Special Interest Groups

Monday 20 November 2.00 pm to 4.00 pm

  1. Domestic and Family Violence in the workplace
  2. Practical and effective support for students from refugee backgrounds in Australian and New Zealand Higher Education
  3. Equity Evaluation in Higher Education
  4. Out of Home Care and Higher Education

Thursday 23 November 3.30 pm to 5.30 pm

  1. Anchoring Accessibility for the Long Term
  2. Mentoring programs for equity groups – across the student cycle and beyond.
  3. Gender Equity Strategy Group
  4. UoN Writing Program for Equity Practitioners

You can register for Special Interest Groups via the online registration process.

Special Interest Groups Member Non-Member
Attend One Special Interest Group Session $60 AUD $85 AUD
Attend Two Special Interest Group Sessions $120 AUD $170 AUD

With the prevalence of Domestic and Family Violence in society, and the stigma attached, it is important that all organisations are aware of the role the workplace can play in removing this stigma and providing their employees with support if they are affected by domestic and family violence.

The aim of the session is to raise awareness and highlight the importance of a Universities role in contributing to social and cultural change. The session overview will be:

  • alignment of the White Ribbon Workplace Accreditation program with USQ Values and other accreditations (WGEA) and the business case
  • what’s involved in White Ribbon Workplace Accreditation
  • the challenges that were identified and impacted on the success of the program outcomes
  • the major initiatives that were achieved out of the program
  • where to for USQ over the next three years
  • advice to Universities looking to participate in the future.

Participants will be provided an opportunity to interact with the session my taking a quick poll on their understanding of the role a workplace can play in cultural and attitudinal change. Participants will also be provided with the opportunity for questions and will be provided an opportunity to propose ways in which introducing such initiatives into their workplaces would assist employees of their respective Universities.


Renee Stafleu, Caitlin Gurney, Susan Camfferman from The University of Southern Queensland

This SIG will contribute to promoting best practice in work with students from humanitarian entrant backgrounds in Australian and New Zealand Higher Education, and ultimately to increasing the success rates of these students.

The session will be divided into four parts:

  • pre-entry, including admissions processes
  • orientation and transition programs
  • ongoing support while at university; and
  • transition out of university.

Practitioners currently running programs in each of these areas will present an overview of their initiatives, and other participants will be encouraged to contribute by sharing their own experiences and identifying the key points of difference to more general student support programs offered at their institutions. Approaches to engaging with students seeking asylum will be given special consideration.

Through exchange of knowledge and information amongst practitioners active in this space, it is hoped we will be able to collect evidence and articulate the reasons why student support beyond the general services offered to all students is not only beneficial, but essential to achieving the best outcomes possible for students from humanitarian entry backgrounds.


Dona Cayetana, Monash University
Martina Donaghy and Sanesie Dukuly, Griffith University
Frederick Gombe & Sonal Singh, Macquarie University
Siobhan Lappin, La Trobe University
Lara Rafferty, RMIT
Terry O’Neill, University of Auckland

At present, there is a significant degree of concern around the changing evaluation and reporting requirements in equity programs due to the HEPPP reforms. Such changing requirements are not likely to be limited to HEPPP – the need for evaluation to be undertaken has been growing across all sectors and is unlikely to abate.

The aim of this SIG session is to enhance participants’ knowledge of some ways to undertake evaluation of higher education equity programs. The session will be interactive and includes:

  • Discussion around participants’ impressions of evaluation
  • Outline of the evaluation profession, knowledge and practice
  • Data collection and analysis
  • Evaluation and the HEPPP reforms

The session will use existing published and unpublished evaluations and papers, along with case studies of evaluation undertaken by two institutions (Charles Sturt’s Future Moves program and The University of Sydney Widening Participation and Outreach program) to illustrate good practice in evaluation.

Interactive participation will be guided by structured reflection prompts for participants to both individually and in small groups consider/ test the applicability of potential approaches to their own individual higher education contexts/programs and communities of practice and to consider their own overarching short/medium and long term outcomes of their work to begin to conceptually map their own theories of change and re- engage with broader vision and intended impact, useful in managing the ambiguity and uncertainty of shifts in programming and evaluation practices in the context of an impending new National HEPPP Evaluation Framework.

The SIG will use this session as a ‘jumping off’ point for further collaboration, including the creation of an ongoing forum for discussion of the impacts of higher education policy on equity evaluation practice. This SIG will provide a space in which practitioners can discuss these concerns, and formulate meaningful, effective strategies to evaluate programs in a way that not only meets external reporting needs, but also contributes positively to programs and their audiences.


Liam Downing and Sue Rogan, Charles Sturt University


Mary Teague, Katy Head, and Victoria Loy (Widening Participation and Outreach); and Abigail Powell and Rose Butler (The Centre for Social Impact), The University of Sydney

There are over 40,000 children and young people in Out of Home Care (OOHC) in Australia. Young people leaving care are more likely to experience homelessness or to be unemployed, or employed in low paid, low skilled roles, and significantly less likely to commence and complete tertiary education. The lack of consistent data collected on care leavers after they have turned 18, making it difficult to produce accurate statistics regarding care leavers who attend and complete higher education. However, a survey conducted by the CREATE Foundation noted that only 2.8% of respondents had undertaken a higher education qualification.

