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Latest media release: Graduates making a difference in their fields of endeavour

Jenny Dowell

Four women making outstanding contributions in their fields of endeavour will receive awards at the Southern Cross University graduations this weekend (Saturday March 25), including the former Mayor of Lismore City Jenny Dowell who will be recognised with the award of Honorary Doctor of the University.

The award recognises Jenny Dowell’s service to the Lismore and Northern Rivers’ communities and will be conferred by the University Chancellor Mr Nick Burton Taylor AM.

Since her retirement in 2016, Mrs Dowell has become a New South Wales Mayoral Mentor and has continued her activism in various charities and on community boards. Her key achievements on Lismore City Council (including eight years as Mayor) were strong community engagement; an improved relationship with Aboriginal people, culture and heritage; and revitalising Lismore’s CBD including securing funding for the new Lismore Regional Gallery.

“I'm quite overwhelmed by this honour,” the former mayor and teacher said.

Before relocating to the NSW North Coast from Melbourne with her husband Ron, Jenny spent 35 years as a teacher of deaf children and a lecturer in speech and language development in Victorian universities.

“Southern Cross University is the reason my family moved to Lismore in 1991 because Ron accepted a lecturer's position here. Well before I entered politics, the University was central to my family's life and I understood its key role in our city.

“I will always be a proud supporter of Southern Cross University and accept this Honorary Doctorate with humility. I will continue to be an ambassador of 'our' university and its capacity to change lives.”

Mrs Dowell will receive her Honorary Doctorate at the 10am ceremony and deliver the Occasional Address.

The Chancellor will confer awards to more than 245 graduands at two ceremonies: 10am and 1pm.

When Hanabeth Luke receives a Doctor of Philosophy at the 1pm ceremony it will be her third award from the University. Dr Luke’s PhD thesis ‘Social License for Industrial Developments in Rural Areas’ explored the motivating factors behind support and non-support of unconventional gas industry developments in rural Australia, including community aspirations for economic prosperity versus environmental concerns and aspirations for renewable energy development.

Dr Luke, who has a Bachelor of Applied Science (2005) and a Bachelor of Environmental Science with Honours (2012), is an Associate Lecturer in the University’s School of Environment, Science and Engineering. She is also the University’s project manager for Athena SWAN, an internationally recognised gender equity accreditation initiative.

Last month Dr Luke was recognised with a Vice Chancellor’s Citation for Outstanding Contributions to Student Learning for her efforts in developing and teaching the first-year unit Science in Society. Science in Society has opened the world of science to students in an engaging and empowering way, stimulating interest and developing strong foundational skills in scientific thinking.

"I chose to pursue a career in science because I had a thirst to better understand how the natural world works, and my studies at Southern Cross have certainly provided me with this,” said Dr Luke.

“I'm proud to be a staff member today, so that I can continue to engage our first year students, and conduct research in areas that can foster the improved management of our natural environment, in line with community values."

Years of hard work and determination in the face of tragedy have paid off for former Coffs Harbour florist Johanna Byrne. The 2016 National Indigenous Law Student of the Year, who’s just started a graduate role with top Perth legal firm Lavan, will receive a Bachelor of Laws awarded with Honours at the 1pm ceremony. Johanna is the Graduate Speaker.

Johanna’s Honours research thesis, ‘The under-utilisation of Section 32 of the Mental Health Forensic Provisions Act 1990 (NSW)’, was inspired by her own experiences in getting her intellectually disabled son diverted from the criminal system towards help and treatment.

Her long term goal is to be a barrister.

“There are currently not enough Indigenous barristers," Johanna said. "By going to the Bar I feel I can effectively advocate on behalf of those who are disadvantaged in the community - the Indigenous, the intellectually disabled and the poor - through pro-bono work. A lot of these people cannot afford barristers.”

Speech pathology graduand Claire Lusted is one of two recipients of a University Medal for academic excellence. Claire has achieved a Bachelor of Speech Pathology with First Class Honours. She will receive her award at the 10am ceremony. Claire is the Graduate Speaker.

Claire’s Honours research thesis was parent-child interactions around television and other forms of on-screen content. She studied how technology could help parents encourage their children’s speech, language and learning.

She is now working as a speech pathologist with school-aged children in Warwick, near Toowoomba, for the Queensland Department of Education and Training.

“Neither of my parents attended university, so I feel like getting my degree has been a big accomplishment,’’ said Claire who relocated from Coffs Harbour to Queensland to study at the Gold Coast campus.

“They will be there at graduation and I already know my mum will be crying.’’

Paula Hallam is also receiving a University Medal for a Bachelor of Laws with First Class Honours.


The graduation ceremonies will be held in the Whitebrook Theatre (Y Block) at the Lismore campus.

10.00 am ceremony
• School of Arts and Social Sciences
• School of Education
• School of Health and Human Sciences
• SCU College
• Graduate Speaker: Claire Lusted, University Medallist, Bachelor of Speech Pathology with First Class Honours
• Occasional Address: Jenny Dowell, former Lismore City Mayor

1.00 pm ceremony
• School of Business and Tourism
• School of Environment, Science and Engineering
• Gnibi College of Indigenous Australian Peoples
• School of Law and Justice
• Graduate Speaker: Johanna Byrne, Bachelor of Laws awarded with Honours
• Occasional Address: Margot Cairnes, author and executive coach

Photo: Jenny Dowell, then Mayor of Lismore City, takes part in a Southern Cross University graduation street procession through the Lismore CBD.

Media contact: Sharlene King, media officer, Southern Cross University, 02 6620 3508 or 0429 661 349.