Carlie Groves, Simon Rose, Catherine Lake, Nicole Shanahan, RMIT University
Studying in isolation has impacted many of our students and staff, as well as RMIT University as a whole. The Ngarara Willim Centre (Ngarara) have had to change and adapt swiftly to meet the new needs of students and to ensure we maintained the level of personal and academic support students were accustomed to. We prioritised the importance of continuing our sense of community that we have developed over the years. Our students have been, and will continue to be, our priority.
We gave our team at Ngarara a week of working from home prior to the official directive. We did this to make sure our systems and services were able to cope with the new online environment. Looking back, this put us in a good stead to adapt and move quickly to support the needs of our students.
We progress with contacting every single student to identify what support structures they needed to begin online learning and to successfully endure this change in study and lifestyle.
RMIT and Ngarara were able to provide students financial hardship support. This support provided access to IT and required resources including adequate technological support such as internet access, webcams, laptops and office furniture, including ergonomic chairs and work desks. Students whose employment ceased were encouraged to apply for this financial support and were engaged with the RMIT Careers team to investigate other employment opportunities. It was all about keeping everyone well and well connected and feeling supported.
Due to our contact and close connection with students we regularly checked-in with students living in student accommodation. We supported students who relocated to Melbourne and were living away from their family and Community, including supporting some to relocate back to their home states before borders closed. Students participating in International mobility programs were also supported by the University and Ngarara to get home safely.
One of the challenges was the mid-year intake of new students and delivering our Gama-dji orientation program to students virtually. The program is Ngarara’s first face to face contact with students, it’s our opportunity to introduce them to our space, our services, our staff and our students. Moving into virtual online delivery without the connection or personalised touch of being physically on campus was challenging. Although we had concern, we did see a huge increase in participants compared to the start of the year orientation which was held face-to-face.
Screenshot from online Gama-dji Orientation program
Students that were challenged with the change to online learning were well supported through the Ngarara Willim Tutoring Program. Although the delivery moved from face to face to online delivery, tutors provided students with academic support and encouragement to help establish effective routines in relation to their study and workloads. The addition of a dedicated Academic Support Tutor has helped students who have needed short term support and encouragement.
Ngarara provided an opportunity for staff and students to participate in online learning modules to assist students through their own struggles and to help students better prepare to help others. Sessions that students and staff engaged in were:
Approaching in the next month, our students and staff who work closely with our students have been given the opportunity to participate in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Mental Health First Aid training with Girraway Ganyi. Engaging in an online learning program accredited through Mental Health First Aid Australia.
The scheduling of regular social events to allow students to connect and feel engaged with fellow students and staff have been popular, with more scheduled for the remainder of the year. Activities have included student cooking demonstrations, games nights, student lead fitness classes as well as a student comedy night. Ngarara also set up a Strava club to encourage students and staff to engage in outdoor activity and stay fit.
While supporting students, we have also tried to support our community by utilising Indigenous Businesses and services in these difficult times. Recently organising a social catch up with our mature aged students and were able to arrange delivered pizza kits from Mabu Mabu. Students and staff collectively made pizza together online and spoke about how everyone was coping with the lockdown and new online learning platform.
Extending our services to Community and thinking about their needs, the Ngarara team continued to promote and provided free short courses to Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander people and fee waiver bursaries for mid-year Vocational Education applicants.
One of our successes has been the production of a monthly Newsletter highlighting the activities of Ngarara Willim, our students and Community and discussing important subjects like Blak Lives Matter and Aboriginal Deaths in Custody. We also kept students connected to the Ngarara Community through the production of Ngarara merchandise including face masks and a range of clothing.
We hope to be back on campus as soon as we are able, but until then we continue with the important work of keeping everyone connected and making study as easy as it can be online. Some of the supports we have adapted and developed will be continued into the transition back on campus. It's been an opportunity to reassess how we do things and what's important.
With all our activities we have achieved in the past six months through these challenging times, the one we are most proud of are our Graduates who have achieved such incredible personal goals, this includes Boon Wurrung Elder, N’Awee’t Carolyn Briggs, who successfully completed her PhD.
