Griffith University scientist named Australian of the Year

Griffith University Emeritus Professor Alan Mackay-Sim is the 2017 Queensland Australian of the Year.
Griffith University Professor Emeritus Alan Mackay-Sim is the 2017 Queensland Australian of the Year.


Emeritus Professor Alan Mackay-Sim has been honoured as this year’s Australian of the Year recipient.

The retired biomedical scientist accepted the prestigious award during a live announcement at Parliament House in Canberra on Australia Day eve.

Professor Mackay-Sim's 'personal object' on display at the Australian National Museum in an exhibition for the Australian of the Year awards.
Professor Mackay-Sim’s ‘personal object’ on display at the Australian National Museum in an exhibition for the Australian of the Year awards.

Professor Mackay-Sim has spent his career researching how nerve cells in the nose regenerate and pioneered a way to safely apply that same regenerative process to damaged spinal cords.

Recognised as the 2003 Queenslander of the Year and the 2017 Queensland Australian of the Year, Professor Mackay-Sim will now spend the next year fulfilling his duties for the Australian title while still overseeing several research projects at the Griffith Institute for Drug Discovery.

Those projects include stem cell research into treatments for conditions such as schizophrenia, Parkinson’s disease and Hereditary Spastic Paraplegia.

“This is a wonderful opportunity to talk about the importance of research on spinal cord injury and brain diseases,” Professor Mackay-Sim said in his speech.

“About new treatments using stem cells and cell transplantation, undreamed of 20 years ago. About how we must, as Australians, prioritise our spending so that we can afford not only to look after the diseased and disabled in our communities but also to afford the research for new and radical treatments to reduce future health costs.

“As a nation we must be part of this. And we must invest in young scientists.”

University response to media reports

Professor Mackay-Sim highlighted the vital need for continued support and funding for research to ensure this life changing work isn’t compromised.

Vice Chancellor Professor Ian O’Connor congratulated Professor Mackay-Sim on his national award.

“Griffith University is extremely proud to have such a remarkable man and scientist among us,” he said.

“Alan’s research has laid the foundation for global efforts to use stem cell surgery to repair spinal cord injury. It is an extraordinary field.

“He is a deserved recipient of Australian of the Year and we join the rest of the country in applauding him.”

Pro Vice Chancellor (Sciences) Professor Andrew Smith said:  “We are delighted Emeritus Professor Alan Mackay-Sim and his research has been recognised at the highest level. Griffith Sciences Group remains committed to supporting this pioneering stem cell research towards new innovative treatments for spinal injury.”

Professor Alan Mackay-Sim
Professor Alan Mackay-Sim

Leading the world in stem cell research

Dr James St John explains his research alongside Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk
Dr James St John explains his research alongside Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk

A  new medical research centre established at Griffith University is offering hope to those suffering from spinal cord injury – progressing ground-breaking work that could see paralysed patients walking and feeling again.

Researchers at the Griffith University Clem Jones Centre for Neurobiology and Stem Cell Research, opened this week by Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk, are preparing to conduct clinical trials by 2018 focused on restoring motor and sensory function to badly injured people.

Research team leader Dr James St John said the initiative was building on research conducted around the world in the past 20 years, which involved transplanting olfactory ensheathing cells from the nose into injured spinal cords to form a cellular bridge. This enables nerve cells to regenerate and make functional motor and sensory connections.

“The medical research being done here at this centre could transform the lives of people with an acquired brain injury or a spinal injury. And the first tests are very encouraging,” the Premier said at Thursday’s opening.

“I want to thank (Vice Chancellor) Ian O’Connor and Dr James St John for the outstanding leadership happening here at Griffith University.

“This is about taking medical research to the next steps. It is ground breaking research.”

Repairing spinal cords

Dr St John said his team was currently focused on refining cellular aspects of the process, which was a crucial part of repairing spinal cords and could also have implications for the treatment of acquired brain injuries.

“This exciting therapy now offers hope to those who live with spinal cord injury that paralysis does not have to be forever,” he said.

“To some degree, it is already proven that this process can work but we need to improve the results.

“One of the keys to that is working out how to stimulate the cells to grow and migrate faster and to find specific cells that do those things when we need them to.

“We are getting some fantastic results already and are unbelievably excited about it.”

Building on global success

There has been some success in restoring movement to paralysed patients with the use of robots but so far researchers have been unable to work out how to re-establish the sensations of touch and temperature. Both motor and sensory function could be restored with cellular therapy.

Dr St John said an innovative approach was being used to get the results needed to progress to the clinical trial phase, which involved improved cell purification, 3D bioprinting and natural product drug discovery.

The therapy has its origins in Queensland with now retired Prof Alan Mackay-Sim, from Griffith University’s Eskitis Institute, who led the world’s first phase one clinical trial in 2002, which demonstrated its safety in patients with spinal paralysis.

More than 12,000 Australians currently live with spinal paralysis and each year 300 people are diagnosed with the condition.

Speech pathology students take out Queensland Health jobs

Griffith’s Master of Speech Pathology department is delighted following the amazing success of five of its graduating students who are set to take on jobs with Queensland Health.

The Master of Speech Pathology program at Griffith is relatively new, having launched in 2012, and now its second student cohort is about to graduate. “We had great success last year in the Queensland Health new graduate position round. Out of 6 speech pathology positions, our students gained three of these, which delighted us as a new program,” says discipline head Associate Professor Elizabeth Cardell from the Griffith Health Institute.

“These positions are highly competitive and much sought after by graduating students from all speech pathology programs.” “This year, five new graduate positions were offered including Gold Coast University Hospital, the Gold Coast Child Development and Behaviour Service, Logan Hospital, Princess Alexandra Hospital and the Royal Brisbane Hospital.

High quality, work-ready graduates

“We are thrilled that this year, our students were successful in being offered all five positions. It also shows that our program is achieving its aims in in providing high quality, work-ready graduates for the speech pathology sector.”

Second year Master of Speech Pathology student Jodie Connolly is set to begin a oneyear full time position at the Princess Alexandra Hospital in Brisbane early next year.

“It was a tough interview process but I am so thrilled to have got a position in the Brain Injury and Rehabilitation Unit at the hospital,” says Jodie. “I am not sure exactly what all my responsibilities will entail yet but I will be assisting people with brain injuries with their swallowing and communication difficulties.”

She says the Griffith program has been very beneficial in providing a framework for real life work.

“We were provided with a high level of clinical and theory work, as well as diverse previous placement opportunities, so this next step will really be an extension of that,” she says.

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Griffith grad named Australasian Junior Doctor of the Year

Supporting young doctors as an educator and trainer has been the passion for Dr Kat Curtis, who has been named Australasian Junior Doctor of the Year at the Postgraduate Medical Education Council Awards.

A Griffith Medicine graduate from 2011, Kat originally worked at the Mater Hospital in Brisbane, before joining Bundaberg Hospital this year as a principal house officer in general surgery.

“This is a great honour for me and a great encouragement but I never really expected it,” said Kat, 30.

“Supporting other young doctors as an educator and trainer of surgical treatment is something that I am really passionate about and it is great to be recognised for it.”

A registrar in Bundaberg

Dr Curtis accepted a registrar position at Bundaberg Hospital in August.

“The position provided me with an opportunity to enjoy both clinical and surgical work in a diverse range of medical fields where I could gain experience and develop my skillset.”

Dr Curtis has also served on several peer and professional organisations including Chair of the Junior Medical Officer Forum, committee member for Queensland Women’s Medical Society and Queensland’s representative to Australian Junior Medical Officer Committee.

She said she remembers her time on the Griffith Medicine program very fondly.

