't always the path for me. So sometimes those nudges are helpful, but sometimes, yeah, it's about figuring it out for yourself too. And it's interesting to hear that sort of as you went along, you kind of also started studying and then was able to refine, you know, which parts so that perhaps computer sciences were more your vocation rather than the engineering side of things. So that's really, really interesting. So, what about your journeys after graduating? Mike, can you tell us a little bit about what was it like for you when you first left university and how did you get that first job after graduation?
Speaker 2 [00:04:39] Yeah. So, I think my, I had a little bit of an overlap. So just before graduation and final year, I was able to pick up a local job in Wollongong with a tech company that did, small business I.T. Consulting. So, I did have that sort of part time job that I was in as I was graduating, which then obviously made me feel a little bit confident that I knew that I was on a path out, of out of uni and into work. And I this was, you know, 18, 19 years ago now. So, it's I can’t remember if SEEK was the place that I went or something like that. But, and so yeah, I was a local IT company and I feel, you know, always thankful for that job to sort of get me started in the industry.
Speaker 1 [00:05:26] Yeah, yeah. Fantastic. What about for you, Henri? You're a bit more of a recent graduate than Mike. Did you have a similar sort of experience in finding work, or how did that happen to you?
Speaker 3 [00:05:37] Oddly enough, yes actually. I’m surprised to hear that Mike has a story that is very similar to mine. I ended up with about an 18-month overlap so that was a fair bit of a very gradual transition. I got an internship that I was seeking out about the summer of 2018. I didn't find it on SEEK. I was applying for a bunch of different roles at all sorts of places that were offering internships, you know, mostly big corporations. And I found the internship through Siligong Valley instead. So again, like a smaller local company, and that kind of transitioned out of the full-time study through part-time back to full0time work. It made it a lot smoother and I think I consider myself very lucky that I ended up with that.
Speaker 1 [00:06:27] Yeah. Fantastic. So, tell us a little bit more there. So, you mentioned that you were you were applying for different places, but then it was actually through Siligong Valley. So, through sort of not necessarily work, but sort of work adjacent networking. And so how did that conversation happen or how did you meet the people that were to offer you the internship and then subsequently your role?
Speaker 3 [00:06:52] There's a friend of mine who encouraged me to go to Siligong Valley meet up. The topic was infrastructure or Infra-coders which wasn't specifically my area and continues to not be my area. But my friend encouraged me to turn up. I turned up, he was half an hour late, so I was just standing there awkwardly trying to make the best of being in a stranger's office. But it's, it was that sort of, the conversations that happened after that meetup, but, you know, a couple of presentations. But then it's mostly just kind of networking, which means eating pizza and drinking whatever you can find in the office fridge. I was just going out of my way to have a couple conversations with the people who were there. Easy Agile happened to be hosting it, not that I quite realized it at the time. So those were the people that I was, some of the people who were really open to having a chat with the strangers who’d showed up. And it turned out that they were considering having an intern for the following summer. So, we didn't have that sort of conversation at the time. I just mentioned that I was a student, this was the sort of path I was looking for, and they didn't offer me anything on the spot or anything, but they suggested I connect with them on the Siligong Valley Slack channel. So, it was kind of forming connections after the event. Just make sure that you're still on people's radar and they can still contact you.
Speaker 1 [00:08:26] Yeah. Look, that's really interesting. And I might actually sort of jump forward to some of the questions that I had, because I think we've hit on something really interesting here about networking and the connections that can happen and with where sort of things can lead for yourself. Mike, have you had any similar experiences? Like has networking been a big thing for you in your career or whether it's sort of that those formal kind of programs or more informally, you know, as Henri has alluded to, has that been something that's helped you?
Speaker 2 [00:08:57] Yeah, definitely. Over the last five years of my career, I think there was a point roughly 2015-ish, where I decided that I would get into public speaking, and that was a really different environment for myself at the time. And so, I started sort of talking about the stuff, the work that I was doing at Atlassian on a public stage, which leads to those conversations, post talk and found that the connections that I made after those sorts of events led to the next thing and then that led to the next thing. And so that sort of chaining different events together with the communication of different networks you create. And then, you know, you mentioned that I wrote a book at the beginning that, that would have never happened without those networking events and meeting the people I met along that journey. And so, I think that almost it becomes so fun to network with other likeminded and similar industry people.
Speaker 1 [00:10:01] Yeah. It's really interesting that you say that, because I think a lot of us sometimes think about networking and can see it as a thing that, you know, you hate doing. That's really intimidating, really uncomfortable. But you're right. When you're connecting with people that actually have really similar interests, then, you know, really fantastic things can happen. And it's interesting, both of you, sort of the key seems to be first and foremost, putting yourself out there, whether it's going to engage in public speaking or I'm going to go to this this meet up or I'm going to putting yourself out there in some way. Secondly, following up those nice, you know, posts, talk, you know, discussions or following up on the Slack channel or whatever it is, connecting online, connecting on LinkedIn, that kind of thing, and then continuing that follow up. So like you said, way leads on to way and sort of going on, onto the next thing. That's really interesting. What about, sort of in terms of networking, what about mentoring? Has that been something that either of you have, found that to be beneficial or helped you find either a further work opportunities or even sort of just helped you figure out, you know, other opportunities or things that you're interested in. Henri, has that been something that has been of interest to you at all?
Speaker 3 [00:11:19] I did end up in a mentoring program for a couple of months back that run by the university. The person I ended up being paired with was the co-founder of one of the other companies within Siligong Valley. It's actually somebody I had met before that. All right. It's really, there's this real sense of that like you do all of these networking things and you never know which one is going to be the one that provides that next step in your career. It was good to get that perspective from somebody who was already working in the field, and that was a connection that turned out to provide a lot of context later on when I went into work. I feel like that was a known figure in the community and like that company is still a big part of Siligong Valley. I'm not sure it gave me a specific leap, but I, especially for a little while there, I think I ended up on the radar of a good deal of people in Siligong Valley, at least those who were keeping an eye out for students and young people. I was starting to know the landscape of the culture I was working in.
