14 May 2008

Projects providing free legal advice to the homeless and aiding farmers in the Asia-Pacific have won this year’s UQ Vice-Chancellor’s Equity and Diversity Awards.

Presented this evening as part of the University’s Diversity Week celebrations, the prizes recognise staff, students and graduates who are pursuing inclusive initiatives which benefit others.

The $10,000 Vice-Chancellor’s Equity and Diversity Award was presented to a group led by TC Beirne School of Law lecturers Paul O’Shea and Dr Tamara Walsh.

The group coordinates LAWS 5180, a course which allows undergraduate students to better understand how the legal system affects homeless and other disadvantaged people.

It is estimated that in three years, the project (run in collaboration with the Queensland Public Interest Law Clearing House) has helped save $50,000 in fees and assisted 400 clients.

Runners up were the Boilerhouse Community Engagement Centre at the Ipswich campus, whose “Realising Opportunity” program has successfully opened up higher education options for local students, while the UQ Library was highly commended for its work assisting Indigenous scholars, and those with disabilities and from non-English speaking backgrounds.

Also singled out for his achievements was Dr Ben Mullen, who was named the inaugural Alumni Equity and Diversity Award winner.

A UQ Bachelors, Masters and PhD graduate, Dr Mullen was honoured for two decades of work helping disadvantaged farmers boost production and sustainability in countries including Vanuatu, PNG, Vietnam, Indonesia and Burma (Myanmar).

Dr Mullen is now based at UniQuest, where he is Deputy General Manager of the International Projects Division and manages the agricultural and rural development program.

Fellow UQ alumnus Lizzie Brown, the Education, Training & Research Director of Engineers Without Borders Australia, was highly commended.

The awards ceremony also featured a lively panel discussion facilitated by Phillip Adams AO titled “Wired for Warfare? Packaged for Peace? Does spirituality divide more than it unites?”

The topic reflects this year’s theme, which is The Spirit of Diversity.

Acting Vice-Chancellor Professor Michael Keniger said Diversity Week had been an important part of the UQ calendar since 2003, and that this year also marked 40 years of operation for the University’s Interfaith Chaplaincy Service.

Remaining events are free and open to the public, with a complete listing available at www.uq.edu.au/diversity-week

Media: Cameron Pegg at UQ Communications (07 3365 2049, c.pegg@uq.edu.au)