“My Griffith years were brilliant, partly due to the way the third and final years were structured. We focussed on a broad range of specialities in various settings including general practice, intensive care and emergency.

“Having that kind of knowledge and experience behind you is invaluable and really prepares you for your future career.”

The Wide Bay Hospital and Health Service chairman Dominic Devine praised Dr Curtis for being recognised for her commitment to the field of medicine.

“Receiving this award is due recognition of Dr Curtis’ hard work, effort and dedication to health care,” Mr Devine said.

“It is great to see a young doctor who has made such a strong commitment to supporting and training her colleagues be recognised with this award.”

Turkey Prime Minister makes development a G20 priority

Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu at the Pre G20 Summit Conference. Griffith Vice Chancellor Professor Ian O'Connor is pictured in the background.
Turkish Prime Minister Professor Ahmet Davutoglu at the Pre G20 Summit Conference in Brisbane.

Global inter-connectedness and an integrated approach to economic politics set the tone when the Turkish Prime Minister addressed a Pre G20 Summit Conference in Brisbane.

Professor Ahmet Davutoglu’s speech closed the two-day event hosted by Griffith University with the G20 Research Group, University of Toronto.

The 26th head of Turkey also placed the spotlight firmly on climate change, development and the Ebola crisis in a far-reaching 40-minute delivery.

“Countries should be working shoulder to shoulder to address the crises of humanity,” he said.

More G20 Summit news

Griffith G20 events, experts and research

He outlined his view of a global economy now connected by technology rather than geography as in the past.

“Financially, nobody is safe and secure. No nation is an island. Money flows and recognises no borders in this global age,” he said.

He described issues of climate change as “ontological rather than political”pointing to its potential impact on human existence.

The Ebola outbreak from Africa provided an example of modern global connectedness. “Everything is spreading faster. This is not just a health issue. But if the G20 agenda is only limited to financial issues, the G20 can’t have global legitimacy in addressing challenges like Ebola.”

G20 Presidency

Professor Davutoglu also looked ahead to Turkey’s upcoming term as president of the G20, and put development at the top of his list of priorities. The list also covered employment, energy, inclusivity, climate change and the refugee crisis.

He explained that integrating low income countries into the international economic system would be crucial to development, and efficient mechanisms of trade would be important in this context.

“History has shown us that inter-connected and interdependent economies are the best way to achieve peace.”

Vice Chancellor Professor Ian O’Connor described the Turkish Prime Minister’s address as extraordinary. “We can think of no better person to address this group today,” he said.

GIFT stands tall on World Tourism Day

Griffith Institute for Tourism (GIFT) research aligns well with the tourism and community theme of World Tourism Day on the 27th September
Griffith Institute for Tourism (GIFT) research aligns well with the tourism and community theme of World Tourism Day on the 27th September

The Griffith Institute for Tourism (GIFT) is harnessing the ‘tourism and community development’ theme of World Tourism Day 2014, to be held this Saturday, September 27.

“Tourism is a people-based economic activity built on social interaction, and as such can only prosper if it engages the local population by contributing to social values such as participation, education and enhanced local governance,” emphasises Talib Rifai, Secretary General United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO).

This year’s World Tourism Day draws special attention to the role of tourism in contributing to one of the building blocks of a more sustainable future for all: Community development. This focus is in line with the global transition to the Sustainable Development Goals as the guiding principle promoted by the UN from 2015 and beyond.

GIFT researchers are contributing to sustainable tourism development at multiple levels.

GIFT Director, Prof. Susanne Becken announced a new partnership at the Third United Nations International Conference on Small Island Developing States, to work with key agencies globally, and in the region to enhance tourism resilience. The impacts of climate change and extreme weather events are a key focus of this new partnership.

“Reducing vulnerabilities to disasters is an absolute must if we want to achieve any real progress in terms of sustainable development,” highlights Prof. Becken.


Elsewhere, GIFT Adjunct Professor, Steve Noakes continues inputs to an international consultancy in Myanmar on a tourism business development project, focusing on micro/small enterprises in impoverished communities. This is all part of the A$9 million Business Innovation Facility program in Myanmar that is funded by the UK Government.

Across the past few years, Myanmar has experienced significant double-digit growth in international arrivals, with the first five months of 2014 having seen a massive 46% increase in arrivals.

“My work in Myanmar has been focussed on supporting local tourism related businesses to adjust their business in ways that create more jobs, opportunities, products and services for the local community,” confirmed Adjunct Professor Noakes.

“With such a rapidly expanding tourism industry we are calling on researchers to invest their time and effort into the project to ensure sustainability of the Myanmar tourism industry.

“Despite the obvious economic positives of the current situation, there is also potential for problems to manifest as the destination grapples with the economic, social and environmental consequences of rapid tourism growth.”

Sharing lessons learned across the various projects in different parts of the Asia Pacific region is critical to maximise progress towards sustainable development.

“The diversity of our projects and global partnerships, including important links with the UNWTO, are a real plus for our research team at GIFT,” added Prof. Becken.

Stakeholders interested in discussing GIFT’s tourism research needs and opportunities, can contact Professor Becken at

Griffith among world’s best universities

Griffith University is among the top 400 in the world and its Business studies are ranked in the top 200 in the 2014 Academic Rankings of World Universities
Griffith University is among the top 400 in the world and its Business studies are ranked in the top 200 in the 2014 Academic Rankings of World Universities

Griffith University has affirmed its place among the top universities in the world with the release today of the 2014 Academic Rankings of World Universities.

Griffith was again ranked in the top 400 universities from more than 10,000 institutions globally.

This is the third consecutive year Griffith has been ranked in the top 4% of world universities by the prestigious ARWU index.

It is one of only two southeast Queensland universities ranked in top 500. (Results are released only for the first 500).

“This result is an endorsement of Griffith’s direction over the last decade or so and comes as a result of the significant investment we have made in research, facilities and teaching and learning,” said Vice Chancellor Professor Ian O’Connor.

“It is significant for our students and staff, showcasing Griffith as the truly world-class university that they have helped create and continue to build,” Professor O’Connor said.

Griffith was also ranked in top 200 universities worldwide for Social Sciences and in Business/Economics, making it one of Australia’s leaders in both these fields.

Find out how you can study at Griffith, one of the world’s leading universities

Griffith research excellence honoured

Dr Glenda Andrews and VC Professor Ian O'Connor
Vice Chancellor Professor Ian O'Connor with Dr Glenda Andrews, representing the Applied Cognitive Neuroscience winning research team

The diversity, quality and importance of Griffith University research was celebrated last night with the announcement of the 2014 Vice Chancellor’s Research Excellence Awards.

Researchers in fields as diverse as war crimes, quantum physics, neuroscience and the role of nursing in improving patient outcomes were all honoured at last night’s awards which were held for the first time at the Sir Samuel Griffith Centre at Nathan.

Vice Chancellor Professor Ian O’Connor said the past year had been one of extraordinary research achievements across disciplines.

“It’s also an interesting time for research given the changes foreshadowed in the recent Federal Budget,” he said. “However, Griffith University’s capacity to respond and adapt will ensure we navigate a pathway through and continue to build on our reputation as a research university.”

Professor O’Connor congratulated the winners in each category and commended the far-reaching benefits and diversity of their research, adding their dedication to advancing scholarly knowledge was helping to transform our world.

The winners in each of the award categories are:

Dr Olivera Simic from the Griffith Law School received the award for excellence in an early career researcher for her work in transitional justice and accountability for war crimes, in particular genocide; the involvement and accountability of UN peacekeepers in transnational organised crimes, such as human trafficking; the accountability and involvement of UN civilian police officers in sexual exploitation and abuse; and local perspectives on war crimes including the ways that local actors have dealt with the past.