Speaker 1 [00:12:39] And that can be really helpful, right? So sometimes I guess, you know, you're looking for networking or mentoring so you can get that foot in the door or make the next step or whatnot. But sometimes, yeah, you're right. Particularly with mentoring, it can just be around building your knowledge, building your awareness, knowing who's who, knowing the names of different companies, different peoples, that kind of thing. What about for yourself, Mike? Have you been a mentor or a mentee and how has that been for you?
Speaker 2 [00:13:04] Yeah, my mentoring is a little bit different I guess, because it's coming later in my career and it's been less about an individual and more like teams. And so, I've done a lot of mentoring of other teams and other companies about like them setting up similar sorts of processes and technology sort of especially around the finance cloud financial management space that I work within. Being able to sort of talk to them and unlock sort of some of their thinking, which that led to, to the work I do now at the foundation in sort of connecting large groups of people trying to figure out their pathways and sort of mentoring was less about an individual and more about a collective group of, of, of the industry.
Speaker 1 [00:13:47] Yeah. Yeah. Fantastic. That's really interesting. Thank you. So sorry to jump ahead, but I just felt like we were on a, on a really interesting point there in terms of the networking and the mentoring side of things. And we probably will we'll come back to that again. And I just wanted to ask you both, you know, I've already got some questions coming in, which is great. So, everyone else, please continue to add your questions in the Q&A and I'll get to them very soon. But if you could both tell me, so I might start with yourself, Mike, if you can tell me a little bit about what's your day to day role sort of entail at the moment? And is there anything about what you're doing now that really sort of surprised you? You know, is it very different to what you thought when you were a student your work life would be?
Speaker 2 [00:14:32] Yeah, definitely. So, when my first-year university I took, because computer science is quite a universal class and you can actually take classes from all over the university, which is really cool. And so, I took a first semester in accounting and after the first semester decided that it wasn't really for me. I don't really want to be dealing with money. And then all these years later, after doing lots of sys-admin work following me to the Cloud Centre of Excellence at Atlassian, I ended up starting doing the cloud cost management stuff and aligning heavily with the finance teams and realised that actually this is where I'm really good at. And so now in the day of life, so all the stuff around Fin Ops is really around, you know, understanding of costs, working with our teams about building efficiencies. And so there's a lot around the technology of cloud, but a large portion of what I do today is still driven around dollars, which is something that I didn't think that I would get into after the first semester of university.
Speaker 1 [00:15:36] Yeah, that's so interesting. And it's sort of just going back to what you said before, Henri. Sometimes when you say, engage in mentoring, you don't know where it will go, you don't know if it'll help you out in the future. Same with networking, and it's probably the same with sometimes subjects that you study. You think, “Oh, I may or may not use this, that maybe this isn't relevant for me”. But sometimes everything comes back around again and things are quite useful. How about for you, Henri? Did you the work life that you have now, is it sort of what you anticipated it would be like when you were studying? Or how is it different?
Speaker 3 [00:16:13] It’s, I mean, it is still a desk job. I'm actually, this is the desk I walk from in my home generally. I've been working remotely for a while now, but it's even despite working in remote, it's a bit more collaborative than I expected, spending more time as we all are at this point on Zoom calls, on little audio calls to sync up with what other people are doing, like getting, getting tasks done on a technical level, it was a lot more collaborative than I expected it to be, and there's kind of a system to it of you aren't the only person responsible for your work if you do a task and then other people review it and they are also partially responsible for it before it goes anywhere, and especially somebody who still kind of learning a lot of the technical skills. Even while I'm doing that, I'm still like, “Hey, is there a better way to do this? I’m stuck on this point? Is there some context for this that I need to know?” It's a lot more collaborative than I expected, and I also spend a lot more time than I expected reading other people's code, and that turned out to be fairly useful. There's a lot that I've learnt that I wouldn't have thought to do myself, but I've seen it in other people's code and that's been a big part of how I've learnt a lot over the last several years.
Speaker 1 [00:17:38] Right. That's really interesting. So, are you saying to me that given that you weren't expecting things to be so collaborative that those dreaded group assignments that a lot of our students are currently doing, has some of that, some of what you've learnt there about collaboration, has that actually been paying off?
Speaker 3 [00:17:57] Collaboration in the work context is very different from a group project and that may be a relief to most people who are currently doing group projects. In companies that are already established and it probably doesn't apply as much at the Start-Up level. I joined Easy Agile about two years into its existence, once it already had a pattern of work and wasn't just kind of smashing things out to make it happen. There is a system to it, like code reviews is out of the work and that's accounted for when you're planning how much time it's going to take. And also everybody's actually got specific set hours for it instead of when everyone's got a different timetable and also maybe a part time job. There's a lot more structure to it, and that really does help. And also, there’s other people who know more than you do and they really it makes it a lot more, a lot easier to do. There’s a system for it in a way that there isn't a lot of group projects.
Speaker 1 [00:19:02] So, that's really interesting there as well because I guess, you know what I'm hearing there is that in terms of, if you're working for a more established company or if you're working for a startup in it's very, very early stages or even a few years in, your experience will be very, very different. So, it's probably helpful, I guess, for our current students and also our recent graduates as well to think about, you know, how they feel that they might work best and then sort of, you know, target their search from there. We've had two questions come in, so I'll just jump into those before I jump back into mine. So, our first one is from a current postgraduate student. They're coming into computer science, they've got a bachelor degree in finance and over ten years of work experience in management. So, a really fantastic, diverse background and would like to ask more about what kind of opportunities are available in tech that capitalise on those other backgrounds other than just the technical skills of computer science. Would it be possible to leap into those positions with actual I.T. experience? So that's a really good question. Mike, I might throw this one to you first.
Speaker 2 [00:20:08] Yeah, I kind of feel like this question was written for me to answer. Like with a background in finance, I can just kind of selfishly sad that cloud financial management is begging for you to join. There's lots of companies trying to figure out how to do I.T. financial management. Outside of the cloud, you can look at the ITSM on the SAM protocols which are on the TBMs and other ones. So these are sort of like key words of industry terms that are around doing IT financial management. So the more your data standard driven stuff, so having that knowledge of how a business does financial controls and financial management and then taking the I.T. skills and I.T. knowledge, you learn from a university degree, you sort of combining the two and having that perfect mix for someone looking for cloud financial management, that's basically to many extent, I had just that little tiny bit of financial knowledge from, you know, from a bit of UOW stuff and then some of the stuff I did with small businesses over the years, and I used that with IT knowledge to be able to flesh out a career. So, someone who's got lots of financial history should be able to easily find that space.