Student Kelsey Woods participating in outdoor activity while in Stage 4 lockdown
Dr Lynne Stuart, Senior Lecturer in Nursing, School of Nursing, Midwifery and Paramedicine, USC
Currently at USC Leone Smith (Indigenous Services) and Dr Lynne Stuart (School of Nursing, Midwifery and Paramedicine) are leading change that is necessary in order to ‘Close the Gap’. They are doing this by using the ‘Capture and Keep’ program to support, grow, retain and graduate the increased professional capability of the next generation of Indigenous nurses and midwives, to work in the Australian healthcare workforce. In a Nutshell – ‘Capture and Keep’ is an Indigenised nursing and midwifery student support/mentoring model.
This year USC has record numbers of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander nursing and midwifery students. In 2013 at USC, there were (13) Indigenous students enrolled in nursing and midwifery programs. In 2020 at USC, there are now a total of (74) Indigenous nursing and midwifery students enrolled across six USC campuses. Through an established partnership facilitated by the ‘Capture and Keep’ program with Queensland Health (QH) Sunshine Coast University Hospital (SCUH), there were (9) USC Indigenous nursing/midwifery graduands in April of 2019 pipelined into post graduate QH nursing and midwifery positions. The QH SCUH Graduate Nurse program now offer (3) Identified Graduate Nurse positions each year with priority given to USC Indigenous Nursing Graduates.
We are making great progress here at USC - made possible because of the great support of our USC DEAN of Indigenous Education and Engagement: Professor Gary Thomas…
Donna Thompson, Belinda Brear, Geoff Vaughan and Tracy-Madonna Wylie, University of the Sunshine Coast
The USC Careers & Employability team (C&E) provides careers and employability services to prospective; current (TPP to PhD); and graduate students for up to two years after graduation. One of C&E strategic goals planned for 2020 was to provide and curate scaffolded opportunities for students to enhance their employability throughout their student journey. During the uncertain times of the pandemic the team looked to find innovative ways to deliver services to ensure students continued to have opportunities to enhance their employability and reflect upon the Graduate Attributes they developed while undertaking these activities.
Some of these innovations included:
“I enjoyed the diverse range of speakers from university staff, to a professional in the field, to students and alumni and a PHD student, I feel this diversity in speakers was key to such a successful event. I gained extremely valuable insight from each presentation.”
“I liked how it had a mix of professionals speaking and students sharing their insights. It was very inspiring, and I liked how it was interactive and we had a chance to discuss!”
“I learned from every session; I love how all topic has been covered. I am going to be more focused, take care of my well-being as well as around me and help others too.”
The Careers and Employability team continues to innovate in exciting ways to provide opportunities for USC students to develop, enhance and articulate their Graduate Attributes through curriculum-embedded activities and co-curricular opportunities.
Dr. Amanda Mergler, Federation University, Australia
While COVID-19 has turned the world upside down for many students, international students have faced distinct challenges beyond those of their domestic peers. Losing part-time work; being unable to access federal government financial support; struggling to finance their study commitments, accommodation and living costs; rapidly moving from face-to-face into online study; and being far away from family and friends at a time of overwhelming uncertainty and increasing anxiety, has placed many international students in an extremely difficult predicament.
While there are concerns in that list that universities cannot ameliorate, career education programs are one way that universities can support international students as they strive to regain employment and some sense of control over their situation. To this end, an Employability Webinar Series for International Students was developed by Dr. Amanda Mergler, a Career Advisor at Federation University, Australia.
International students have specific employability needs due to being new to Australia, lacking local networks, and not understanding the unwritten cultural rules around Australian workplaces (Blackmore et al., 2014). Further, they are usually unfamiliar with the job search tools available, and may be unsure how to write resumes, cover letters, and perform positively in job interviews. Unfortunately, international students are also known to face racism and discrimination in the workplace and wider community, and need skills to identify, challenge and overcome this reality (Graycar, 2010).