The award for excellence in an individual mid-career or senior researcher went to Professor Geoff Pryde from the Centre for Quantum Dynamics. Professor Pryde has been recognised for his outstanding research into the strange properties of the quantum world and how they can be harnessed to revolutionise technology in information processing, communications and precision measurement.

His research program aims to make fundamental advances in the theoretical and experimental understanding of quantum systems (especially photons), and use these advances as resources to make significant progress in developing quantum technologies including quantum computers, quantum communications and quantum-enhanced measurements.

The work of Professor Wendy Chaboyer, Centre for Health Practice Innovation in the Griffith Health Institute, was recognised with the research leadership award. Professor Chaboyer’s research focuses on patient safety and the role nurses play in improving the quality of hospital care and patient outcomes, particularly preventing or mitigating patient risk through care provided 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Professor Jane Hughes from the Australian Rivers Institute was recognised for her distinguished record in research supervision.

Professor Jane Hughes and Dr Glenda Andrews
Research Excellence award-winners Professor Jane Hughes and Dr Olivera Simic

Professor Hughes has supervised, either as Principal or Co-Principal Supervisor, a total of 57 honours students with 37 being awarded First Class Honours.  Furthermore, three students have been awarded University Medals and 38 Honours students have gone on to do PhDs, 29 of them under Professor Hughes’ supervision.

Professor Hughes has also supervised 61 Higher Degree Research (HDR) students to completion, 48 as Principal or Co-Principal Supervisor, eight as Associate Supervisor and five as External Supervisor.

The Vice Chancellor’s Research Excellence Award for a research group or team went to Applied Cognitive Neuroscience: Improving Human Functioning by Understanding Brain-Behaviour Relationships (Professor David Shum, Associate Professor David Neumann, Dr Glenda Andrews and Associate Professor Allison Waters). The team seeks to join the particular expertise each has in order to address central issues in attention, memory, learning, executive functioning and problem solving that have their analogues in the class-room, rehabilitation clinic and mental health service.

Griffith in World’s Top 100 Universities under 50

Griffith Uni sign

Griffith University has been ranked 84th in the world’s top 100 universities under 50 years old.

The Times Higher Education Top 100 Under 50 rankings, are a global list of universities under the age of 50.

Vice-Chancellor and President of Griffith University, Professor Ian O’Connor said the ranking was endorsement of the strategic and ambitious path the university was following which focused on strengthening the quality of its teaching and research, particularly within a number of selected areas.

“Being ranked 84 in the THE 100 Under 50 rankings confirms Griffith’s international standing” he said.

“The world of higher education is truly global and we need to evolve to meet this new reality. We are committed to enhancing the international reputation of the University through both quality teaching and research excellence, and this ranking is proof that we are well on our way to achieving this.”

THE Editor-at-Large and Rankings Editor Phil Baty agreed.

“The academy’s traditional, ancient elite should be warned – many of the exciting young universities on this forward-looking list do not see their youth as a disadvantage in the global knowledge economy.

“While they may not have had centuries to accumulate wealth and cannot draw on generations of alumni and rich traditions of scholarship to drive their reputations, they are free from the burdens of history: free to be more agile, lean, flexible and risk-taking, giving them an advantage in a rapidly changing global marketplace; free to offer innovative teaching and focus their research on niche, high-impact areas.

“So, Griffith has joined a prestigious list of some truly exciting and dynamic institutions. To feature in such a list against such tough global competition is a great achievement,” Mr Baty said.

Euro travellers more environmentally conscious

European travellers into Australia are more likely to support voluntary carbon off-setting measures than their Asian counterparts, a new study has revealed.

Collaborative research involving the Griffith Institute for Tourism and Tourism Research Australia suggests more knowledge about Asian attitudes towards sustainability is required to optimise support for voluntary carbon off-setting practices among this most crucial inbound market sector.

Click here for Carbon Offsetting Infographic

“There is a definitive gap between European and Asian country attitudes towards carbon off-setting travel habits,” confirmed Dr Char-Lee McLennan.

“There is greater prevalence of this trend among the more mature European and United Kingdom markets as opposed to the emerging growth markets of Asia.

“A better informed population that is more readily exposed to social marketing and media coverage of the issues relating to our carbon footprint are more likely to be supportive of carbon off-setting initiatives.

“Australia’s geographic proximity to the growth markets of Asia dictates that more work needs to be done in this area.”

Dr McLennan believes further research on Asian travellers’ environmental perceptions and behaviours, and how these perceptions are developed, is important.

Voluntary carbon-offsetting was popularised during the last decade, particularly by airlines, as a tool to ‘neutralise’ emissions associated with travel.

“Overall support of voluntary carbon off-setting schemes is still quite low among inbound travellers,” she said.

“However there is evidence to suggest a stable market for carbon off-setting is being established. This will be of particular interest to companies looking to tap into the environmentally conscious traveller market.”

The research, based on data collected between 2008 and 2010, also provides key demographic characteristics and travel trends of those people more likely to make voluntary payments to offset their carbon emissions.

The research raises important questions with respect to tourists’ sustainable travel behaviour and those who engage in it, with the findings indicating that social marketing and the stage of economic development in a country could influence visitors’ sustainable behaviour and mitigation activities.

Class of 2013 take the stage

Griffith graduation ceremonies

More than 7700 students will graduate from Griffith University at ceremonies on the Gold Coast and Brisbane over the next two weeks.

Graduation season begins at the Gold Coast Convention and Entertainment Centre today (Monday 9 December) with three separate ceremonies for Arts, Education and Law students, Griffith business students and science, engineering, environment and technology students plus a cohort of postgraduate business students.

The Gold Coast will celebrate the graduation more than 2000 students in attendance from the fields of arts, business, education, law, languages, health and sciences as they don their mortar boards and gowns for afternoon and evening ceremonies.

The Brisbane ceremonies for students from the Logan, Mt Gravatt, Nathan and South Bank campuses will run from 16 to 18 December and celebrate the graduation with more than 2700 students in attendance.

There will be 14 graduation ceremonies in all with 14 guest speakers set to inspire and five Honorary Doctorates to be awarded.

Guest speakers at the ceremonies include:

Gold Coast, December 9

Mr Matthew Hall – Partner at Swaab and Chair of the QCGU Advisory board)

Ms Helen Conway – Director, Workplace Gender Equality Agency

Ms Sarah Marsanich – Geotechnical Engineer at AECOM and Griffith Alumnus,

Gold Coast, December 10

Mrs Daphne Pirie AO, MBE – Founding President of Womensport Queensland

Dr John Kearney OAM – Gold Coast Eye Clinic and member of the Gold Advisory board

Professor Emeritus John O’Gorman – Foundation Professor of Psychology at Griffith University

Brisbane, December 16

Professor Jeff Dunn – CEO, Cancer Council Queensland

Ms Cheryle Royle – General Manager, St Vincents Private Hospital Brisbane

Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston AC, AFC (Retired) – Doctor of the University recipient

Ms Rachel Hunter DUniv and member of the Griffith Council

Brisbane, December 17

Dr Nancy Underhill  – Doctor of the University

Dr Des Power – Doctor of the University

Brisbane, December 18

Mr Ian Brusasco AO – Doctor of the University

Professor Emeritus Nancy Viviani – Doctor of the University

Over 130,000 alumni from more than 130 countries have graduated from Griffith University since its opening its doors in 1975.

You can watch the ceremonies live at – #griffithgrads

Minister announces ARC grants for research

Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) Facility
Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) Facility

Griffith University has received more than $14 million in Australian Research Grants to help drive the nation to know more and do more.

