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for Change

2020 recipient

"Getting the email to say that I was a Champion for Change was a very moving, very humbling shock which left a warmth in my heart and gave me even more love for my colleagues. We're all in this together, and it can feel thankless at times. Celebrating each other and our work is so important."

About the program

Champions for Change was developed in 2020 in partnership between EPHEA and the National Centre for Student Equity in Higher Education (NCSEHE) as part of World Access to Higher Education Day (WAHED). In our first year we celebrated over 70 nominees, and since then have recognised over 260 Equity Practitioners from across Australia and Aotearoa New Zealand.


Late last year we put the call out to the EPHEA Community to nominate their peers who are working tirelessly to improve access to Higher Education, and they delivered. We are pleased to announce the 2023 Champions for Change.


Meet the 2023 Champions for Change

Dr Sakinah Alhadad | Griffith University

Sakinah is an exemplary equity practitioner, educator and researcher, making significant contributions at the intersection of psychology, learning sciences, and education. Her commitment to translational research and educational practice, grounded in principles of equity and social justice, speaks volumes about her dedication to fostering positive change.

Sakinah's role as a passionate advocate at Griffith, challenging systemic barriers, demonstrates her proactive approach to addressing issues of inequity within the institution. The initiation of the JEDI (Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion) community of practice is commendable, showcasing her leadership in creating spaces for meaningful conversations and collaborations on diversity, equity, and inclusion in the tertiary sector.

Her embodiment of equity and the establishment of regular collaborative catch-ups through the community of practice, further emphasise her commitment to promoting a culture of diversity and inclusion. Sakinah's nomination is undoubtedly well-deserved, reflecting her outstanding efforts and impact on creating positive and equitable environments within the Griffith community.


It's individuals like Sakinah who play a crucial role in advancing positive change and fostering inclusive spaces within educational institutions. Her work serves as an inspiration for others to follow, and she is undoubtedly making a lasting impact on the Griffith community.

Dr Kylie Austin University of Wollongong

Kylie has been a strong advocate for equity practitioners and ensuring all voices of EPHEA members is respected and represented inclusively to drive policy outcomes. Kylie has consistently championed for equity outcomes across the sector in both her roles at EPHEA and the University of Wollongong.

Alexa Brisbin University of Wollongong

Alexa is a relatively new not only to higher education, but also Australia, recently arriving from Canada. Yet nonetheless, she is a passionate equity practitioner that embodies and represents all the wonderful characteristics and values so crucially required to thrive in a student-centric role to initiate positive change in higher education for underrepresented groups.

Alexa has taken on her new role so enthusiastically, always offering positivity, creativity, proactiveness and student-centred approaches with no challenge ever to big or hard to take on. Always keen to immerse herself in further reading, professional development and learning, she is continually promoting change and the inclusion of innovation at our institution. She is always knocking on the door to ensure equity-focused programs and engagement activities are being pursued so our campus continues to celebrate diversity, inclusion and individuality. 

The management of our casual mentor staffing team has been a key highlight of her recent successes, always embedding quality systems, processes and PD into our Outreach & Widening Participation programs to ensure equity is embedded into our delivery consistently. The mentoring of our young university mentor staff has been where she has shined, always looking for better ways to ensure our team is gold-standard in their program-delivery, weaving in their unique journeys, celebrating their uniqueness and having crucial equity insights and nuanced conversations when speaking to students in our diversely-populated sponsored schools.

Alexa is great new equity champion, and wonderfully valued in her team!

Dr Rachel Burke University of Newcastle

Dr Rachel Burke works tirelessly to research for the betterment of improved educational opportunities for students from culturally and linguistically marginalised refugee, migrant and asylum seeker backgrounds, and is incredibly generous in her academic mentoring of early career researchers. She is an inspiration.

Gemma Coleman University of Wollongong

Gemma is an extremely passionate equity practitioner that embodies and represents all the wonderful characteristics and values so inherently required to thrive in a student-centric tole to initiate positive change in higher education for underrepresented groups.

Gemma loves disrupting, always attempting to innovate and have student engagement at the forefront of her mind. Positive student experiences and outcomes are always promoted by Gemma whenever she takes on a program or duty!