Speaker 1 [00:21:23] Yeah, fantastic. Well, hopefully you can expect a job application from this person very soon. We've also had another question just come in as well from someone who said that they're actually looking at a reverse move from a career perspective. So, coming out of years in finance and looking to move into IT. How hard do you think it is for a mature-age person to start out in the industry? I might go to your first, Mike, and then over to you, Henri.
Speaker 2 [00:21:54] Oh, I think there's, I think the age should not be a problem. Like you need to be able to emphasise the skills you've learnt over the years in your previous career. And like, I feel like a lot of people think the career changes means you throw out all the skills from previous life and then start fresh. But I think there's a lot more connection, like you've worked in business and business needs a lot of skills. I think when I look at some of the interactions happening inside of enterprises today, you're sort of moving the dev term would be like the ‘full stack’, you know, engineer. I think that we're getting the ‘full stack’ business people that understand how business leaders think, how financial people think in order to get, you know, that sort of ‘you build it, you run it’ services management that understands the business around running services. So, just make sure that you're really emphasising the things, the skills you've learnt in the career you've got so far.
Speaker 1 [00:22:55] Yeah, I think that that's really, really great advice. Henri, what do you have to add? How do you see people from, I guess all different ages and backgrounds working in successfully in your organisation as well?
Speaker 3 [00:23:06] Yes, we've had a lot of sideways moves like that internally as well, which has been fascinating to watch. But with, I don't think we've seen anyone from finance specifically. We've actually had a psychologist doing a career change into computer science. Coding is a little less emotionally weighted than counselling and that was the change he was looking for. So.,he's come in with about the same level of technical knowledge that I had, but he is in his mid-thirties I think. That was the change that he wanted in life and because he sought it out that's where he ended up. And he's had no less value for that background and it's for him like having more of a sense of how people work has been helpful in that collaborative sort of context. And I think there's similar methods for that kind of if what you're working on as a team, if that's going to delve into any sort of financial context, knowing what that is like from the other side is always going to be useful. You don't just need to know how to program. If I'm making a product, well, who are my users and what's their perspective on it? Where are they coming from? And if you've been on the other side of that, that gives you a lot of leverage.
Speaker 1 [00:24:36] Yeah, that's really interesting. And you know, when you just sharing that example of your your colleague who's got a background in psychology, I don’t even work in computer sciences, but I was thinking that they would be great for, you know, user experience and design and that sort of thing because it really is about looking at things for, you know, how will my client or customer base use this so that that's really interesting. We actually have had another question come in. I'm doing my Masters in I.T at the moment and trying to do AWS certifications side by side, but not sure about my path afterwards. Any suggestions on which companies I can apply for if I'm mainly focussing on cloud computing or what certifications I can do before applying for jobs as I don't really have any experience in the field. I might go to you, Mike, first this one.
Speaker 2 [00:25:28] Cloud computing is a big field, growing very, very fast. I I’ve watched Gartner’s forecast on how much dollars are going to be spent on cloud computing for the last five years and every year they increase the forecast. I think the last I saw was something around $1,000,000,000,000 by 2025, 2026. So pretty much every company, definitely not just technology companies, like banks. Like if you look at NAB, they've got a huge cloud footprint now. You know, your traditional SaaS companies, obviously, you know, all got cloud. And I think that you find that there's a lot of companies, technology and not, that are looking for cloud experts. The reality is clouds, you know, while on a timeline, it's probably 14 years old. The reality is it’s been huge take up in the last six or seven years. So, that means that there's a huge vacuum of engineering power that needs to be trained and educated. And so, I think that you'll find that having that, you know, whether it's AWS or the other big vendors, that sort of knowledge and getting into those sort of, you know, grad roles or the, the sort of junior roles in a company that's going cloud. You'll be fine.
Speaker 1 [00:26:49] Yeah. Thank you. And Henri, what are your thoughts on that? Have you I guess, in addition to having a degree, what other certifications have been useful for you or do you want to attain or would recommend someone obtaining.
Speaker 3 [00:27:04] And I have only barely used my degree so far. Given that I started without one. In fact, they never even asked for a transcript, which was unusual in all of the applications that I was doing at the time. They just kind of took my word for it that I was currently a student.
Speaker 1 [00:27:20] You have a very trustworthy face.
Speaker 3 [00:27:22] Yeah, I think the people I was talking to would have noticed if I was lying. But the qualifications, I think I've only done one formal qualification after uni. I've done a few different bits of training here and there. The only one I've done was field specific, which was scaled agile. Scaled Agile framework. It's called SAFE. And that was, I think again, for the context of being on the other side, the one of the major products that we're making of the company is to support other organisations doing that scaled agile transformation. So, it's not so much that I need to do Scaled Agile, it's that the people that I'm building for are doing Scaled Agile. So that's a certification that I'm not personally using. But again, it’s that context about it. It's not that I need to have this piece of paper and go, “Yes, I'm qualified to do this”, but the learning has given me context. A lot of my learning has been less formal than certificates, but still fairly well respected at my workplace.
Speaker 1 [00:28:35] Yeah, definitely. And I think that's really interesting. It's, good to know that, I guess, the learning, even when you graduate continues and it comes in many, many different forms. How has that been for you, Mike? Have you focussed a lot, particularly on different certifications or have you looked for other sorts of opportunities for learning or training or on the job kind of development?
Speaker 2 [00:28:58] Yeah, I think that like any good career should have an element of, of training progression. You, you know, the IT industry reinvents itself a lot and likes to change and also likes to go in circles, you know. And so, I'm waiting for the day that we go back to mainframes or something like that. But I think that, you know, always finding the sort of like, what's the next thing I could learn? You know, Henri mentioned before about having the other smart people around you, like taking advantage of them in in the informal training context. But then also just looking at, you know, we call our like résumé building or maybe LinkedIn building and just figuring out like, what's the next thing that you should be adding to your LinkedIn page? And, you know, whether or not it's about getting the next job is really irrelevant. It's just that feeling that you're able to take that extra bit of skill that you've learnt from some training or some certification program and try and apply it back into your day job.