Griffith’s Eskitis Institute, led by Professor Ron Quinn, receives a $2 million Linkage Infrastructure, Equipment and Facilities grant for nuclear magnetic resonance equipment. It will be a facility used by five universities for molecular level research.

Dr Sara Davies from the Centre for Governance and Public Policy, receives two grants totalling more than $1 million. She has $697,000 for a project looking at whether invoking international health issues as security threats leads to greater diplomatic success and investment. Another $380,000 will be used investigating sexual and gender based violence.

Dr Lara Herrero, of the Institute for Glycomics, receives $386,000 for the study of disease and virus transmission mechanism in mosquitos, using a world-first strategy. Hers is one of 17 Griffith projects to receive ARC Discovery funding, totalling $6.26m for the University.

The funding is part of $522 million Australia-wide announced today by the Minister for Education, Christopher Pyne.

A total of 1177 new research projects are funded as part of the ARC’s Future Fellowships scheme and major grants schemes.

Mr Pyne paid particular tribute to Dr Herrero’s project.

“There is currently a significant gap over the basic transmission mechanisms in mosquitoes. This is important research that could save lives,” he said as he highlighted the work done across Queensland.

Four other Griffith projects received $1.51m in grants for Discovery Early Career Research awards.

Another six received a total of $4.55m between them under the Future Fellowships.

Dr Erik Streed is one Griffith researcher to receive a Future Fellowship and he will oversee a collaboration between Glycomics and the Centre for Quantum Dynamics.

“The research I have been doing with single atoms I am now applying to biomolecules.

“Like we did with holding the single atom still with electrical forces, we are now holding biomolecules so they aren’t touching anything so we can poke and prod them to see how they work.

“The key thing is this is a different way of looking at it and hopefully a very flexible one.”

The work will be done in a joint laboratory to take advantage of the cross over between the physical sciences and the life sciences.

“Some really fantastic things can happen in that space,” Dr Streed said.

Griffith is also involved in two major collaborative projects headed up by The University of Queensland. Funding of $1m will go towards high-performance computer analysis of intensive data and another $249,000 for high-resolution mass spectrometry.

Griffith scientist part of Multiple Sclerosis breakthrough

Professor Simon Broadley

A Griffith University medical scientist is part of an international team which has made a key discovery in the effort to find the cause and cure of Multiple Sclerosis (MS).

The Griffith Health Institute’s Professor Simon Broadley is working under the umbrella of the International Multiple Sclerosis Genetics Consortium (IMSGC) and has identified 48 previously unknown genetic variants that influence the risk of developing MS.

The discovery nearly doubles the number of known genetic risk factors and thereby provides additional key insights into the biology of this debilitating neurological condition.

“Getting to the source of this terrible condition is a key focus for medical scientists around the world. This new information is a significant step forward in unlocking the genetic code of the disease,” Professor Broadley said.

A central role played by the immune system

The genes implicated by the newly identified associations underline the central role played by the immune system in the development of MS and show substantial overlap with genes known to be involved in other autoimmune diseases such as inflammatory bowel disease, Crohn’s disease and Coeliac disease.

“It shows why this search for a cure of MS is so important. It will take us to new areas of understanding of the human body and its functions and new areas of therapy. This will assist many more conditions than just MS,” he said.

The study published today in the medical journal, Nature Genetics, is the largest investigation of MS genetics to date.

The international team consist of 193 investigators from 84 research groups in 13 countries, led by the University of Miami, Miller School of Medicine.

The Australia and New Zealand branch is led by Associate Professor David Booth, MS Research Australia Senior Research Fellow from the Westmead Millennium Institute, University of Sydney with fellow scientists from the ANZgene Consortium (Australia and New Zealand MS Genetics Consortium). DNA from blood samples from 80,000 people both with and without MS were examined, 1800 of which came from Australia and New Zealand.

“This discovery really demonstrates the power of global scientific collaboration in finding answers to some of our most pressing problems. MS is the most common neurological condition in young people,” Professor Broadley said. Dr. Jacob McCauley from the University of Miami (who led the study on behalf of the IMSGC), commented further on the significance of the work and nature of the collaboration.

“By further refining the genetic landscape of multiple sclerosis and identifying novel genetic associations, we are closer to being able to identify the cellular and molecular processes responsible for MS and therefore the specific biological targets for future drug treatment strategies,” said Dr. McCauley.

Dr. Matthew Miles, MS Research Australia’s CEO said “MS Research Australia is proud to have provided foundation funding and continued support to the ANZgene Consortium. This work is a huge contribution to our understanding of MS and will underpin intensified efforts to translate these genetic findings into new therapies to reduce the impact of this condition for people with MS world-wide.”

There is currently no cure for MS.

Griffith consolidates among world’s best universities

Griffith University is firmly established in the top five percent of world universities
Griffith University is firmly established in the top five percent of world universities

Griffith University is now firmly established among the world’s best, ranking in the top five percent of universities globally for the third year in a row.

Today’s release of the Academic Ranking of World Universities (ARWU, formerly Shanghai Jiao Tong Index) shows Griffith in the 301-400 band of world institutions, the same position it held in 2012 and up from its 2011 position of top 500.

Vice Chancellor Professor Ian O’Connor said he was pleased to see Griffith’s continued strong showing on the world stage.

“The Academic Ranking of World Universities is one of  the most prestigious and substantial of all ranking systems and Griffith has been recognised over the past few years for its rapid and significant advancement,” he said.

Only the top 500 of the 10,000 or more tertiary institutions in the world are listed, with Harvard ranked number one globally. Griffith is one of only two southeast Queensland universities in the top 400.

The ARWU also ranks disciplines within universities and Griffith is in the top 200 for social sciences.

“Griffith is now well and truly established among the leading universities in the world,” Professor O’Connor said.

“Continued strong performance comes on the back of Griffith opening our new $150 million Griffith Health Centre, the $40m Sir Samuel Griffith centre, a six green-star rated low-emissions building, the new $21m Learning Commons, new online courses and enhanced learning experiences for students.”

The ARWU is conducted by researchers at the Center for World-Class Universities of Shanghai Jiao Tong University.

See the top 500 list here:

Griffith Health Centre prepares to open

Pro Vice Chancellor (Health) Professor Allan Cripps in front of the Griffith Health Centre. Photo montage: Tina Reed

The new $150m Griffith Health Centre is finally preparing to open its doors to the community.

With expanded clinical services and a wealth of new student learning opportunities, the primary health care facility – set to be officially opened on Friday July 19 by Her Excellency The Honourable Quentin Bryce AC CVO – will operate alongside the new Gold Coast University Hospital and focus on Chronic Disease Management and Sports Health.

In addition to the teaching, learning and research, there will be five individual clinical facilities which will initially operate within the Griffith Health Centre and which will be known as the Griffith Health Clinics. These clinics will comprise dentistry; physiotherapy/rehabilitation; exercise physiology; psychology and dietetics.

This is then expected to expand next year to include speech pathology; medicine (general practice); nursing & midwifery; clinical pharmacy; social work and occupational therapy.

“It’s been a challenging period, however we are almost there and we are really excited about what the Griffith Health Clinics will have to offer the local and academic communities,” says clinical services director Jenny McDonald.

A significant logistical operation

“Not only has there been a whole host of new equipment and technology purchased for the Centre, but there has been a significant logistical operation involved in moving the contents of the three previous Griffith Health buildings over to the new location. Two of these were on the Parklands Campus and the other was the Centre for Medicine & Oral Health located in Southport, which housed the 54 chair Griffith Dental Clinic.

“Whilst we have purchased 42 new state-of-the-art dental chairs for our new dentistry facility, we have relocated and upgraded a further 54 chairs from the old clinic.

