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Faculty of Computing, Health and Science - Occassional speaker

Sunday, 22 March 2009, 6.00pm

Catherine Stoddart, Adjunct Associate Professor

Good Evening Chancellor, The Honourable Hendy Cowan, Vice-Chancellor Professor Kerry Cox, Distinguished Guests, Graduates, Parents, Family and friends.

Thank you for the privilege of speaking on such a significant night, especially those who have gathered to recognise the achievements of these graduates across such a variety of disciplines.

I am sure for graduates there are a range of emotions this evening as you step up to the podium to receive your award, not the least of which is the single minded goal not to on your robe as you step up on the stage.

Reaching this day, this achievement has required years of preparation. In reflecting on where you have come from, you will be able to recognise the expertise, skills, knowledge and a range of personal attributes that you have developed,
each of which will stand you in great stead for your career, in your profession, and life.

I am sure many of you have learnt the value of pulling an all nighter to lodge an assignment with 5 minutes to go the next morning!

Firstly, I would like to acknowledge and the significant and consistent contribution that parents, friends and family will have made in supporting each graduate through this endeavour. There will have been times you have made coffees whilst an assignment was finished, driven to uni when students had no petrol, edited papers and listened with empathy about first clinical or work placements.

I am sure that this support was invaluable in helping each of the graduates achieve their goal. On behalf of the graduates, thankyou.

Graduates, as each sit reflecting on your time at ECU there are probably many stories you have shared about those difficult first days in hospitals or clinical settings, seeing the best and the worst of humanity, building friendships with other students who understand the angst of first steps taken to use your skills and the confidence required to back your decisions.

These friendships create incredible loyalty and a bond with the people sitting beside you today who have now become your professional colleagues. There will be a unique link with these people who are now ECU graduates and Alumni. As graduates we are all amongst a fortunate and elite group of people that have completed a university education making up approximately 22% of Australian population however the % is much lower at a globally level. By way of comparison only 23% of Indigenous Australians complete their year 12 education compared to non indigenous at 49%. This reduces significantly in remote areas such as the Kimberley.

Therefore, following such an opportunity to study and as you commence your career can I suggest taking time to ponder "where is it you would like to lend your valuable talents" and what is the impact you would like to have?

There is a huge variety and diversity of options in your future. It may take exploration to find the purpose and passion that shapes your career.

This could unlock opportunities for each of you on the global stage or cross a variety of professional paths such as highly specialised hospital environment, primary care, industry both private and public that can affect whole communities or perhaps working with the most vulnerable in our community in remote Australia.

This has become an area of my professional passion Our Indigenous Australians have a mortality rate that is almost three times that of non indigenous Australians, live 17 years less and are formally recognised at 45 years of ages as being in their old age due to the level of disease and life expectancy. There is much work to be done, and I have personally observed that the best and brightest talents such as yours are needed to improve the lives of indigenous Australians

Your studies have provided you a base of technical skills, theory and the ability to problem solve which is unique and supports how you can influence and contribute to the health and wellbeing of our community.

This will be at its most effective if you are able to glean and translate the values you have explored during your time at ECU into your professional career.

That special combination of skill and attitude will increase your effectiveness in provide comfort, advocate and influence on behalf of individuals or whole groups of people.

For each of you in your professional role, your knowledge and skills will be requested and valued Like some of you here, I am proud to be in a health profession nursing that is considered amongst the most trusted by the community and with this recognition comes responsibility.

There are now numerous studies, include a recent study from Deakin University that have identified some of the most significant factors to enduring wellbeing and is making a contribution, and community connectedness and this result has been repeated globally. So considering that this aspect of our lives will have direct impact on our own wellbeing as well as those whom we can affect it is worth pondering how this can fit into your career choices. In your past there has been a teacher in high school who really saw your potential, a lecturer in university or an educator in professional setting who made an effort to understand your perspective. These role models may have influenced how you view yourself and your skills today.

You can leave a similar legacy as part of a community or professional body, and alumni. Your skills and manner, the attitude to your profession, customers and colleagues will be remembered long after you have moved on to the next one. Therefore, create the professional you would like to be viewed as, in particular for those current and future students who will look to you for support and guidance.

Actively seek out mechanisms that allow you to be generous and inclusive to those students and colleagues who will look to you as role models, coaches and leaders they wish to emulate.

This will leave your mark on your profession, change how it is viewed by customers, colleagues, other professions and the community at large.

Many of you will have begun this process within you workplace and have begun tentatively to find your position amongst the range of professional groups that form part of the whole arena in which you work. The experiences and challenges of your studies will have already influenced your own areas of interest and passion. These will continue to drive the direction you take in your career, how you see the world, your values about social justice, politics, health and humanity. Many health and science professionals - Nurses and Midwives included, have challenged themselves to take up positions specific to their profession at a national level on behalf of professional groups, rural communities, or in the global arena such as- Medicine sans Frontier, Red Cross, Australian Volunteers Abroad, and supported education programs in neighbouring third world countries, including those which ECU has contributed.

There are those alumni who have had the chance to use their expertise to influence national and international policy across a suite of arenas that are a side step from their original professions but none the less influence the lives for large groups of people through high level health, education and policy advice to Organisations such as the World Health organisation.

So, I would encourage you to take time to acknowledge your achievement as part of unique group, To explore a career where you can find your purpose, inspires a real passion and possibility in you. Consider for a moment where you can use your expertise to contribute and then the legacy you would like for those who will follow in your path.

I look forward to a future where each of your professions is lead by the ECU graduates here today.

I hope you enjoy this evening, the celebrations and wish you well on your journey.

Thank you.

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