Speaker 1 [00:30:01] Yeah, that that's really great advice. And I think, you know, for our current students and for our recent alumni that are tuning in, one good way to also find out if you are sure of sort of what's out there is, you know, you know, as we've heard speaking to other people and talking to them about what they would recommend. But you can also do a little bit of professional stalking on LinkedIn and have a look at some of the profiles of people that you admire, that have the jobs that you might want to have in a few years time and see what they've done, what their background is, what qualifications they have, certifications they have, and that can be a really great jumping off point to say, oh, you know, you might even notice some, you know, consistencies with everyone seems to be qualified in X or everyone's got a certification in Y and that can also sort of help direct and focus study a little bit as well. So, Henri, I'll jump over to you now in terms of advice, so what advice would you give to students and to our recent graduates on making a successful transition from university into work?
Speaker 3 [00:31:08] I think. I mean, getting the job is probably the hardest job like that, but first job is what's going to build the rest of it. I like the experience that I've got it Easy Agile is probably the key thing that I would use to get my next job when eventually I'm forced to leave the company. I guess I'm hoping it's not anytime soon. Making that leap for me, I think, was mostly less about specific technical skill.
Even now, I'm a bit lightweight on that. It's more breadth. Like you may have heard the whole thing about like a T-shaped engineer. Like you’re deep on one thing, but you've got that breadth in other things. Like you've got a background in finance, you've got experience in psychology, you’ve got interests outside of work that don't really apply to your specific role but turn out to be kind of relevant anyway. It's that sort of breadth, I think is how I ended up with the work I have. You know, for me it was stuff like communications and writing. Now, most communication is done by writing. So that's been really handy for me. But there's, there's a whole transition phase of work as a different. It's a different process. It's a different culture, which is hard to really embody when you're working remotely. But there is, there's a different pace to it instead of this, deadline, schedule your own stuff, like struggling to interact with other people. There is a process for it. Like you might not always have the 9 – 5, especially like remote and flexible working is more common. But the 8 hours a day is not 8 hours of solid focus a day. There's the meetings in there, there’s the just chatting with people for seemingly no reason is hard to do remotely, but it is worth doing anyway. Like at the office, it's just I make a cup of tea and I'm having a snack in the kitchen and so are four other people. And now we've been having a chat for half an hour and this may or may not be related to work, but it's part of the work. There's a different pacing to it which for someone like me who likes that structure of ‘When am I doing stuff?’ and ‘How fast can I expected to do this again?’ Yes, it really helps.
Speaker 1 [00:33:41] Yeah, I think that's really good advice. It's important for us to keep in mind that it'll be a little bit different. Like transitioning from studying into working is different, different environment, different culture, different expectations for ourselves. So, allowing a bit of flexibility as well. Mike, what about for you in terms of, I guess, qualities or attributes that you think are necessary to succeed in your profession or for people to do well? What would you say is important there?
Speaker 2 [00:34:13] Yeah, I think Henri's point there around that soft skill set being like, you know, Henri's already mentioned a few times. A lot more of a job is around, you know, not just sitting in front of the computer programming in isolation. There's a whole lot of team collaboration, alignment with thinking, you know, planning. There's a lot of planning that happens with releases. And, you know, if you move into the sort of agile world, you've got the things like spring planning and stuff like that. And so a lot of the soft skills there are around being able to get everyone onside with an idea or being able to drive forward one sort of commonality and thinking. And if you're just focussed on the fact that you're, you know, able to code 7000 lines a minute, it doesn't really matter if you're unable to actually work in amongst that team that's around. You really, really think that that it's probably undersold in a lot of times for people looking for their first job is worrying about the soft skills that they bring.
Speaker 1 [00:35:15] Right. Okay. So, in terms of what organisations are looking for when they're recruiting, what are some of those key things? It sounds like it is things like communication and collaboration. Are there other sort of key things that you think you know or buzzwords that you see in someone's resume or application and you see and you think, ‘Oh, that sounds really good.’ What stands out to you?
Speaker 2 [00:35:37] For me, I think, like, especially for, you know, a grad sort of position or, you know, a junior position, I'd be looking for the willingness to learn. So, you know, usually comes out pretty quick in in the resumé about the things you've done, the engagement you've had, like the types of doodling you've done at home on the computer, the projects side projects you've done. And I guess that to me, you know, communicate why is a job and it's important to you like you've chosen this career path but your résumé should tell you tell me as someone reading it that like this is a path for you because you're telling me your story. You know, I think that if you look at the people around you, that they're all going to have a degree from you or what makes you different than everyone else is graduated is your story of why you picked that degree and the things that you've done around the degree that that you've done at UOW.
Speaker 1 [00:36:41] And so do you think that that narrative and that story is important for both the technical skills and the non-technical skills. So, we've had a question come in here, which is relating really strongly to what we're discussing about what kind of expectations do companies have for entry level programs in terms of both technical skills and non-technical ones? Henri, what are your thoughts on that? Do you think that it's important for an applicant to explain sort of not only what their skills, hard and soft skills are, but those motivations? And will I have developed X, Y, Z because I'm passionate about blah? What's your advice there?
Speaker 3 [00:37:23] I think one of the things of tapping into that like what story does your résumé tell? Like the story that I end up telling about of that period of like, you know, I switched from a double degree into programming because this is what drew me to it. It is that thing of what, not just what skills do you have, but what are you interested in personally? A good company, when they're trying to recruit isn't like trying to fill chairs. It's are your interests as a potential employee going to align with the companies interests. They don't need to be the same, but like if that company needs to improve their infrastructure, are you a person who's interested in infrastructure? If you're in that role, are you going to go out of your way in a sense, but be like looking into how this can get better? Are you going to be actively interested in what's going on here? I think it's less about like what exactly you’ve got, but also why you've got those skills and qualifications. What are you interested in and are your interests going to be relevant? And also, are you interested in things? If you're not interested in anything, that is a struggle. The one thing I'm not going to do is use the word passion about things. I have never been passionate about my job. I find it interesting. I find it satisfying to create a thing. It's. That’s the part that I enjoy about this job and I think Easy Agile has got the sense of like, you know, we need somebody who's going to make things. That's why I'm not over in the infrastructure department because they know I'm not interested in that. But we have people who are and I'm very glad they are.