To determine the needs of international students at Federation University, a survey was sent to these students in January 2020 asking what support they wished to receive from a career development program. Eighty-six international students responded to the survey indicating that they wanted career education across a wide range of areas, with the most popular choices being:
In addition, several students articulated their lack of confidence at finding and maintaining work in the Australian context and wanted support with their self-esteem.
Further insight came from Career Advisors at the university who noted that international students often undervalue the skills they do have. Despite speaking multiple languages and having studied and sometimes worked in multiple countries, international students rarely mentioned their languages or cross-cultural communication skills. Similarly, few highlighted their ability to live, study and work with diverse others, nor mentioned the drive, flexibility and resilience that led them to move overseas alone to pursue their study and career goals.
While career education webinars had been running face-to-face and, to a lesser extent online at Federation University for some time, it was acknowledged that these tended to place the domestic student experience as the norm. A series aimed specifically at the needs of international students, running exclusively online due to covid-19 restrictions, was deemed timely and crucial.
The career education program became a series of seven webinars entitled ‘Employability Webinar Series for International Students’. Webinars were necessary due to covid-19 restrictions but deemed preferable as international students across all campuses and both states (Victoria and Queensland) were able to attend. In addition, the fact that these webinars ran online meant that guest presenters could be selected from across the country, allowing for a wider range of experts in the international student employability and intercultural space to be recruited.
As a key element of the series was to show international students the excellent employability skills they already possessed, several successful Federation University recent alumni were recruited as guest speakers. These alumni provided content knowledge in key areas and spoke of their own journey from student to employee.
The seven webinars ran weekly for one hour. Formats varied based on guest presenter needs, with most webinars having two guest presenters who shared their knowledge in conversation with Dr. Amanda Mergler, worked through PowerPoint presentations of key themes and ideas, or engaged directly with students via polls and questioning. Students were encouraged to use the chat and ‘raise your hand’ function to ask questions throughout each session. Microsoft Teams was used to host each session.
Table 1. Overview of Each Webinar
Webinar 1: You’ve Got the Skills – Demonstrating Your Brilliance (Part One)
- Writing your strengths into cover letters and resumes.
- Identifying your strengths in language skills, cultural awareness skills, global experience.
- Fed Uni Career Advisor Dr. Amanda Mergler
- Co-founder Project Global Citizen & Director Alphacrane Intercultural Specialists Craig Shim
Webinar 2: You’ve Got the Skills – Demonstrating Your Brilliance (Part Two)
- Personality factors (resilience, drive, flexibility & adaptability) & digital literacy skills.
- Reinforcing strengths in these areas via international student examples.
- Programs and Marketing Coordinator at Practera & Start-Up Interns Co-founder Ocean Cheung.
- Fed Uni alumni & VP International Nepali Students Association Gaurab Gurung
Webinar 3: Using What You’ve Got to Get What You Want
- Making connections in Australia drawing on familiar networks and volunteering opportunities.
- Finding employers who embrace international students.
- Co-founder Project Global Citizen, Director Cultural Transition Consulting, & VP of VicWISE Astrid Hoffmann.
Webinar 4: What Australian Employers Want and Workplaces Need
- Workplace cultural norms.
- Work rights and workers’ rights.
- Co-founder Project Global Citizen, Director Cultural Transition Consulting, & VP of VicWISE Astrid Hoffmann.
- Fed Uni alumni & Community Education Officer Youzhen Huang
Webinar 5: Virtual Internships and Graduate Programs
- Requirements and benefits of a virtual internship.
- Options when deciding next steps after graduation.
- Fed Uni alumni Hemanth Seva
Business Development Consultant at Navitas Professional Ridham Taggar
Webinar 6: Different Careers Paths – From Corporate to Start-Up
- Challenges and opportunities in the range of different pathways available.
- What’s it’s like to work for a boss and be a boss.
- Co-founder of Project Global Citizen & Director of Alphacrane Intercultural Specialists Craig Shim
General Manager of River City Labs, CEO & Founder of CheeHoo, & Co-Host Splash of Colour Pauline Fetaui
Webinar 7: Navigating Unconscious Bias in the Workplace
- Identifying and challenging discrimination and racism in the workplace.
