Who are we?
Equity practitioners are passionate about equal opportunities for all and are dedicated to disrupting and challenging the systemic and institutional barriers that prevent both staff and students to thrive in the tertiary education sector. Equity practitioners value the rich knowledges, skills, experiences and cultures of a diverse staff workforce and student cohort, enriching the experience of tertiary education for all. Equity, diversity and inclusion is not the sole responsibility of equity practitioners within vocational education providers and universities, and as such equity practitioners advocate and work collaboratively with those within and across their institutions, often drawing on their own lived expertise and experiences, to achieve transformative and long-lasting change.
EPHEA (Equity Practitioners in Higher Education Australasia) is the professional incorporated association for equity practitioners who work in tertiary education throughout Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific region. Equity practitioners play an essential role in tertiary education to develop and implement student and/or staff affirmative action programs, manage organisational responsibilities under anti-discrimination legislation, promote cultural change within institutions, and foster an environment which values and respects diversity. EPHEA is run by a committed volunteer Executive Committee made up of equity practitioners from across Australia and New Zealand. The committee structure is guided by the EPHEA Constitution.
The strategic objectives and activities included in EPHEA's Strategic Plan reflects the organisation's mission. The objectives have been modelled on feedback collated from Equity Practitioners at the 2022 AGM.
Under the Constitution EPHEA votes in a committee at the annual AGM. The Committee includes executive positions and ordinary members from each state or territory (where feasible) with interests in staff and/or student equity from Australia and New Zealand. The EPHEA Executive is a volunteer committee.
We encourage each region (state, territory and New Zealand) to have a convenor to facilitate local networking and collaborative opportunities.
Our mission, history, context, values and commitments
EPHEA has four goals that it will strive to achieve from 2023 to 2025:
Continue to build the capacity of equity practitioners as experts within their institutions and to be critically reflective of our own practice;
To champion systemic change through our collective resources, ensuring that equity is positioned at the forefront of institutional practice and national higher education policy;
To work collaboratively and develop partnerships that empower action and change across the tertiary education sector; and
To recognise and celebrate the work of equity practitioners across the sector.
EPHEA was originally formed as the Equal Opportunity Practitioners in Higher Education in Victoria in 1987 as the professional organisation for equal opportunity officers employed in higher education institutions in Victoria and in the Australian Catholic University which at that time has campuses in four states. The organisation was expanded across Australia and New Zealand as the Australasian body of Equal Opportunity Practitioners in Higher Education in Australasia known as EOPHEA.
In 2012 EPHEA was renamed the Equity Practitioners in Higher Education Australasia and became an incorporated associated with membership across most Higher Education institutions in Australia and New Zealand with strong activity in both the staff and student equity spheres.
In 2020, COVID-19 had a significant impact on the Australian, New Zealand and Pacific higher education systems, institutional responses to the student and staff equity agenda and the complexities experienced by students and staff in navigating the tertiary education landscape.
The recent election of the Labor Government and the announcement of the University’s Accord, presents a significant opportunity to reimagine the purpose and the role of tertiary education institutions and their role in society.
Te Tiriti o Waitangi, as the foundational document in New Zealand, plays a significant role in shaping tertiary education and New Zealand society. As a crown agent, tertiary education has the obligation and responsibility to reflect the values highlighted in the articles of Te Tiriti.
The introduction of free fees scheme in 2018 and the recent introduction of the Equity Index, focuses on reducing educational disparities across Aotearoa's education sector. This provides tertiary education in Aotearoa the exciting opportunity to increase responsive and inclusive educational practices that support communities, iwi, whānau and individuals within New Zealand society.
There is increasing focus in the Pacific Islands to improve their tertiary education development to increase access, participation and retention of their communities in higher education.
OUR VALUES AND COMMITMENTS
EPHEA’s work is to be guided and informed by our beliefs and commitment to:
Reconciliation and recognition
As an organisation working in Australasia, we recognise Indigenous and First Nations Peoples as tangata whenua (indigenous peoples) of Aotearoa and traditional custodians of Australia and the Torres Strait Islands with deep connections with the custodianship of, the land and sea. We have a collective commitment to Indigenous rights under the United Nations Declaration of Indigenous People and recognition of the relationship needed between non-Indigenous and Indigenous peoples.
We honour Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders as the First Peoples of Australia and seek to work alongside each other towards our shared goals. We recognise the tangata whenua (original peoples) of Aotearoa status of Māori and the country’s commitment to Te Tiriti o Waitangi (the Treaty of Waitangi).
Social justice, equity, fairness, inclusion and safety
We are committed to respectful relationships with the diverse people that we work with. We value diversity and are committed to equality of opportunity and positive outcomes for all. We are committed to incorporating an anti-racism approach to pro-equity work and to disrupt the power dynamics within institutions that continue to oppress underrepresented groups in tertiary education.
A strengths-based approach
We want to empower people to achieve their employment and education goals from a place of strength and self-determination.
An evidence-based approach
Our work is based on best practice combining practitioner and community expertise and experience; and sound research.
Collaboration and partnership – we value and recognise the expertise of equity practitioners across the sector and acknowledge that we can achieve more together than on our own.
We acknowledge the experience and expertise that exist outside of our institutions, through collaborating and partnering with the communities we are trying to serve.
We have a common sense of purpose and identity; we have a long standing reputation and endurance within the sector continually empowering our members over time.