It’s been a little over four months since I joined Curtin University as Head of the School of Public Health and it’s been a busy and eventful time.
I’m indebted to many, many people for their patience, guidance and support whilst I got to grips with the new role. My first impressions were that I was joining a school staffed by individuals who were committed and passionate about Public Health, and as first impressions go, they were spot on.
Over the past three months the school has commenced on a journey, aimed at establishing the school as a leading light in learning, teaching, and research in the field of Public Health in Australia. In September, a representation of the school’s senior staff engaged in a two-day retreat to outline a strategy by which the school could accomplish this ambition. The retreat ended with a series of newly created working groups who were charged with identifying how we could enhance, develop and support the work of the school. They undertook a review over a six week period and there then followed a final retreat which consolidated the numerous outcomes of the working groups and provided the basis for a new strategy that will be implemented over the next 12 months.
One of the key findings of the group is that there is a need to clearly articulate where the school’s strengths lay – both currently, and more importantly where we want them to be in years to come. Public Health is a dynamic discipline that needs to respond to the evolving environment both nationally and within the broader Asia-Pacific Region in order to address both long standing and emerging societal needs. The School of Public Health at Curtin has a long history in multiple disciplines in public health but our strengths have not necessarily been reflected in standard models of academic performance. The challenge going forward is to ensure that we realise the huge potential within the school so that we continue to effect positive change in the communities that we work with.
We have already made considerable progress towards this aim; we recently received an ERA ranking of 5 (the highest possible) for Nutrition and Dietetics and we were awarded accreditation for three of our courses, the Graduate Diploma of Occupational Health and Safety, the Masters of Occupational Health and Safety and the Masters of Dietetics. We have also secured Commonwealth Supported Places in 2016 for the Graduate Diploma in Environmental Health for 2016 and the Masters of Dietetics and I would like to thank in particular Helen Brown, Toni Hannelly, Andrea Begley and Jane Scott for their efforts in leading these initiatives.
We have also had phenomenal and unprecedented success in the 2015 Australian Research Council (ARC) and National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) funding rounds and the school is now host to the first NHMRC Centre for Clinical Research Excellence in Western Australia led by Professor Chris Reid.
The school also had a very strong representation in this years’ promotion applications with three of our staff gaining promotion to Senior Lecturer positions (Linda Portsmouth, Jonathan Hallett and Ryu Takechi) and three to Associate Professor positions (Stuart Johnson, Brad Zhang and Jonine Jancey). The professional staff have also had a significant year this year and I would like to acknowledge each and every one of them for their tireless dedication and professionalism during what has been a significant time of change across Curtin. The team have continued to provide me with support over the past few months and also friendship and many a laugh (and chocolate) which has made me feel incredibly welcomed. I would like to note that both Penny Kelly and Peta Barnes have been nominated for the VC Excellence Awards – the outcomes of which will be announced on 7 December, so our fingers are crossed!
These are just some of the notable achievements that have happened since August and this is just the beginning of what we can achieve together. I’d like to end on those gleaming notes by wishing you all a safe and peaceful Christmas and a very happy and successful New Year.