General Manager of River City Labs, CEO & Founder of CheeHoo, & Co-Host Splash of Colour Pauline Fetaui
The Employability Webinar Series for International Students highlighted the skills modern workers need and drew attention to those skills that international students already demonstrate. The series used experts in the international employability space to share their wisdom with students around what employers want, how to acquire and demonstrate these skills, how to enhance opportunities, and how to navigate the reality of the Australian workplace, with an awareness of how covid-19 is changing that landscape. In addition, Federation University alumni shared their experiences of Australian workplaces, providing insight into how workplaces operate and potentially increasing the confidence of international students who may see themselves in these successful graduates. The implementation of this series allowed Federation University to explicitly support the employment and career needs of this valuable cohort, as these students seek to adjust to the changes brought by covid-19 and make the most of their Australian university experience.
Graycar, A. (2010). Racism and the tertiary student experience in Australia. The Academy of the Social Sciences in Australia. Available online at https://humanrights.gov.au/our-work/race-discrimination/publications/racism-and-tertiary-student-experience-australia-adam
Blackmore, J., Gribble, C., Farrell, L., Rahimi, M., Arber, R., & Devlin, M. (2014). Australian international graduates and the transition to employment – final report. Deakin University, Australia.
|Presenter Ocean Cheung||
Federation University Career Advisor & program creator Dr. Amanda Mergler
|Presenter Craig Shim||Fed Uni Career Advisor Dr. Amanda Mergler, Presenter Ocean Cheung (OC), Fed Uni Career Advisor Chris Holmes, Presenter Gaurab Gurung (GG)||Presenter Youzhen Huang, Presenter Astrid Hoffmann, Federation University Career Advisor and question moderator Chris Holmes|
The University of Queensland, Student-Staff Partnership Program
The University of Queensland Student-Staff Partnerships (SSP) program is a whole of institution program that seeks to empower students and staff to collaborate as equal partners and mutual learners. It facilitates opportunities to connect the diverse voices, skills and talents within the UQ community, and it aims to enhance the University experience of both students and staff.
At UQ, experiential learning forms the foundation for student employability development. The UQ Employability Framework articulates UQ’s approach to providing students with access to a range of experiences and then supporting them to reflect on their experiences to identify and effectively communicate their employability development. The Student-Staff Partnership program contributes significantly to student employability development by exposing students to partnership engagements in which they assume active roles to co-create project aims and outcomes – becoming collaborators, communicators, negotiators, problem-solvers, and conflict-resolvers. Effectively applying the essential capabilities required in today’s workforce.
Pre-COVID, the Student Staff Partnership team relied on face-to-face interaction with both students and staff to communicate the ethos of partnership and to support participants to fully and meaningfully engage in their partnership experience. This included mandatory 2 hour face-to-face induction sessions which enabled partnership teams to start the process of addressing traditional student-staff power dynamics and to scope out their rules of engagement for their project. Partnership project meetings and collaborative activities were also primarily face-to-face, as this personal engagement contributed to the development of strong partnership relationships.
As the COVID – 19 situation escalated early this year, the SSP team had to quickly reimagine how to continue to support the community of student and staff partners despite physical distancing measures. In order to keep the program running, and to maintain the high levels of personal engagement, they had to rethink practices of collaboration, get creative, and embrace new online collaboration tools and platforms to move beyond their traditional (face-to-face) ways of engaging.
To ensure that students and staff could stay connected during COVID-19, and that partnership engagements could continue with minimal disruption, the SSP team expanded their use of social media, setting up a dedicated SSP community Facebook group, thus allowing the community to stay in touch as well as providing inspiration and more informal support.
The cover photo on the FaceBook Group page
The team also redesigned every existing workshop and event offered as part of the program. For instance, the team turned the SSP project inductions into interactive and engaging online workshops, using zoom break-out rooms for individual teams, substituting a snowball exercise with a padlet activity, and using jamboard to stimulate conversations on partnership. Similarly, the team redesigned the SSP community of practice meetings and created a virtual project management workshop to share useful online collaboration tools and strategies with students and staff across the University. As part of UQ’s virtual careers fair, the team also hosted a virtual stall (a presentation followed by Q&A).