The Special Interest Group will begin by presenting four unique perspectives on the current issues and practices. Dr Andrew Harvey will present the current leading research from La Trobe University’s Centre for Higher Education Equity and Diversity Research, describing the resulting recommendations and findings. Emily Fuller will then discuss the lessons learned from the implementation of Live, Learn, Grow at UON, an innovative program developed to support care leavers to access and engage in tertiary education. Finally, a representative from NSW Department of Family and Community Services, the government agency responsible for OOHC in NSW, will discuss the current policy regarding OOHC and further education. The voices of Live, Learn, Grow participants and children currently in care will also be shared with participants.

All participants will then be asked to engage in a World Café style activity, with discussion aimed at further exploring the issues identified, and possible opportunities to address these through future practice. Participants will be asked to consider and discuss these issues from the different perspectives already presented, as well as from the perspective of their own role in their institution.

Facilitated discussion will support participants to identify the key themes arising from discussion, and opportunities identified. Through discussion and consideration of the issues, this session will support practitioners to begin to identify opportunities to further the national conversation around care leavers and their experience of higher education, as well as looking at opportunities to build on the work that is already happening. Current policy and practice from each state will be considered and discussed to allow the learnings from this session to be applied nationally.


Belinda Munn, The University of Newcastle
Dr Andrew Harvey, La Trobe University
Emily Fuller, The University of Newcastle

This Special Interest Group will explore accessibility within higher education. In particular, discussions will surround:

  • where access lies in the diversity/disability conversation at present
  • opportunities for accessibility to lead and be the centre of innovation, both within higher education structures and with public ripple effect
  • the relationship between staff employment of people with access requirements and the knowledge accumulation and role modelling benefits for students with disability (fostering cultural leadership)

The aim of this session is to embed sustainability within the equity efforts around accessibility, so that access for staff and students with disability doesn’t just become a tick box response.

The structure is created to both support delegates already championing access, and delegates who want to learn more about accessibility. Desired outcomes for equity practitioners include:

  • deeper sharing of knowledge in terms of getting really specific about access requirements, who is responsible for them, the differences between universal access, individual approaches, the advantages and disadvantages of technology, and step by step guidance for embedding access into systems
  • honouring of the contributions of the access community and disability-led leadership
  • bridging the contexts of within and outside of the higher education system to offer pathways, insights and real world examples, especially in terms of career development and benchmarks

Sarah Houbolt is a respected advocate within the wider disability community, coming from an arts background, screen reader user, experienced in facilitation, and appearing at TEDxSydney with the topic of accessibility. See this video about her role at UTS: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LDSMiLRHgeU

Mentoring has been recognized as an important feature of access and participation programs which support students from equity backgrounds.

This Special Interest Group will look at the various mentoring programs across the different stages of the student cycle that support student access, participation and success. Practitioners currently delivering programs will have the opportunity to present an overview of their initiatives and discuss how they support their institution’s widening participation agenda.

The session will run in three sections that with give the group an opportunity to explore mentoring across the student cycle and beyond:

  1. Outreach mentoring that promotes study-skills, university knowledge, study and career options and resilience in secondary students.
  2. University peer-mentoring that supports student success.
  3. Professional mentoring by university Alum that supports student transition into the workforce.

This SIG will also enable practitioners to discuss the stages where mentoring has the greatest impact on social mobility and what are the most effect ways to measure the social impact of mentoring.


Dona Cayetana and Kate Duyvestyn – Monash University

This Special Interest Group (formerly the Staff Development for Women Network) will explore issues around gender and staff equity within the Higher Education sector. This includes issues such as policy and practice, reporting and data collection, and emerging issues and trends.

The Centre of Excellence for Equity in Higher Education at the University of Newcastle has run its first Writing Program for Equity Practitioners in 2017 and will share the outcomes of this program. The program aims to support widening participation practitioners to present evaluations of their practice in refereed academic journals, enabling practitioners and academics to share their work with broader audiences; enhance the relationship between widening participation practitioners and academics, and raise the profile of robust evaluation of widening participation activity nationally and internationally.

The Centre’s Director Professor Penny-Jane Burke and Dr Anna Bennett, Head Research and Development for the Centre for English Language and Foundation Studies will lead the discussion sharing some of their hints and tips for profiling widening participation activity with a view to a broader audience, sound research and robust evaluation.

Participants of the program will also share their reflections and outcomes of the program will be showcased during the Conference.

The session will provide participants with opportunities to discussion how equity practitioners can better support each other in terms of writing about widening participation in ways that will get noticed within the Academy.


Professor Penny-Jane Burke, Dr Anna Bennett and Belinda Munn, The Centre of Excellence for Equity in Higher Education,  The University of Newcastle