Speaker 1 [00:39:19] Yeah, I think that's really important. That interest and that curiosity for, you know, if you can demonstrate that in an application, that's really going to be helpful. Mike, what are your thoughts in terms of, you know, for, say, entry level program or if you were recruiting someone for that sort of role, what kind of technical skills would you expect to see demonstrated on that application?
Speaker 2 [00:39:42] I think this answer is going to change depending on the type of company and the type of role you going for. You know, it's kind of like there's a middle. I think there's like a hard edges and a soft middle in the industry here. You've got the start ups who really just need people will get in and do it. They don't have the time to train you because they're really trying to get off the ground, you know. Once it's flying they got that width and that sort of ability to look for someone who has the need for those around you to bring you up in the knowledge. And when you get into that soft middle, you're really sort of showing that that ability to learn that, you know, you should be able to demonstrate some skills in this area. But it's sort of a common understanding that you are hiring a junior position, that junior will come up with the other seniors. And then I think as you get up to the other end, you've got these large enterprises and especially the ones that are hyper scaling that don't they sort of start to return to that once again, don't have the time to bring juniors along. And so you're really looking for those enterprises that have grad programs that they're going to be a lot more willing to train because they're actually doing intern and grad programs and understand what that means or definitely don't be going for the second day start up that's really just looking for five seniors to kick this thing off the ground. You're looking at the companies in the middle that, you know, understand what it means for a junior to join. We talk a lot at Atlassian like the progression from a sort of junior sort of into a senior is that mastering the craft? And so you can't expect juniors to join and be masters of the craft, being able to write, you know, all the code without any other feedback. And as Henri has already pointed out, like there's a lot to learn just by looking at other Seniors code. And then over time you start writing code in similar ways. So yeah, I think there's also, I guess, a layer of imposter syndrome that can really quickly kick in for early grad, you know, thinking, am I enough for this company? But I think just there's a certain level of having to have faith that you're bringing something to this company and looking at yourself in that light.
Speaker 1 [00:41:59] Yeah, definitely. And like you say, you know, particularly if there are, you know, internship or graduate roles or it's sort of more entry level positions, they are designed for people that are sort of a little bit fresher. And so, you're not necessarily going to be expected to know absolutely everything. There will be, you know, some support there, which is which is really great. Henri, another question that's come in, in terms of I believe from someone who's currently studying and they would like to know how critical do you think your major in your degree or subject selection is in getting that first job? Is that something that's been important to you or that you've seen being important there?
Speaker 3 [00:42:42] I think there is a way in which it could be useful, which is that why did you do it? Like does this demonstrate a specific interest in your field? Like if you'd if you've done a major in cybersecurity, you're not just a student who has done CompSci. You are actively interested in this field. So, if you are applying for cybersecurity roles, you go, I, I have already been working towards this. I want to continue working towards this with you as an employer. Having said that, follow your interests, because that demonstrating interest is how it is useful. I did no major at all and in fact dropped my major in order to finish university sooner. I think I cut a couple of required subjects out of my degree because I was ready to move out of university. Likewise there are people in my organisation who've done, like I mean I come from a CompSci background, I've got a colleague at the same level as me who followed a similar path to me from a mechatronic engineering, colleagues from boot camps, from switching careers, using like a little bit of a boot camp sort of thing like that. And even the most technical co-founder of my company has no degree at all. Your major is useful if you're interested in it, because it demonstrates that you're interested in it, but it's not required. It doesn't have to be critical, but you can make it useful.
Speaker 1 [00:44:20] Yeah, I think it's really important is to, you know, make it work for you as much as possible and like you say, can help you. But it also doesn't necessarily have to limit you either. Would you agree with that, Mike? What are your thoughts on about, you know, when you've been looking for your colleagues to join your team and what not? Has the major that they've done or particular subjects been something that's been really crucial there or has there been flexibility?
Speaker 2 [00:44:43] Yeah, I don't think so. Like I mean, if I look at my degree, I did software development, security systems, and I don't do either of them today. So, you know, I can talk about like why those subject areas were interesting to me at UOW and why once I picked a pathway out of uni, it didn't matter that I wasn't going down the pathway of those two particular specialty areas. I think as Henri has mentioned, it's really about the story behind your choice of those things. If it was just because you thought it looked good on the résumé, it doesn't really show the passion for getting into the field. Cyber security is a great example of that. Like you, you can use pretty much every software developer has a hat of security. It's hidden in their back pocket. They can't be developing software without thinking about security. And, you know, a lot of companies, including Atlassian, will put security as tier zero - the first thing we think about. Because that's the thing. So, it doesn't mean that you have to go into cybersecurity just because you did a cyber security specialty, but you can use it in telling your story and why it was super important for you.
Speaker 1 [00:45:56] Yeah, yeah. Fantastic. That's great advice. And so mwe've just had a question come in as well from someone who says that they're a mechatronics engineer and they’re interested that what skill certifications should they go for after doing a Masters? We'll start with you, Mike, and then we'll jump over to Henri.
Speaker 2 [00:46:16] This one. And I've been watching this question come up and wondering what I'm going to say to this. So I'm going to try and dodge the bullet and throw Henri under the bus because he just mentioned that one of his colleagues did mechatronics. So maybe he has something to say.
Speaker 1 [00:46:38] Yes, I heard you say mechatronics, Henri and I was like “Right!”. So, what are your thoughts?