“Unfortunately the time allocated to do the dismantling and installation of these was during very heavy rain so it was extremely challenging for those involved and it took longer than expected.”

22 X-ray units have been relocated and installed at the Centre’s new Dentistry Clinic, with a further 22 new ones expected to arrive imminently.

Dentistry students can also look forward to the installation of Simodonts, which are cutting-edge simulators that can be used to practice dental procedures in a realistic virtual environment.

Meanwhile, the psychology services located at the Centre are being prepared with the installation of a sophisticated hi-tech program designed to facilitate the supervision of psychology interns during their clinical practice sessions.

Queensland’s only plastination lab

Queensland’s only plastination lab is also set to be established at the Centre, for the preservation and exhibition of body part samples. The teaching and learning facility, which will be located on the 10th floor, is a purpose-built space which will be managed by a team of German-trained staff. Plastination was invented in 1977 by the controversial German doctor Gunther von Hagens and involves the removal of a body’s water and fat and then replacement with special plastics.

Nine consultancy/therapy rooms alongside a specialist observation area are also being given the final touches in preparation to be made available to all disciplines within the Griffith Health Centre.

“Another challenge we have had during this relocation period is how to keep a busy dental clinic running for patients at the same time as moving. We overcame this by opening three weeks earlier than usual in January this year. This enabled us to maximise our moving time in the middle of the year to seven weeks,” says Ms McDonald.

The Griffith Health Centre is part of a suite of new initiatives under Griffith’s three-year ‘New Griffith 2013-2016’ program, which signifies an intensive period of change and innovation for the university.

The opening also comes as a new report shows Griffith University contributes more than 7300 jobs to the Gold Coast economy.

Vice Chancellor Professor Ian O’Connor said an Ernst and Young economic impact analysis showed Griffith contributed a total of $585 million directly and indirectly to the Coast. The report findings show that 4908 direct jobs and 2418 indirect jobs exist because of Griffith’s presence on the Coast.

For more information on ‘New Griffith’ visit



Brisbane transforms into ‘Little India’

Brisbane’s eyes will be opened to the diversity of India this weekthrough the ENCOUNTERS: INDIA festival featuring more than 70 leading artists from India and Australia across 70 events.

Presented by Queensland Conservatorium Griffith University, the festival was officially opened by Her Excellency Dr Penelope Wensley AC, Governor of Queensland and Mr Stuart McCosker, Chancellor Ms Leneen Forde AC and Vice Chancellor Professor Ian O’Connor on Monday 13 May.

ENCOUNTERS: INDIA will highlight traditional music, street bazaars, fine art, dawn ragas, cinema, fashion, debates, dance and masterclasses set to transform South Bank into a bustling parade of contemporary India, bringing to life the vibrant colours, tantalizing aromas and the unmistakable movement and sounds of its music styles.

Chancellor Ms Leneen Forde AC, Her Excellency Dr Penelope Wensley AC, Governor of Queensland, Vice Chancellor Professor Ian O’Connor, Professor Huib Schippers, Artistic Director Vincent Plush and Mr Arun K.Goel, Consul General of India at the official opening event.

Festival Highlights:

Beyond Bollywood  

An all-ages free public concert, will take to the stage in the Courier-Mail Piazza for lovers and explorers of Indian culture. The line-up features Topology, the Sruthi Laya ensemble from South India, the Australian Art Orchestra, Queensland Youth Symphony Big Band and jazz students from the Queensland Conservatorium. From 7pm the surprises of Bollywood will emerge with a troupe of Indian singers and dancers, hosted by renowned Bollywood star Nicholas Brown. From 4pm till late, Saturday 18 May.

Indian Bazaar 

The chaotic and riotous colour and sounds of a Mumbai market will be transported to Brisbane for the Indian Bazaar, set to transform the Cultural Forecourt of QPAC with dozens of stalls offering Indian food and crafts, fashion and henna painting, meditation and spiritual nourishment, as well as a dazzling array of music and dance. WHEN: 9am – 6pm, Saturday 18 May and 9am – 4pm, Sunday 19 May.

The Darbar Night Series

Five unforgettable experiences of music fit for a king, reminiscent of the great Moghul Emperors of India who entertained lavishly at their royal court, will feature each evening. These concerts will explore an aspect of music from the vantage points of Indian traditions and Western culture – rhythm (Aneesh Pradhan); voice (Patricia Rozario); drone (Rohan de Saram); ensemble (Shubha Mudgal and Guru Kaaraikkudi Mani); and the guru (a celebration of Peggy Glanville-Hicks). From 7.30pm each weeknight (May 13 – 17).

The Diaspora Twilight Series

Bringing to light aspects of Indian culture barely acknowledged in Lonely Planet guides, the Diaspora series hints at the manifold ways in which Indian culture has permeated into the West in the past 150 years or so. With ancient Vedic chants, live music and dance, Flamenco and jazz with tabla virtuoso Dheeraj Shrestha and a celebration of the centenary of the opening of the Royal Opera House in Mumbai. Held at 6pm each evening from May 13 – 17.

The Ties That Bind Us

The relationship between Australia and India will be explored in a two-day symposium covering cultural diplomacy; identity through film and television; Western concepts; musical interactions; and the rise of India as a superpower. Key participants will include John McCarthy AO (Chair of the Australia-India Council); Rory Medcalf (The Lowy Institute); Anupam Sharma (Bollyw

ood director); Maxine Williamson (artistic director, Asia Pacific Screen Awards); and Aneesh Pradhan (one of India’s leading tabla players). Runs on Thursday 16 and Friday 17 May at Cinema A in GOMA.


The work of 15 women artists from Australia and India come together for an exhibition across three galleries at the Queensland College of Art Griffith University this May as the art installment of the festival. Artists include Pushpamala N., Sonia Khurana, Shambhavi Singh, Dhruvi Acharya (India) and Fiona Hall, Simone Eisler, Patt Hoffie, Kate Beynon, Laini Burton and Sangeeta Sandrasegar (Australia). At the Griffith University Art Gallery, the Project Gallery and the Webb Gallery – 226 Grey St, South Brisbane.

Griffith up in 2013 rankings

Griffith University research leader Professor Mark von Itzstein
Griffith University's Executive Director of the Institute of Glycomics, Professor Mark von Itzstein, is leading some of the best research at the university

Griffith University has again jumped forward in the latest international rankings released today, firmly establishing itself among the top five per cent of universities in the world.

Griffith was ranked 383 in the prestigious CWTS Leiden Rankings which measures the scientific performance of the 500 major universities worldwide.

Griffith’s performance (up from 412th in 2011-12) reflects the number of academic articles in the top 10 per cent globally and the substantial jump in rankings points to an improving quality as well as volume from Griffith researchers.

Vice Chancellor Professor Ian O’Connor said the Leiden result was pleasing and reflected the ongoing work being carried out by outstanding Griffith researchers.

“We have improved our standing in terms of volume,  quality and the number of citations received , so this is an exceptionally good result,” Professor O’Connor said.

The strong showing in the Leiden ranking follows Griffith also being among the top 400 universities in the latest QS World Rankings (368) and the Academic Rankings of World Universities (301-400 band). Griffith was also ranked in The Times Top 100 Institutions Under the Age of 50.


Professor Ian O'Connor
Professor Ian O’Connor
Professor Ned Pankhurst
Professor Ned Pankhurst

Deputy Vice Chancellor (Research) Professor Ned Pankhurst said that within the overall rankings for the University were some excellent results for different disciplines at Griffith.

“Our Social Sciences and Humanities continues to lead the way, being 117th in the world for volume and ranked 233 for articles in the top 10 per cent,” Professor Pankhurst said.

