Community talks vital, says new Indigenous Dean

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University of the Sunshine Coast’s first Dean of Indigenous Education and Engagement Professor Gary Thomas

The University of the Sunshine Coast has appointed Professor Gary Thomas as its first Dean of Indigenous Education and Engagement.

Professor Thomas is a Yui and Australian South Sea Islander man from North Queensland.

He has had an extensive career in Australian higher education having worked in Indigenous leadership roles at the University of Southern Queensland, University of Melbourne, La Trobe University, the Queensland University of Technology and most recently the Batchelor Institute of Indigenous Tertiary Education.

He said he was drawn to USC’s strong emphasis on the student experience.  

“You can’t offer successful student services if you’re not engaging with the broader Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, which includes families, community organisations and businesses,” Professor Thomas said.

In 2016, Professor Thomas was an external advisor on USC’s Embedding Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Knowledges Working Party.  

“I am looking forward to seeing how our engagement with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people shapes what we do at USC,” he said.

He said Indigenous peoples were still under-represented in universities and in graduate cohorts, comprising 1.74 percent of university domestic student enrolments nationally, while at USC they comprise 3.06 percent of the cohort. Today, 435 Indigenous students are enrolled at USC and this figure grows each year.

Professor Thomas wants Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people as individuals, families and communities to experience the benefit gained through attaining university qualifications.

“Participation in employment, housing, health, the justice system and social institutions becomes easier as a university graduate,” Professor Thomas said.

“Our country benefits through positive engagement with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Our programs at USC seek to provide all students with such experiences.”

“It is our goal to deeply reflect on what it means to be a student in this modern age with all the technology and resources available and to make sure students feel connected to each other, their lecturers and their university.”

Professor Thomas was previously Acting Chief Executive Officer at Batchelor Institute of Indigenous Tertiary Education; the Associate Director of Academic Indigenous Knowledges at the Queensland University of Technology; Director of Indigenous Education and Director Equity and Student Support Services at La Trobe University; Acting Pro Vice-Chancellor (Equity and Student Services) at La Trobe University and Director of the Centre for Indigenous Education at the University of Melbourne.

 
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