No challenge is ever to big or hard to take on and she is always keen to immerse herself in further reading, professional development and learning. She is constantly reviewing, interpreting and acting upon data to ensure equity-focused outcomes are backward mapped when reviewing her program goals. All her decisions are always informed and backed by student data, never resting on her laurels and always keen to explore new ways of doing things to create vibrant student experiences and to inspire higher education as a 'real' possibility for underrepresented cohorts.

Kind, considered and equity-minded, Gemma is a cherished member of the team!

Dr Lara Drew University of Canberra

Dr Drew brings compassion, empathy and a genuine desire to bring the opportunity to participate in higher education to all the students with whom she works - including students from out of home care, humanitarian visa students and first in family. Lara draws on the individual experiences of those she works with, tailoring support to their needs and recognizing the strengths they bring not just to the University of Canberra, but the greater Canberran community. Her ability to ensure that the lens of equity is applied consistently changes the outcome for students in realms that she may not be directly involved. Dr Drew is modest in her approach to her work.

Amber Elliot | Monash University

Amber has dedicated herself to improving quality and access to education for Monash, challenging our perceptions around diversity and inclusion. She works tirelessly to champion rural, regional and remote students, implementing initiatives such as the Regional Hub at Orientation, and has been instrumental in working to influence our policy and procedural changes around access and scholarships to provide wider and more substantial support to more students.

Sarah Fenn | University of Canberra

Sarah Fenn is the Lead Clinical Educator of Occupational Therapy at the University of Canberra. In 2023 she developed and supervised an Occupational Therapy program for neurodivergent students to improve their tertiary education experience. The pilot program is delivered by OT students on placement to students registered with InclusionUC. The OT Students work with and assist their peers who come in as clients, helping them overcome obstacles. This creates a unique environment where students are helping fellow students – a method that has proven to be effective. 

Sarah's program is strengths based and person centred. Her program enabled neurodivergent students to set and achieve meaningful goals leading to independence, improved academic outcomes, an increased sense of belonging and overall more positive experiences at University. Furthermore Sarah and her team of OT students have collaborated with the wider UC community to challenge processes, invite new ways of thinking and doing, embrace diversity and ensure a more accessible and inclusive campus. The most beautiful aspect of this program is that it is improving outcomes for students with disability in Higher Education while at the same time providing educational experiences that foster equity practitioners for the future. 

First Year Experience Team | Curtin University

The Curtin University First Year Experience team: Ella Ewart, Anika Pawlovich, Emma Pelliccione, Natasha Walker and Georgia Kirkwood, support the transition and retention of first year Equity students.


In Semester 2 2023, under new direction, the team launched the First Year Advisor program that aims to provide individualised, pastoral 1:1 support, unit-level check-ins, proactive at-risk intervention, skill-based workshops and events. The Program is delivered centrally across Curtin University but has strong collaborative relationships with Faculties, Schools and other support services, to ensure tailored support for students. The advisors have supported Equity students in exploring their career aspirations, overcoming their barriers, securing scholarships, balancing their study load, checking in on their wellbeing and much more.

The First Year Advisor program has shown an increase in Equity student engagement and retention, with many students building a lasting rapport with their advisor. The team go above and beyond to make sure their first year Equity cohort have the best start to their university journey and set them up for success in achieving their goals.

The Hon. Professor Verity Firth | University of New South Wales

Verity has consistently demonstrated the impact senior leaders can create by advocating for equity at both institution and sector level. She has continuously advocated for systemic changes for equity. Thank you Verity!

Professor Linda Graham | Queensland University of Technology

Professor Linda Graham has been a champion for equity and inclusion for many years, both in research and practice. She has provided seed funding and support for many equity projects, including inclusion in higher education. Through her research in accessible pedagogies and assessment, Professor Graham conceptualised and designed a university-wide university subject. Living and Working Collaboratively, Ethically, and Inclusively revolves around the concepts of equity, diversity, and inclusion. The unit aims to make university teaching more inclusive of students in priority equity groups and provide all students with the knowledge and skills they need to be inclusive and to create inclusive societies.