“Similarly, Griffith’s Life and Earth Sciences have performed exceptionally well, as have Natural Sciences and Engineering and our Biomedical and Health Sciences are firmly established as world class in these rankings.”

Professor Pankhurst said Griffith had invested heavily and strategically over the last 10 years in its research.

“It is pleasing to see that work being recognised by one of the more prestigious international measures.”

** The CWTS Leiden Rankings is compiled at Leiden University, The Netherlands,  and is based on data from the Web Science bibliographic database produced by Thomson Reuters. The ranking includes the 500 universities worldwide with the largest publication output in the Web Science database.





New partnership with Queensland Reds rugby

Anthony Faingaa on the attack for the Reds
The Queensland Reds and Griffith University have announced a new partnership

Griffith University has joined Queensland Rugby as its official university partner for the 2013 Super Rugby season.

The new partnership will see select students from the university receive internship opportunities within the St George Queensland Reds professional rugby department and also within different areas of Queensland Rugby.

Members of the Reds coaching staff and players will stage a number of Rugby Clinics with Griffith University at schools throughout the year to assist with further developing the skills of students on and off the field.

Queensland Rugby Chief Executive Jim Carmichael said the partnership with Griffith formed part of the organisation’s educational and community programming plans.

“Partnering with Griffith University compliments our long-term strategy in establishing various education and community programming at Ballymore, which is a significant part of the Ballymore redevelopment project,” Mr Carmichael said.

“We envisage that our Queensland Reds Indigenous Program and our community education programming will benefit greatly from this partnership as will our specialised staff that will have access to the faculties and intelligence at Griffith University.”

Griffith University’s Director of External Relations Meredith Jackson said partnering with Queensland Rugby was an exciting opportunity for Griffith.

“The university has an active sports profile as well as extensive research and teaching interests in sport, business and health,” Ms Jackson said. “Additionally, thousands of our students and future students are interested in Rugby. We are keen to make the most of the partnership and share benefits such as with training clinics and player motivational activities.”

Queensland Rugby Chief Commercial Officer Daniel Herbert said the partnership was a natural fit.

“Rugby has a long and proud history in universities and we are pleased to partner such a highly-regarded institution as Griffith University,” Mr Herbert said.

“Our players are encouraged to pursue further studies to assist their prospects for obtaining fulfilling work once their professional Rugby career is complete and this partnership with Griffith will make education more accessible to our players through tailored programming and flexible study options.

“The partnership will also serve to promote professional sport as genuine career options to uni students, while also providing us with talented sports science and media students as part of the intern program and generating further support of the Reds.”

Five win Prime Minister’s Endeavour awards

Georgia Sands
Law student Georgia Sands is one of five Griffith recipients of the Prime Minister's Australia Asia Endeavour Awards

Five Griffith University students have received the prestigious Prime Minister’s Australia Asia Endeavour awards.

At a dinner at Parliament House in Canberra on Thursday night, all five students nominated by Griffith were among the 40 best and brightest in Australia named by Prime Minister Julia Gillard.

The awards are highly sought after and provide financial support of up to $63,000 for students undertaking study or research in Asia towards their Australian degree qualification.

The recipients are:

Georgia Sands

Bachelor of Laws/Bachelor of Arts – studying in Hong Kong, with internship in China. (pictured right).

Alexander Choy

Alexander Choy
Alexander Choy

Bachelor of Laws/Bachelor of International Business  – studying in Hong Kong, with internship in China.

Rebecca Curran

Rebecca Curran
Rebecca Curran

Graduated with Bachelor of Pharmaceutical Science and now studying Master of Pharmacy with Honours – study and internship in Singapore.

Brittany Laidlaw

Brittany Laidlaw
Brittany Laidlaw

Bachelor of Business – studying in Hong Kong, with internship in Thailand.

Elise Giles

Elise Giles
Elise Giles

Bachelor of Business (Hotel, Tourism, Events, Real Estate and Property) – study and internship in Hong Kong.

Ms Gillard congratulated the recipients, saying the awards are offered to the best scholars, researchers and emerging leaders from Australia and participating economies in the Asia region, and recognise that the Award holders are the leaders of the future.

Tertiary Education, Science and Research Minister Senator Chris Evans said the next generation of Australian leaders would need to be increasingly Asian-literate and these were skills best learnt by experiencing Asia first-hand.

“The Asian Century presents a world of opportunities for our students and the Government is determined to make sure more Australians have the chance to benefit,” he said.

Griffith Vice Chancellor Professor Ian O’Connor, who attended the Canberra ceremony, said the University was proud of each student’s success and the consistent performance they had shown over the year to qualify for the award.

“We are also very happy that all five of the students we recommended for the Prime Minister’s awards were successful.

“It is a reflection of the deep and very constructive engagement Griffith has had with Asia over such a long period of time.”

The Prime Minister’s Australia Asia Endeavour Awards aim to:

* develop internationally-aware, skilled future leaders,

* build human capital within organisations and contribute to productivity gains and innovations

* establish enduring education and professional linkages.

The awards provide 40 scholarships annually to Australian university students, 20 at undergraduate level and 20 at postgraduate level.

International education is Australia’s third largest export industry and these Awards strengthen Australia’s international education sector and enhance Australia’s reputation as a quality education provider.

Anyone interested in applying for the 2013 round of Endeavour Awards should contact  Dr Jeanne McConachie Manager, Griffith Honours College or phone: 07 3735 4253


Griffith’s Tallowwood childcare centre hits 30-year milestone

Bev Olsen (left) and Caitlin Deakes have been the only two directors of the Tallowwood Childcare Centre which has been officially open for 30 years this week.
Bev Olsen (left) and Caitlin Deakes have been the only two directors of the Tallowwood Childcare Centre which has been officially open for 30 years this week.

Bev Olsen retains fond memories of the day the Brisbane Broncos sang ‘Twinkle, twinkle, little star’ under the Tallowwood Tree. How such a precious moment came about is equally as important to her as this part of the story is invested in a program that stands the test of time.

The inaugural director of the Tallowwood Childcare Centre had been playing with the children – as per usual – when she wondered out loud if league stars like Alfie Langer, Kevin Walters and Peter Ryan might pop down from nearby ANZ Stadium to say hello.

“So we all went into the office and I rang the Brisbane Broncos and invited them to visit us,” Bev says. The answer was an emphatic yes, and soon Bev and the children were writing letters to their prospective guests.

It’s a delightful story from 1997 which captures an ideology that had been integral to the business since it first opened its doors at Griffith University’s Nathan campus in 1987.

“From day one we grew the environment by seeing it from a child’s perspective, looking through the eyes of a child,” Bev (left) says. “As teaching director, my major role was with the children. I was left to develop the program in this way.”

The ideology was embedded in the ‘Open Structured’ program initially developed by Bev, and updated to become the ‘Indoor/Outdoor’ program by Caitlin Deakes when she became the centre’s second director in 2004.

Determination championed

The determination with which Bev and Caitlin – the centre’s only two directors to date – have resolutely maintained the innovative program will be championed this week at celebrations to mark the 30th anniversary of the centre’s official opening.

“Developing attachment relationships is central to the children being confident, capable and competent learners,” Caitlin says. She explains that while parents anticipate and expect a focus on children learning letters and numbers as part of early childhood education, there is also important consideration given by educators to the social and emotional sides of the childhood educational experience.

“These are vital in the development of self-regulation and resilience in young children,” Caitlin says. “Children need to feel safe and secure as part of the program. We need to know the children (to do our job), therefore they need to have that trust in us.”