Speaker 3 [00:46:43] I'm reasonably sure that colleague comes out of mechatronics or computer engineering, but they're very adjacent at UOW at least for the first three years. I'm not sure about the certifications specifically because again, it's like having the pieces of paper are useful sometimes but this isn't a heavily regulated field like engineering is where you have to check a box in order to be an engineer and you can only be employed as an engineer when you've got that certification. It's very much like, does your certification come from an interest in it and demonstrate an interest in it. Somebody in the chat was talking about doing AWS certs. If you're a person who's interested in AWS and to the point where you are getting formal training on it, then if you're applying for a role in say infrastructure, that's going to demonstrate that you were a better fit for that role than somebody who's not done any specific looking into any sort of infrastructure. You don't need to check a lot of boxes in this industry. It's not that you need them, but how can you make them useful? And I think what Mike mentioned about what story you're telling is a similar sort of basis.
Speaker 1 [00:48:05] Yeah. So it would perhaps, you know, a possible advice for this person to be about, you know, the certifications and degrees. Obviously useful of course, but other options could also be some volunteering or some interning or some other joining a professional association or network and sort of building experience in that way might be might potentially might be an option. But what some other advice that we have about how our audience can increase their employability generally within the industry. Henri, what what are your thoughts?
Speaker 3 [00:48:39] I do think that experience has a good deal of it. And if you're not at employment sort of yet, I didn't have a lot of experience in this field and very little before I actually joined. But some of the it's kind of like make your own experiences. If you found a technology that you've got super interested in, like, oh, it's just, you know, something that's caught your eye off like, Oh, I wonder how this works. Can I make something with it? Or I want to make this thing, what tools can I use? Those sorts of side projects to build your own experience method which a person who has difficulty with big projects. Sometimes that hasn't been great for me, but we've had people applying if I think are currently out grads live and go, Oh, you know, I've got the specific interests and this is just the example that's come up. And today, like I've got a specific interest in that. I've tried splitting up this sort of thing with it in order to do this, even if it didn't work, if I tried this and I can see why this wasn't the right tool for it or, you know, this is a project I tried like I did it for like two weeks and then abandoned it because it but like once I'd done it, it wasn't interesting to go back to anymore. It's like I've tried a thing. I've learnt a bit more about how that works. I can see how I would use it in this context or it's yeah, build your own experience. Is that the available path? I think and the networking is kind of how you say, Hey, I've got this experience. Do you happen to know anyone who's also interested in this experience?
Speaker 1 [00:50:21] Sure. And so what do you think? Build your experience. How does someone demonstrate that, though? Do they create their own website and sort of post about it on their device? Like, how would you share that, that so that there's evidence that they could take forward in that application?
Speaker 3 [00:50:38] It's I need the if you've got your own website, I guess I feel like there's some sort of expectation of working this field to have your own website. I do not yet. I think I'd like tried it and it looks horrible. So I've told you where it is. If. But like, not even just a website or even just a hosted blog or LinkedIn posting something like, Hey, it's the thing I did. And that also demonstrates the like soft skills of can you present what you've done back to either your stakeholders or people with no technical background for people who do have a technical background. Different audiences for different writing. That's I'm interested in this thing. Let me tell you about it. Networking or on LinkedIn or in a blog post. I did this thing. Let me show you how it works of drawing a diagram of what works or actually show you the thing if you can. Not everything is going to be like that from a technical background. Like a website's easy to tell, like, hey, look how cool my website is. Look how cool my machine learning thing is. It's something that I've seen in videos. I think a colleague did want to like identify different types of cockroaches for some reason, which was weird but interesting. Yeah, we have been interesting. It's a good it's a bit of a feature in this sort of build. It's yeah. Really like. This is the thing I do. Let me tell you about it.
Speaker 1 [00:52:06] Yeah, well, I guess it just goes back to what we're talking about there in terms of it demonstrates the interest or the passion or the curiosity. So that's really interesting. What do you think, Matt, and do you have a website and I ask you that question?
Speaker 2 [00:52:21] No, I don't know. Like, I think websites are like business sites that if they're not updated often they kind of detract from the story. Yeah, I think if you if you rewind time, Steve Wozniak took his, you know crazy home built thing to a local networking event and started off. I feel like that's really all we're talking about you know 40 years later is go do stuff. I would say if you're struggling to think of the next idea, then don't come up with a new idea. Go look on open source projects. There are so many open source projects that would love the skills you've already gained from UOW to come and help them. Whether it's, you know, with some UI, whether it's some coding, whether it's even just answering some of the bug fix problems that they've got in their, you know, their issues backlog. And that stuff is it's easy to show that you've done stuff in an open source community for your potential employer, you know, so there's a whole pile of skills you gain from picking up an open source project, learning the card, figuring out how it all works, and then contributing something useful to it.
Speaker 1 [00:53:26] Yeah. Yeah. Look, that's fantastic advice. And I think, you know, it's really important, like you say, just to sort of get started and then widely later to way just not going to jump back in. That will start out because I guess it's a little bit about, you know, that demonstrating what we've done and a little bit in terms of networking. Have either of you used to use LinkedIn a lot or other sort of online networking platforms or how is that being used? Is LinkedIn something that you engage with and how can it be useful for connecting with people in your industry?
Speaker 2 [00:54:00] Yeah, I think LinkedIn is a really useful resource, especially once you start attending networking events or meeting other people, you be able to just connect and stay connected with them and then you start to become sort of aware of the events they're going to, which might cross over an interest area of your own, I find, yeah. Like almost as far as a professional sense. My LinkedIn is, is my, you know, public profile effectively. There's no way I'm Facebook friending you.
Speaker 1 [00:54:34] Yeah and it's not the right platform. What about you, Henri? Do you use LinkedIn and have you found it useful in terms of that online networking space and for a follow up as well?
Speaker 3 [00:54:45] Yeah, it has been it's like the professional Facebook in my experience. Like if I go to a social event like, hey, I know you told me your name at the beginning of this direction, but I've already forgotten it. Can you search for yourself on Facebook? On my phone? It's the professional version. Like you keep those lives completely separate to go, like, Hey, we met at this event. So that is like either lost to the void of I have a really bad facial recognition like can we connect on this and the sort of look even later on trying to find those people. Like I definitely met somebody who worked for this company and was interested in this and they might be a good fit for like this question I have. Or I'd like to form a panel about this topic just a bit to a major event that I'd like to work with, like we don't interact in a. And as that sort of like every day or friend level, but that connection stay there even if you aren't interacting much. And it kind of helps you locate you at the people with a specific interests. Oh, they've got them written down on LinkedIn. If I remember who this person is, they're face in the name of their they're working for the it's kind of keep the log of that so you don't have to remember all of those. And I hope it's doing the same for appearing for other people. I usually appear on my company's socials only when people over in the marketing department remember to do that, they're on top of it. I just turn up sometimes and they take them like cook.