History Team | The University of Sydney

Niro Kandasamy, James Findlay and Thomas Cafe currently lead the University of Sydney History Department outreach and inclusion program. The program has been running for over a decade, and focuses on supporting students and teachers in low-ses, disadvantaged, rural, and regional public high schools. The team has worked with dozens of partner schools over the years, supported hundreds of high school students, and also brought them into contact with uni life via a number of mentoring programs that match our wonderful uni student volunteers with students and their projects in the schools. Where possible, we also try to meet teachers and students in their own schools to learn more about their academic environment.


Our programs have ranged from themed campus visits, intensive visits from regional schools, discipline-specific mentoring at Year 11, and support for prizes and awards. Since Covid, the team has focused its efforts on an History Extension mentoring program, and is currently enjoying much growth in regional and rural school participation because of the possibilities of zoom meetings. All of this work has been done on top of other teaching and research responsibilities; however, all team members are committed to trying to remove barriers to higher education, knowing that a more diverse student cohort will be of inestimable value to us as well.

Libby Kinna | Curtin University

Libby is our Student Development consultant working in the design and delivery of our co-cuuricular leadership programs. The program(s) were quite niche in their nature and had been seen to be only for students who have privilege. Libby has turned this around. She has:

•    Re-designed leadership programs, reduced barriers of entry and diverse range of student participants
•    Impact with equity students (saw this first hand at Curtin Leaders Program) and empowers students as change agents
•    The Program has solid foundations in Social Change Model of Leadership
•    Student satisfaction rating of 93% for her programs

It is a pleasure to be able to recognise Libby as a Champion for Change.

Robin Ladwig | University of Canberra

From being a PhD candidate lobbying for and then establishing a working group for guidelines on gender affirmation at the university, to working within the Diversity team where they could effect change at the corporate level, contributing to the establishment of 3 additional staff led networks, Robin has sought to raise visibility and awareness around a range of diversity identities.


Currently, having completed their studies and working as an Academic in the faculty of Business, Government and Law, Robin provides inhouse staff education across the University on LGBTQIA+ and Intersectionality; they are an advisor and committee member for the UC Ally network; they lead both a Research Hub on Inclusion and Equity, and a project exploring the improvement of student support regarding transitions throughout university and beyond. They are also HEAPPs NSW/ACT Co-chair for an inclusive environment of LGBTQIA+ people (student and staff) in higher education. Robin is a champion of change at their core.

Grant Lewis University of Wollongong

As a new equity practitioner, Grant's dedication to and passion to learn all he can to support students has been wonderful to observe. 2024 has seen Grant not only develop and grow UOW's Students' Hub but also be in the space providing support to students Monday - Friday, 9am - 4pm.

Grant is dedicated to ensuring that all students have access to the supports and services they need to succeed in their educational and life goals and has demonstrated this not only through his work day in day out but by also continuing to expand his own education and exposure through courses, conferences and the EPHEA Mentoring Program.

UOW students will continue to thrive and succeed with staff like Grant here to advocate for the change that is needed.

Steffi Linton | University of Canberra

Steffi works with identified equity groups, providing support to reach success within the tertiary environment. Steffi works with empathy and a focus to ensure each student is seen holistically and genuinely heard. Her genuine belief that education should be accessible to all drives her initiatives to removes barriers that prevent success. Steffi celebrates the success of our students - taking joy when students meet their own identified goals and those identified by the institution. Through data and stories Steffi, and the team, are quietly changing the optics through which our students are viewed - subsequently changing the long-term trajectory of these cohorts in our community. 

Dr Luke Macaulay | Deakin University

Luke Macaulay is a Research Fellow and the coordinator of the careers clinic for people from a refugee background at Deakin CREATE. The Deakin Centre for Refugee Employment, Advocacy, Training and Education (CREATE) aims to build knowledge and understanding of how best to support people from a refugee background to rebuild their careers after leaving their home country through obtaining meaningful employment and accessing vocational training and education. Luke’s PhD research explored the experiences and perspectives of Australian Sudanese and South Sudanese youths in Melbourne, regarding the transition to adulthood.


Luke has a number of years’ experience working with and advocating alongside African Australian communities from refugee backgrounds, particularly in the areas of youth employment and education.
The centre works closely with non-governmental and governmental organizations to develop practical solutions which support refugee inclusion into the workplace and the vocational and higher education sectors, as well as advocate on behalf of the refugee community to foster policy changes that support such inclusion.