Caitlin was also appointed educational leader of the nearby Boronia Early Childhood Education Centre in 2012. By this time, the childcare centre at the bottom of the hill had become something of a Griffith institution, growing from the three rooms which initially housed seven staff. Today it is a modern childcare precinct with 12 full-time educators and casual support.

Moving with the times

In an industry which has endured and enjoyed some radical change since the turn of the century, Caitlin Deakes has been determined to move both the Tallowwood and Boronia centres forward with the times at every suitable opportunity. The children there, for example, gain an early understanding of the concept of sustainability.

“We already educate children about recycling through worm farms, composting, water conservation and recycling items for creative expression,” Caitlin says. “We’re also excited to be working with the Griffith University Eco Centre which has partnered with US recycling powerhouse Terracycle to increase recycling at Griffith.”

Eyes of educators on the future

This kind of progressive thinking has also led to the centres’ involvement in action research, an initiative that keeps the eyes of educators on the future. Carried out in consultation with the children, their families, educators and researchers, this information-gathering project shapes the framework of early learning curricula and future courses of action in this important space. Caitlin highlights two key action research projects, ‘Take Play off the Endangered List’ and ‘Standing Up For a Natural Childhood.’

“By reflecting on the data, we are able to develop a strong sense of what’s needed in an ongoing learning community,” she says. “This helps children to develop a range of skills and processes such as problem solving, inquiry, experimentation, hypothesising, researching and investigating.  They can then adapt what they have learned from one context to another as confident and involved learners.”

A partnership with a Japanese school has brought Japanese students to the centres as part of another collaborative project that reaches beyond the Griffith community.

In addition, the connection with Griffith also offers Caitlin and her team the exciting potential for artists in residence and Indigenous elders to share time with the children through links with GUMURRII and Queensland College of Art.

“We provide an education platform that sets children up for life.”


When Hollywood meets the Outback

Vision Splendid Film Festival. Photo: John Elliott

This week dozens of students from Griffith Film School are in Outback Queensland for the Vision Splendid Film Festival.

Their mission? To pitch, write, shoot, edit and screen a short film… all in just one week.

Griffith Film School has partnered with the festival to establish the Vision Splendid Film Institute – a two-week program of film projects, workshops and masterclasses.

Griffith Film School lecturer Mr Ashley Burgess, who oversees special projects, is leading a delegation of more than fifty students from Griffith Film School, the Queensland Conservatorium and the Queensland College of Art (Contemporary Australian Indigenous Art). 

For the first time, Griffith Film School has also invited students from the Beijing Film Academy in China and the Film and Television Institute of India.

Mr Burgess said the Vision Splendid Film Institute was designed to foster international collaborations and promote Queensland’s burgeoning film industry.

“When the weather is good, this is great cattle country,” he says.

“When the weather is bad, the film industry provides an alternative income stream, and the locals work so hard to accommodate these projects.”

Mr Burgess said the immersive, two-week experience in the Outback was a life changing experience for Griffith’s young filmmakers.

“The students really make the most of it, and it’s often transformative for them,” he says.

“There is an incredible energy that comes from being under the pump, and the students come back quite exhilarated.

“They realise what they are capable of, and their filmmaking takes off in leaps and bounds.

“It is great preparation for making their grad film.”

Griffith Film School graduate Maeve McKenna (pictured left) first went out to Winton in 2014, and has been back every year since. This year, she is working as a mentor to the students as part of the Vision Splendid Institute.

“I had never been to the Outback before, and it really grabbed me,” she says.

“It is such a unique landscape and the light is so good on camera – it’s a great backdrop for Australian stories.

“I also love how intimate it is out here – the town are so supportive of the students, and will go to any lengths to help out with a shoot.

“At some of the big film festivals, you have to arrange meetings with producers and directors weeks in advance – here everyone hangs out together at the local pub.”

Final year film student Payton Harkonen visited Winton last year and is currently producing two graduate films.

She credits her time in the Outback with readying her for a career in the film industry.

“It was amazing , but it definitely presented its challenges.

“For someone who has grown up in the city, it’s a whole new world.

“You learn a lot in the classroom, but there comes a point when you have to get out there and learn from your mistakes!”

“The visiting film students are an integral part of the festival. They literally take over the streets of our town”, says Winton Shire Council Mayor, Mr Butch Lenton.

“The community has really welcomed them with open arms and let the students take free reign on our locations, such as Searle’s Outback Store, which was the location of the award winning short film, Roy, made during last year’s festival by Griffith Film School graduate Luke Angelo Roberts.”

Australian film critic, producer and television personality, Margaret Pomeranz will open this year’s festival, which features film writing and producing workshops, a virtual reality masterclass, the Qantas Short Film Competition and a program of contemporary, classic and cult Australian films, all inspired by the Australian Outback.

Vision Splendid Outback Film Festival runs from 23 June – 1 July.

Running to raise awareness of suicide prevention

Justin Geange

By Jemima Desbrow

Even the seemingly most exuberant of us still have our dark days. Forty-five year old New Zealand born husband and father of two, Justin Geange is no stranger to depression.

The charismatic plumber, formerly known as the mascot of the Brisbane Broncos and cane toad for the Queensland Maroons has silently struggled behind a façade of humour for years. Justin has not only attempted to take his own life, but endured losses of both family members and friends who took the same approach.

As Justin describes it, God had other plans for him and gave him the gift of a second chance at life. The Aussie legend has since picked up and dusted himself off from his past.

He has persevered through hardship and now provides his personal experiences as a collaborator with Griffith University’s Australian Institute of Suicide Research and Prevention (AISRAP).

With a $7,500 fundraising target, the team is participating in the Gold Coast Airport Marathon to help save lives by gaining sponsors to fundraise for suicide awareness.

“It means a lot to me because I have experienced instances of people attempting to take their lives, including myself,” says Justin. “I see it as a second chance that I’ve been given and I want to help as many people as possible. I’m going to run the 10km race and raise money to keep as many people on the planet as I can.”

For mates and family

This resilient and down to earth man is running not only for himself, but for his mates and his family.

As an adolescent Justin was faced with a number of relationship dilemmas that contributed to multiple breakdowns, suicide attempts and rehab for alcoholism. However, at the age of 17 this troubled teenager valiantly decided that he was due for a fresh start. When Justin’s cousin offered him a position in his band, the jovial jokester seized the opportunity and moved to Australia.

Unfortunately 20 years of emotional stability came crumbling down in 2013 as events took a turn for the worse. Failing to attain his dream job and being eliminated from the semi-finals of Australia’s Got Talent took a toll on Justin’s self-esteem. This caused him to attempt to take his life as he was convinced that he was unable to provide for his family.

As a part of AISRAP, Justin has advice for anyone suffering depression.

“It’s really tough but you’ve got to reach out for someone that you trust.”

He suggests that when it comes to comforting a friend or family member who may be suicidal, it’s all about “being fair dinkum. You’ve just got to genuinely care about your mates enough to ask the tough questions”.

He recommends that anyone who may know of someone with depression should “be a friend, but you don’t have to be a psychologist. It’s about people caring for people”.

AISRAP works tirelessly to provide services, training, research and learning to Australian communities, agencies and health providers.

Hacking through the problems of the city

When the international hacker community Angelhack decided to launch in Australia, they also decided to ramp up the expectations by partnering with the team from the CityConnect accelerator. Griffith graduate, founder and startup mentor, Ayla Soutar rose to the challenge.

Collaborating with local startup accelerator, BlueChilli, the 2017 Brisbane hackathon demanded contestants start from scratch and produce a working prototype of their idea in a only 24 hours. The pitch to a panel of judges was done without slides in only 2 minutes

CityConnect is the latest BlueChilli Accelerator that specializes in solutions for urbanisation – the problems of the city and its people.

