Back row - L to R - Abdul MOHAIMAN, Lok Ho (Julian) WONG, Natcha ARCHAGRAISORN, Kelvin GONZALES
Front row - L to R - Miranda JARVIS-HARRISON, Vice-Chancellor Professor Jane den Hollander, Karla BERGANTINOS, Yumei (Mei) TAN
Equity, diversity and building resilient communities are the major career themes that led to Deakin Vice-Chancellor Professor Jane den Hollander receiving the Officer of the Order of Australia (AO) medal in the 2017 Australia Day Honours awards.
The Vice-Chancellor’s AO award is for distinguished service to tertiary education through a range of executive administration and advisory roles, as a supporter of professional educational organisations, and to the community.
In accepting the award the Vice-Chancellor stressed that it belonged to the entire Deakin University community. “It’s a great honour. We’re being acknowledged for contribution to community,” Professor den Hollander said.
“The University has done a lot in Geelong and I have been the figurehead for incredible amounts of work done by people around me so I’ve taken it as a great acknowledgement that Deakin is on the right track in Geelong and that’s fantastic.
“That’s not to underestimate what we do in Melbourne. And the work we’re doing in the cloud is bleeding edge and taking us to a new level in managing our students’ experience. But if I have to think of one community that has really benefitted, it would be the people of Geelong.
“So I say, thank you to the community for wrapping its arms around Deakin. My AO reflects the success of this community in our understanding of what good education and good research can do. It can make a difference and we have as a community.”
A career in education
The VC said education was highly valued in her family as she grew up in South Africa. If she misbehaved, her parents would make her read the Encyclopaedia Britannica as punishment. “I knew everything in volumes A to M, but not so much in N to Z,” she said.
As a university student in Johannesburg, the VC began to understand the privilege of being born white and able to gain a good education. That exposure to racial exclusion fuelled a life-long passion for equity and access to education for all who want it that has shaped her career.
“I’ve always understood that I’m lucky, that I have a very privileged life.”
Upholding Deakin’s founding principles
“At Deakin our originating Act from 42 years ago said we would be a university for Geelong and for regional Victoria and that we’d be a university for access and participation,” Professor den Hollander said.
“I’m striving to uphold the Act but to do that in a contemporary twenty-first century situation. So what does access and participation mean today? It means to be the best university at the digital frontier, education for the jobs of the future, staying contemporary, making sure that we do that in a very inclusive way, that anybody who wishes to get a university education can choose Deakin and get the learning and skills they need.”
In an effort to ensure Deakin stays relevant in this era of disruption, the Vice-Chancellor visited the United States last week to see the latest in technological advances that will impact student’s learning.
“The jobs of the future are changing as we speak. Donald Trump says he wants all car-making to come back to America but most cars aren’t made by people anymore; they’re made by machines. It doesn’t matter if car making comes back to America, they’re not going to employ many more people,” she said.
“So what are the jobs of the future? We know that to have a job in the future, many of which will be alongside machines or making machines or instructing machines you’ll need lots of skills; that’s how you stay contemporary, that’s our focus – to ensure our graduates have the skills they need for their future.
“Universities are places of learning and to stay contemporary we must always ask “what’s over the horizon?” and so I spent last week in the US having a look around, seeing what everyone else is doing and look at what Deakin needs to do in Geelong, Burwood and in Warrnambool for our future success and progress.
“We need to think about quite a few things such as globalisation and automation. The most important is that we have to get more kids to finish school and to do a post-school qualification. You don’t have to come to university but you need some post-school qualifications if you want to compete in the world.
“If you are doing something that is routine, a machine will be able to do that. As a consequence of this industrial revolution 4.0, many jobs are going to go. But one thing we’ve learned from the last three industrial revolutions is that more jobs are created. We want to stay ahead and educate people for those jobs.”
The Vice-Chancellor said she was particularly proud of Deakin’s achievements in student satisfaction and as a contributor to the wider community. “We’ve been voted number one for learning satisfaction in Victoria for six years in a row. That doesn’t just happen, its bloody unbelievably hard in my opinion,” she said.
“I’m very proud of what we at Deakin have achieved in Geelong. I arrived here in 2010 and things were just starting to unfold with globalisation and the car industry was in trouble, Alcoa was in trouble. We have reinvented the university to meet the needs of this town exactly when it needed it. We’ve grown here. We’ve moved business and law to the Waterfront, we’ve created thousands of jobs on the Waurn Ponds campus with carbon fibre, materials research and our emerging battery and environmental efforts. Our health faculty with its medical school and the association with the Epworth Hospital rounds out a sensible and useful approach. And a great satisfaction has been our growing Arts and Education portfolio which has kept pace with the future and has grown, not shrunk as many might have expected.
“It’s an incredible story of two things, a great group of staff who have absolutely understood the vision of what we had to do and a community that has embraced its university. There would be very few people in Geelong who don’t know who Deakin is. They may not love us all of the time but they respect what we’ve done. I think that’s what I’m most proud of right now that we’ve actually got involved and served this community or tried to serve this community to the best of our ability and that’s what we’ll continue to do.
Reacting to the AO announcement
“I told my mother and she’s absolutely thrilled. She’s going to tell everyone we know. She is 92 and she made sure her children were educated. She gave us the work ethic to be good and do good. She deserves the accolades as none of my opportunities were ever available to her.”
Stepping up and assuming leadership roles
The Vice-Chancellor serves on several boards including Skilling the Bay, the Kardinia Park Trust, UniSuper and the Australia India Education Council.
“My view is that if you don’t put your hand up you mostly miss out on what might be wonderful opportunities to be part of new ideas with interesting motivated people. Getting involved is often hard work, but it makes a difference and you could actually have some fun. That has been my experience,” she said.
Supporting woman to achieve
“I believe we must all work to ensure violence against women is eradicated and that education for all, including women, is a basic human right. So the best way for us to help the world is to do it well in Australia across all cultures and all ages. Let’s be an example to others, rather than catching up.”
Hopes for the future
Looking to the future, the VC shares her professional and personal aims; “That Deakin is the best university we can be for the communities we serve. This remains a work in progress that I know we share as the Deakin community. And at a personal level I wish to leave Deakin in the best shape possible for the next stage of its journey,” Professor den Hollander said.
The Order of Australia appointment
Appointments to the Order of Australia recognise outstanding achievement and service to Australia or humanity at large. Recipients receive the insignia of their awards at investiture ceremonies at Government Houses in each state and territory.