Luke’s broader research interests include cultural experiences of becoming an adult, social and political belonging, and critical social theories. As an interdisciplinary researcher, Luke has worked and published in a number of areas including: refugee and migration studies, cultural studies, inclusive education, educational leadership, and higher education.

Melanie Seal Moradi | Australian Catholic University

Melanie lives the mission of making equity everyone's business. She inspires colleagues to have difficult conversations that lead to organisational change, never shying away from an opportunity to make things better for current and future students, and supports new and existing students well beyond their interaction with our programs, being a great champion for those who need it. Mel goes above and beyond to show us all the way, and has been instrumental in developing some great partnerships across the sector, knowing that we cannot do this alone, and that change can only come if we embrace the challenge as one.

Len Nielson | Curtin University

Len has been a dedicated equity practitioner for over 10 years now, before NCSEHE (and accordingly me) arrived at Curtin. In that time, I have witnessed him live and breathe social justice, not just at work, but in his personal life, too, where he dedicates much of his time to volunteer, community-building projects and causes. Currently, Len is Curtin's Community and Prison Outreach Coordinator, and supports more than 100 incarcerated students to access university studies.


Len's work has meant having to find creative solutions to overcome prison disruptions, resource access issues and other, prison specific challenges. Additionally, as a significant percentage of the prisons cohort are First Nations peoples, he has helped facilitate yarning sessions with Aboriginal Elders, helped Indigenous Tertiary Enabling Course students to graduate, created resumes for pre-release students and accommodated practicum placements for Construction Management students (something he didn't even know was possible). And he does it all with so much grace and a warm smile on his face! Truly a Champion for Change.

Katie Osborne-Crowley | University of New South Wales

Katie stands out as an unwavering advocate for student equity, demonstrating a remarkable commitment not only within her institution but also in collaborative efforts across institutions. Her tireless dedication is evident as she works tirelessly, day and night, to ensure that all students have equitable access to opportunities. Katie consistently provides constructive feedback, collaborates seamlessly with her team members, and operates at the pinnacle of her capabilities to excel in her role. She is a shining example of an equity practitioner, embodying the spirit of a true champion for change within the equity space.

Professor Sarah O'Shea | Charles Sturt University

Professor O'Shae is a passionate and formidable force in championing change at all levels (government, university and community) to improve access and equity in Higher Education. As the Director, NCSEHE she has worked with research collaborators and educational organisations at national scale. This included peak equity organisations and national research centres as well as working closely with executives from universities across the Australian HE sector.


As a leading researcher in the equity field, Sarah has contributed more close to 90 publications to the field. As a professional, she is a versatile and empathetic leader who works to inspire excellence in teams and more broadly, across the education sector, always leading by example and with genuine compassion. Sarah generously shares knowledge and insights with government panels, peak bodies, professional associations, educational providers and individual equity practitioners. She is generous with her insights and expertise - a true champion for change.

Joel Radcliffe |  Australian National University

Since 2021, Joel has been the driving force behind the ANU's Respectful Relationship Units (RRU) success, demonstrating exceptional leadership rooted in his extensive career in the education and non-profit sectors. His transformative impact on our team and the university community warrants recognition and celebration. 

Joel's approach to sexual violence prevention has substantially elevated the impact of the RRU, showcasing his drive and skill to innovate and gain widespread support for ambitious, whole-of-university initiatives. Under his guidance, primary prevention programs have been rolled out on an unprecedented scale, reaching thousands of students. This approach has not only reshaped the discourse on sexual violence prevention but has also set a precedent for comprehensive, community-wide approaches. 

Joel's collaborative approach to leadership is a cornerstone of his success. His close collaboration with colleagues working across similar spheres, such as the Student Safety and Wellbeing Team, demonstrates his commitment to a unified approach in fostering a safe and inclusive campus environment. Joel's ability to collaborate seamlessly with diverse teams has resulted in the development of comprehensive, interconnected initiatives that address the multifaceted challenges associated with sexual violence prevention. This collaborative spirit not only enhances the effectiveness of our programs but also exemplifies a holistic and community-driven approach that we hope will serve as a model for others. 