Speaker 1 [00:56:29] But I think that's the thing, right, is that you can connect with people and forge those connections there, which is really helpful and you can draw on that straight away if you need to. Or it might be, you know, six months, a year, or a couple of years into the future. And you guys have got that connection and you can sort of follow them and see what they're doing. But it also means that once you've made that connection and you share, “Hey, I did this thing”, you know, I've been working on this great project. I've connected with this colleague. They're amazing. And you give them a shout out or whatever it is that you're posting on there. You are also staying on the radar of people that might be future colleagues, future employees, people that have those, you know, same interests and are like minded as well. Yeah. It's interesting. I'm pleased to hear that you're both sort of on there and enjoying that platform. Thank you so much to Mike. Thank you so much to Henri. So absolute pleasure to have you as part of our amazing alumni community and really appreciate your time for joining us as well. So, thank you all. Have a good night. Take care. And we'll see you at our next event. Thank you.
Mini-masterclass with Heba Abusedou
In 'Part 1: Presenting like a pro', Heba Abusedou, Founder of iSimplify Presentations, shares her tips and tricks for an amazing presentation and highlights the importance of competence over confidence.
Speaker 1 [00:00:04] Hello and welcome to the alumni anthology webinar series, where we explore the passion projects, skills and expertise of our amazing alumni community. The presentation today is brought to you from Heber. ABC drew an incredible alumnus who graduated from the UAW Dubai campus in 2018 with a master of Information Technology Management. Heba is now based in Toronto, where she works as an IT manager and systems analyst for the Toronto-Dominion Bank and its subsidiaries. He was also the founder of Ice Simplify Presentations, where she works with people to help them build their personal brand, tell meaningful stories and share their passions with the world. She is a mentor, a music junkie, a coach, a bookworm and presentations pro. Recently, he delivered a live virtual event for alumni across the world, and she was generous enough to allow us to record the discussion, and I am thrilled to bring you part one, which focuses on confidence, competence and techniques for an amazing presentation.
Speaker 2 [00:01:16] My name is Heba Abasi, though I live in Toronto. I am a I'm an alumni of the University of Wollongong Dubai campus. Most advice, I think when we think about confidence, which is like a huge a huge word when it comes to presentations, they fall short, in my opinion. So people tell you, you control, you control your thoughts. You can control how you feel. And my favourite, my favourite, fake it till you make it or you. All you have to do is decide to be confident. They all sound like those self-help books that tell you you have unlimited capacity for love and unlimited capacity for competence. And then you can be supermen and superwomen if you think if you practise confidence enough. But there's a problem with confidence. Confidence should not be a goal. It's hollow, really. It's your goal should not be to look confident. They tell you if you have certain posture, if you pace back and forth on the stage, if you speak really loud, if you use your arms all the time, you will look confident. You will. People will feel that you are confident. The truth is, and this is something that I learnt recently, is that competence is more important than confidence. Because people are here. Whatever the setup is, whatever it is that you're presenting, whether it's formal at work or telling a story to friends or you're at the bar sitting across the table from a friend telling us, telling them about your day or if you're a doctor telling a patient about something they really don't care much about your confidence or you looking confident. We want people to be confident, but we do not want that to be the goal when they think of presentations. A lot of people here, I'm sure, are introverts they identify as introverts, so to them, it doesn't really it doesn't really help them to say you need to present in a certain way. So I think of it as an athlete for Mo Farah is a long distance runner, and he didn't wake up one day and say, I'm going to focus on looking confident or being confident so I can finish a marathon. Instead, what more fair did? He went on long runs. He did speed training. He focussed on nutrition. He did strength training. And he was wearing the right footwear. And and to me, sports is the is the best metaphor for how you do things and how you live your life. Because that means that more, farai, I did not think about being confident. Instead, he trained very well so he can be confident or feel confident enough that he can actually finish the race. He can win the race. So attempting to focus on confidence might actually self-sabotage, because if that's all you think about when you present, you might end up feeling bad about yourself and then it's a cycle. You will never accept your speaking style. You will never accept that you, you speak a certain way. You're soft spoken or you loud or you just very self-reflective or you connect with your audience instead. I think attempts to improve your import performance and your expertise and your competence can genuinely boost your confidence because success your success can breed confidence in your competence can also build confidence. OK, so now the question is how do I, you know, that's all great. I want to stand up on the stage I want to present, and I want to feel confident, whether that's fake or not fake. I really want to do that, right? So what I want to tell you is that confidence is a by-product of something else. It comes hand-in-hand with competence. I want to change people's minds about the stereotypical image of what a confidence speaker looks like. We've seen that in Hollywood. We've seen that in all of these extroverted speakers. I'm an extrovert myself, but I don't really associate with how everybody is presented like a sales person image. I think what is more valuable is focussing on the actual message that you're delivering, because that's what people are here for. And the second thing is that I don't think self-confidence is the problem. I think a lot of people do not understand their strengths and limitations and do not accept them. So a friend of mine is an and he identifies as an introvert. So he's not very loud. He's really soft spoken, but he delivers amazing presentations. And that is because he connects really well with his audience, and he listens, he observes. And then he's very reflective. He gives people the chance to speak, to express themselves. So and he accepts his own speaking style. He knows that he cannot speak out loud in front of people, and that's OK with him. He accepts that, and that gives him the confidence in front of other people, and he's presenting. OK, so let's move to some practical tips. The recipe for confidence, like I said, is growing your competence. But most importantly, is learning to communicate and share your expertise. It's not enough that you have the competence I got to tell you you can. You can be the most expert in the world. And we all know that a lot of people have amazing expertise, but they don't know how to deliver it. And then what, after you after you've learnt to communicate your expertise, which is a huge part of the deal, honestly, after you've build your expertise, you need to learn how to connect with your audience, understand the context and communicate your message, so understand the context of your