Personal reflections via Jamboard from the Semester 1, Virtual SSP Projects Celebration Event
As with many programs, the transition to online offering was time consuming, slightly frantic and necessitated not only some innovative thinking but also a willingness to adopt unknown technologies and ways of working. However the benefits of this transition became quickly apparent as participation numbers remained steady and, to the team’s surprise, engagement with sessions and events increased.
The transition to a more flexible delivery mode in particular increased accessibility of the program, enabling students who may otherwise not have been able to participate due to the commitment to be at a particular location, to actively engage in partnership. Staff have also appreciated this flexibility and have embraced the new ways of online working.
The changes to the program have afforded additional employability development through the frequent use of collaborative and project management tools and methodologies that students may not otherwise have encountered. It also provided an opportunity for students to engage in project work via online platforms and technologies which replicated the actual working environments of the majority of the population during that time – exposing students to ways of working that will be more common in the future.
Online collaboration tools hand-out provided for partners
While the relaxation of some restrictions has occurred in Queensland, allowing more face-to-face engagement, it is anticipated that the changes implemented during this time will be integrated into the business as usual offering for the SSP program moving forward, allowing for more flexibility and greater opportunity for employability development.
Amanda Smith and Tracy Piper, UniPASS, Learning Success, Curtin University Library
Every semester, the Curtin PASS (Peer Assisted Study Sessions) program, UniPASS, holds a professional development evening for their 40 staff, Peer Learning Facilitators (PLFs) (often known as “PASS Leaders”) who are students employed to run group study sessions for other students. Usually the professional development evening involves catching up socially and building some rapport over some good food, then 2 hours of training, workshops or discussions that relate to educational practice or future work and career development. In semester 1, 2020, the team had to think outside the box, and chose to use Zoom to host a panel of previous PLFs to discuss their transition to work after graduating from university.
Amanda Smith, Peer Learning Coordinator, invited eight previous PLFs from various industries, and all eight jumped at the chance to catch up with their previous workmates and share their experiences.
The panel consisted of UniPASS Alumni who are now working in the following diverse areas:
Consultant with EY (Ernst and Young); IT area, Woodside; Mechanical Engineer and Business Graduate with BHP; Grad Program, State Government Department of Jobs, Tourism, Science and Innovation; Sessional Academic with Curtin and UWA and Research Assistant at UWA; Graduate Accountant with Harvey Norman; Aged Care Physiotherapist and Sessional Tutor with Centre for Aboriginal Studies at Curtin; Economist with State Government Department of Regional NSW.
Over the evening, all 27 PLFs in attendance were able to have a general chat and catch up with each other, then the panel discussed their journey to the workplace, their experiences of the recruitment and selection processes, and how they are enjoying their current role.
A recurring theme was the idea of ‘imposter syndrome’, where these high achieving students now find themselves questioning their capacity to do their new jobs. However, they all agreed that remembering that you are still learning, asking lots of questions, being very proactive and self-reflective, and being kind to yourself all help to achieve and grow in a new role. They all felt that their UniPASS experiences have been invaluable in building their skills and giving them an edge over other graduates. There was also a lot of advice given around starting the search for work very early in your university studies – don’t wait until your final semester! All of this was fantastic for the current team of PLFs, many of whom will be transitioning to work in the next year.
The team really enjoyed the event, and feedback was very positive. For example:
“It was also great to hear from multiple presenters that UniPASS developed many of their soft skills such as their public speaking, ability to communicate with various stakeholders and capability to design learning materials. It’s clear that UniPASS is thus highly valuable for PLFs as well as attendees…All in all, the PD night was highly insightful and an awesome experience.” (Senior PLF, Faculty of Health Sciences)
“…it was so cool to meet everyone and hear about their experiences, so different yet so positive. So thank you again for this opportunity, it felt like a breath of fresh air. ” (new PLF, Faculty Business and Law)
“Thank you for an amazing PD night. It was definitely very useful and now I am more confident to say that it is okay for me to have some lack of confidence but still try my best no matter what. Thanks again…and (I’m) looking forward to the next PD night with another group of amazing panellists.” (Senior PLF, Faculty Health Sciences)
Amanda Smith and Tracy Piper, Peer Learning Coordinators, were extremely happy with the event - it was run efficiently but also felt very relaxed and friendly, and has opened up ideas about including previous PLFs from across the globe in future events.