Ms Soutar a GU Digital Arts and Business graduate and her business partner took the contest’s top two prizes for pitching a “fractional” property ownership platform that uses blockchain technology to increase the frequency of trading shares and reduce barriers of entry to the property market.

“It’s basically a legitimate rent-to-buy/ novated lease scheme for young people who live in share houses – everyone buys back a share of the house from a network of private investors,” she said.

“We demo-ed a working blockchain that recorded (fake) transactions from our website. To achieve this, we had 3 servers running!”

Blockchain is a digital ledger that (among other things) supports the online currency bitcoin. It is one of the emerging digital technologies many people believe will play an ever larger role in our lives. Blockchain acts as a contract, authority, public record and platform all at once, dramatically speeding up and reducing costs of any service that relies on those platforms, like real estate, banking, the law or accounting.

Angelhack also ramped up the prizes, with Soutar winning a place in a global pre-accelerator for 12 weeks.

If she succeeds at “Hackcelerator”, she will have a chance fly to San Francisco and pitch at “Global Demo Day”, to a room full of investors.

Soutar’s win follows Griffith PhD student Jess Bloomfield’s success at a BlueChilli pitching contest in 2016 that eventually netted her seed investment. Griffith is building a healthy profile in the Brisbane startup space with more and more students looking at the business platform as a legitimate alternative to a career.

“Griffith is a young uni, it should own this space”, said Soutar.

“I hope it moves faster. There are so many opportunities, alongside competitors who are well established…But I hope the Uni remembers to engage entrepreneurs – not just academics.”

Hackathons have grown in the last three years as the increasing number of people with coding skills search for more creative and entrepreneurial ways to apply their skills. Digital investment houses, like BlueChilli use the contests to find people who may have the right business acumen for them to invest in. For Soutar her Griffith education was one of the keys to her rapid transition into the startup world.

“My Bachelor of Digital Media (Digital Design) / Bachelor Business (Marketing), naturally collided in the digital space.  The flexibility to combine both theory & practice was key to my success at uni – although my peers often gawked at my presentations as a result, (but) In the big bad world everything is multidisciplinary, especially entrepreneurship.”

As well as founding and building her latest startup, Ms Soutar acts as a mentor to young people who want to explore entrepreneurship. She believes the most important trait in an entrepreneur is resilience and she wants the next generation to have as much of it as possible.

 “Because you will inevitably fail at some point, and that is OK. It’s critical to get young people thinking differently about the problems around them (are they business opportunities?) – particularly when 40% of jobs will not be around in the next 20 years!”

Anastasia on song for Swiss opera contract

Mezzo-soprano Anastasia Bickel was a recipient of the Joyce Campbell Lloyd Scholarship for Overseas Study
Mezzo-soprano Anastasia Bickel was a recipient of the Joyce Campbell Lloyd Scholarship for Overseas Study

International success beckons for Queensland Conservatorium graduate Anastasia Bickel.

Mezzo-soprano Anastasia graduated from the Con in 2016 and recently signed a two-year contract with OperAvenir at Theatre Basel in Switzerland.

She will make her professional European debut in La Traviata, and will also perform in iconic operas including Rossini’s La Cenerentola and Strauss’ Elektra.

“This signing means the beginning of my career, so it’s very exciting!” says Anastasia, a recipient of the Joyce Campbell Lloyd Scholarship for Overseas Study.

This generous bequest is awarded to a Queensland Conservatorium Griffith University vocal student in Year 3 or higher, or a recent alumni who graduated no more than 15 months before the scholarship selection date.

“I’m thrilled to make my debut on the main stage and to observe my more experienced colleagues at work,” says Anastasia.

“I owe so much to my supportive and wise singing teacher, Dr Margaret Schindler. She transformed my singing and I can honestly say that I wouldn’t be here without her and I will be forever grateful,” says Anastasia.

“I also have always appreciated the support of Professor Lisa Gasteen, whose career inspires many of us at the Con.

“Despite the unbelievable heights she reached on the international stage, she is down to earth and very generous with her time and support.”

Nance wins New York Festival radio award

Award-winning journalist and Griffith’s journalist-in-residence Nance Haxton has taken out the Bronze award at the New York Festival’s World’s Best Radio Programs for her radio documentary on Stradbroke Island.

Produced for ABC Radio National’s PM program “A New Chapter for Stradbroke Island” recounts the end of sand mining on North Stradbroke Island after the Queensland Government passed legislation to phase it out by 2019.

“I’m so honoured and thrilled to have won the award,’’ said an excited Nance.

“This means so much to me both as a journalist and teacher.”  

“The story is an important one as thousands of Australians have enjoyed Stradbroke as a tourism destination for so many years. The demise of sand mining will launch it into another era and one that’s welcomed by its traditional owners, the Quandamooka Aboriginal people.”

“I’m so grateful to the Quandamooka people for trusting me with their story. I find it so inspiring and ironic in some ways that they’ve got 20,000 years of oral storytelling traditions, the longest, continuing culture on earth and for so long that was patronised and not really valued.

“So I hope this story goes some way to show the value of the knowledge they have and we, as oral storytellers, can learn from that as well. The amazing power of the voice and its sound connecting as human beings.”

NYF’s International Radio Program Awards for the World’s Best Radio Programs honours radio programming and promotions in all lengths and formats from radio stations, networks and independent producers from around the globe.

Nance is a radio current affairs correspondent for AM, PM and The World Today. She won the 2016 Clarion Award for Best Sports Reporting for her investigative series of stories on ABC Radio Current affairs titled “Why are Boxers dying in Queensland”. She is also a dual Walkley Award winner (2012 and 2001).

Changes to Griffith Business School executive

Professor Fabrizio Carmignani and Professor Anne Tiernan

Griffith Business School has made two key appointments to its senior leadership team.

Renowned political scientist Professor Anne Tiernan has accepted the position of Dean (Engagement), while the current head of the Department of Accounting, Finance and Economics, Professor Fabrizio Carmignani, has been announced as the new Dean (Academic).

Professor Tiernan is currently the Director of the Policy Innovation Hub and works within the School of Government and International Relations.

“Anne has spent much of her career bridging the divide between theory and practice and promoting the mutual and reciprocal benefits of greater engagement between universities, government and industry,” said Professor David Grant, Pro Vice Chancellor (Business).

Professor Tiernan is regularly called on by media for independent analysis and commentary on national politics, public administration and public policy.

“Her experience and knowledge will be of tremendous value as we seek to meet the GBS strategic priority of building and enhancing our engagement activities,” added Professor Grant.

Professor Tiernan said she will establish a clear and shared view of engagement within GBS, encompassing the great work that is already under way.

“I’m interested in the potential for engagement to become a central plank of all aspects of GBS activity – something that enhances and enriches our teaching and research missions, and contributes in tangible ways to the economy, society and communities of which we are part,” she said.

Of Professor Fabrizio Carmignani, Professor Grant said he had made many significant contributions to GBS, and was already an active and highly engaged member of the executive committee.

“I have no doubt he will be an asset to the Group’s senior leadership team as Dean (Academic) and am looking forward to working with him in this new capacity as we progress our strategic priorities.”

Professor Carmignani said he aimed to ensure all academic and professional staff felt adequately supported and mentored to pursue their career aspirations.

“I am particularly keen to help develop new leadership talent,” he said.

“I am very excited by this new role, and I know that I have some big shoes to fill.

“My predecessor in this role, Linda Trenberth, gave an outstanding contribution to the School. I’d like to take this opportunity to thank her, once again, and to wish her all the best.”