message. Your context might be different for different audience. So you have to learn about that. And what does that look like? Is, for example, if you are telling your friend across the table from you a story about your day, it's going to be completely different from you, from when you were standing in front of a panel or executives or pitching. That's all different. You can't care. It's it's the same skillset, but you have to tailor it together. You are presenting to you and then focus on delivering a value message. I'm going to start with the first one, and that is really, really famous. I love it. I applied everywhere. It's called the rule of three I have. I honestly have the memory of the goldfish. So if you stand in front of me with a wall of text, text and then you present for 15 minutes, my brain goes, la la la la la la. Like, it's just all over the place. You lose me. I'm like, Oh my phone checking Instagram. So I like to have structure when I look at a presentation, whether it's slide or it's just somebody speaking right? What is the role of rule of streaming? It means you. Let's let's say you're you're really presenting about rocket science. OK. It's like really complex. Pick the three top topics that you want to talk about and focus on those. OK? And then organise all of your content in your presentation or your story under these three main categories. The second technique that I like, it's something that one of my favourite YouTubers has told me about because I was really scared of recording myself on video and putting the video on Instagram for like Instagram Reels. He said The technique, I don't know the name I call it, tell them. So what he said you should do is tell people what you're going to tell them or what we call the bottom line on top. So start with the main idea and what you want to share with people and they say, say, tell them what you're going to tell them and then tell them and then tell them what you told them. It's like it's really simple. But once you get used to it, you'll find it very useful. It's very handy when you're like having having to prepare for a presentation in the next 15 minutes and you're like, What the hell do we do now? I don't know what to put in this presentation. Just focus on these three points. And the last technique, which is also one of my favourites. It's called structuring your presentation if you're presenting a problem or a solution. I also use that for one of the videos I prepared to explain something on social media. Start with the bottom line on top, whatever it is that you want to present, then talk about the pain points. Use words like what most people struggle with is or what is stopping people from doing something else. And then you get people's attention because. If you are presenting a solution, people, you want people to connect with the pain point that you're presenting, otherwise you've lost them. They're like, I don't know. You know, I don't I don't relate to this. So I'm not, I'm not going to discontinue listening to you. And then after that, tell people why it matters. I suggest I tell people that they should explicitly and say exactly why it matters, because it really matters that you tell people why it matters. That's no pun intended. And then tell people how you're addressing these pain points and then summarise key points. So let's say I want to explain to you what it is that confidence versus competence. So the bottom line on top is competence is much more important than confidence. What most people struggle with when they think of presentations is that they think is confidence is the problem. Why you should care is because you can have control over your competence, which eventually builds your confidence. How can you solve that problem? One. You can work on your competence, too. You can find ways to communicate your message and then you will grow your confidence. In in brief, competence is better than confidence or more important. It's people. It's something that most people struggle with. And what you can do is follow the rule of three or structure your presentation or follow the technique that I call tell them. So that's just an example. So it's not a secret anymore, though. When I put the slides, it was a secret. Improvement breeds confidence. The competence also breeds confidence and success breeds confidence. What's more important is that you take action and then you work on your confidence instead of sitting and sulking in that feeling. I'm really shy, can't stand in front of people and all of that.
Mini-masterclass with Heba Abusedou. Part 1: Presenting like a pro
Heba shares her tips and tricks for an amazing presentation and highlights the importance of competence over confidence.
About Heba Abusedou: Heba is the Founder of iSimplify Presentations where she works with people to help them build their personal brand, tell meaningful stories and share their passions with the world. She is a mentor, music-junkie, coach, bookworm and presentation pro.
Watch 'Presenting like a pro' (YouTube)
Mini-masterclass with Heba Abusedou. Part 2: Personal branding
Heba focuses on personal branding and offers advice for developing self-awareness and self-acceptance, so that we can ‘plant our flag’ and share our passions with the world.
About Heba Abusedou: Heba is the Founder of iSimplify Presentations where she works with people to help them build their personal brand, tell meaningful stories and share their passions with the world. She is a mentor, music-junkie, coach, bookworm and presentation pro.
Watch 'Personal branding' (YouTube)
Live Large: How to forge an international career
A live panel discussion featuring Luke Zadkovich, Aiden Lerch and Lucy Noble from international law firm Zeiler Floyd Zadkovich. Luke, Aiden and Lucy share their valuable insights on career development, networking, and forging the professional life you really want.
What I wish I knew… embarking on parental leave
Alumni Cathy Cameron and Renee Whiteside discuss balancing career and kids, and offer some handy tips and tricks for new parents.
I don’t want no snobs: Art appreciation for everyone
Join artist, writer and curator Glenn Barkley as he shares some of his favourite artworks with us. Glenn is a big fan of Yolgnu artist Marrnyula Mununggurr, whose work can also be found within the UOW Art Collection.
From engineer to entrepreneur: Bec Pink
Founder of the Natural Gift Collective, UOW alumna, Bec Pink, shares how she transformed her side-hustle into a full-time business underpinned by a passion for sustainability, design, creativity and connection.
Superstar of STEM: Dr Marian Wong
Marine biologist and Senior Lecturer at the Centre for Sustainable Ecosystem Solutions at UOW, Dr Marian Wong shares how her research lab uses marine and freshwater fish to understand the evolution of conflict, cooperation, group-living and mating systems.
Borderless careers: with Matt Moffitt
Once described as a digital nomad, Matt talks through his journey towards a borderless career, the transformative experience of cultural immersion and navigating his own identity and values.
Diversity and inclusion evangelist: Lilian Kikuvi
UOW alumna, Lilian Kikuvi, speaks about her personal experience of being a woman of colour in Australia, prompting her to become an advocate for gender and cultural equality in corporate Australia.
Leading through challenging times: Adam Gilchrist
Universally acknowledged for his leadership and contribution to the Australian cricket team and game of cricket, Adam Gilchrist AM shares some insights about leadership, resilience and determination.
Champion of change: Carol Kiernan
UOW alumna Carol Kiernan has been instrumental in achieving equality for women in the Australian Honours by co-founding 'Honour a Woman'.