As Tracy, who is newer to the program, noted, “It was amazing to see the collegiate atmosphere between the current and previous PLFs. The previous PLFs were so willing to share their experiences in graduating and finding jobs, and the current PLFs were very enthusiastic about learning from them and asking questions. The UniPASS community is obviously a welcoming and inclusive space, and it’s so nice to see this continue even when people are no longer studying or working at Curtin.”
We are looking forward to your submissions for the final 2020 newsletter. During 2020, the newslettter is being issued every second month. Please see the upcoming theme and submission deadlines below.
You may send your submissions at any time to firstname.lastname@example.org.
October/November: Safe and Healthy Campuses and Communication and Engagement with Students
For October/November, we are looking for articles that discuss and highlight the initiatives and programmes that help create safe and healthy campuses across Australia and New Zealand. These can be articles that discuss student involvement with ensuring health, safety, and well-being on campuses, initiatives that equip students with skills to lead healthy lives, crisis or disaster response systems, etc. We are also soliciting articles that address effective channels of communication with students, social media for learning and engagement, and the student perspective on communication within their university
Please email your submissions to email@example.com by 30 November 2020.
The guidelines are available on the ADCET website. These Guidelines aim to complement your institution’s general approach to return to campus and enhance existing resources by ensuring that return-to-campus plans are viewed through a ‘disability inclusive lens’.
They provide considerations and practical recommendations to support the safe return of Staff and Students with Disability back onto campus when they are comfortable and able to do so.
These Guidelines started with a question to EPHEA and were then developed in partnership with the Australian Disability Clearinghouse on Education and Training (ADCET) and the National Disability Coordination Officer Program (NDCO) in collaboration with over 50+ disability practitioners and staff from across the tertiary sector in Australia. The Guidelines were made possible through NDCO Program Strategic Project 2019–2020 funding from the Australian Government Department of Education, Skills and Employment.
We encourage you to download these Guidelines. You may copy, adapt, and distribute any of the content, provided it is used to assist tertiary institutions respond to the needs of Staff and Students with Disability in return-to-campus planning during and after the COVID-19 pandemic, and that you acknowledge ADCET as the source.
The Convenors of the Indigenous PFG Jamie and Dave are very pleased to let you know an Indigenous Forum is being planned for Wednesday December 9th
We are currently working on the agenda which will be released very soon. This invite is extended to all ANZSSA members.
We will be in touch so please stay posted, and save the date!
Jamie and Dave
The ANZSSA Counsellors PFG are holding a PD session - Group programs, workshops and webinars: Counselling Services innovative practices in the online space. Join your colleagues to hear what is working well and share some of your own experiences.
Thursday 19 November 2020 from 12:00noon - 2:00pm AEDT
JANZSSA editors are planning a special focus on COVID-19 ramifications within JANZSSA during 2021.
To that end we encourage contributions of professional articles (for both peer review and non-peer review) and submissions that showcase innovation in professional practice that focus on the ramifications of COVID-19 for students, student focused services, programs and activities, student success and wellbeing initiatives, and student support delivered to different student cohorts.
Articles embracing these topics including shifts, challenges and changes in student engagement, service delivery, use of online services, innovation needed to respond to staff and student experience and need, institutional restructures, the higher education reforms, loss of services etc related to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic are all invited.
We have plans to extend this invitation to international colleagues via AMOSSHE and IASAS etc in the hope that perspectives and experiences from international colleagues can be included.
Authors can access submission details and submit articles via the JANZSSA portal - https://janzssa.scholasticahq.com/for-authors
All enquiries can be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org
Articles and showcase submissions on other topics are of course also welcome. Looking forward to receiving submissions for both the April and October issues in 2021.
Sending you all great courage in your navigation of the final months of 2020.