As an educator, Joel's facilitation transcends conventional learning experiences. His authentic approach, enriched by generous insights into his own lived experiences and his deep understanding of social issues experienced by those with marginalised identities, creates a safe space for vulnerability. Joel deliberately cultivates environments where participants feel empowered to pose questions and make mistakes without the fear of judgment. Beyond education, Joel's role as a respected prevention practitioner extends across the university, where professional and academic teams seek his guidance to tackle complex issues, benefiting from his commitment to fostering restorative dialogues. 

As a manager, Joel's supportive managerial approach has created a collaborative and empowering environment within the RRU. His trust in the team's capabilities fosters a sense of autonomy, allowing individuals to thrive and contribute meaningfully. This supportive culture not only enhances overall morale but also fortifies the team's commitment to the shared mission of creating positive change. 

Lily Sheridan | University of Wollongong

Lily is an extremely passionate equity practitioner that embodies and represents all the wonderful characteristics and values so inherently required to thrive in a student-centric tole to initiate positive change in higher education for underrepresented groups.

Lily is the definition of a disrupter, always challenging the status quo, critically analysing data, trends and program outcomes to better enable non-traditional background students to aspire towards and achieve success at university. 

Creativity, proactiveness and student-centred approaches are always at the forefront of her delivery also, with no challenge ever to big or hard to take on. Always keen to immerse herself in further reading, professional development and learning, Lily is continually promoting change and the inclusion of innovation at our institution. She is always knocking on the door to ensure equity-focused programs and engagement activities are being pursued so our campus continues to celebrate diversity, inclusion and individuality.

A UOW star who is a cherished member of our team!

Associate Professor Andy Smidt | Southern Cross University

Associate Professor Smidt was formerly the Faculty Disability Liaison Officer for the Faculty of Medicine and Health and Sydney University. Andy provided advice and guidance to both students and staff at the University. She is a champion and strong advocate of Universal Design for Learning at the University, and always has creative ideas and solutions to support students to achieve their study and learning goals.  

Sarah Smith | University of Wollongong

Sarah is an extremely passionate equity practitioner and leader that embodies and represents all the wonderful characteristics and values so inherently required to initiate positive change in higher education for underrepresented groups.

Sarah is thorough, proactive, dependable and always open to innovation in program development to better enable non-traditional background students to aspire towards and achieve success at university. 

In her leadership style, Sarah is always calm, solution-focused and always keen to tackle a problem by immersing herself in further reading, professional development and learning, she is continually promoting change and the inclusion of innovation at our institution. She is always knocking on the door to ensure equity-focused programs and engagement activities are being pursued so our campus continues to celebrate diversity, inclusion and individuality.

Sarah always nurtures her team through change with humility and consistency and is always up to date on what her team needs to ensure they are thriving and enjoying the student-centred work required of them, despite the ever-changing nature of political, financial and social impacts colliding in our sector. Her team so deeply cherish her commitment and empathy always offered and can always depend on her to provide equity-focused and informed solutions that ultimately benefit underrepresented students in higher education.

A wonderful equity champion who we cherish here at UOW!

Student Equity team | University of Technology Sydney

The Student Equity team at UTS works collaboratively and in partnership with internal and external stakeholders to drive best outcomes for priority learners. They develop and implement targeted and culturally inclusive programs such U@Uni Academy, Pasifika Programs, Equity Pathways, a Humanitarian Scholarships Program and Regional Partnerships. The team values supporting each other and building a thriving culture in the workplace.

Congratulations Ali Davies, Amanda Moors-Mailei, Sarah Ellis, Zoe Vassallo, Regan Gauci, Moana Tago, Joe Tedeschi, Melissa Ronca, Hamer Chen, Bethany Ross, Ellie Nik, Perpetua Burt, Christine Afoa, Betty Mekonnen, Stef Dourado, Tom Stonestreet, Nema Madnani, and Kendell Powell - you are Champions for Change!

Zain Warsi | University of Technology Sydney

Zain is creating an Inclusive Language guidebook for UTS, fostering an inclusive and respectful environment for all community members. These inclusive language guidelines aim to provide a framework for language that respects and values diversity, promotes inclusivity, and avoids discrimination or exclusion. By adopting inclusive language, we contribute to a welcoming and supportive atmosphere that celebrates the richness of our diverse community.

These guidelines apply to all members of the UTS community, including students, staff, faculty, and visitors. They are intended to be used in all forms of written and verbal communication within the university setting, including lectures, discussions, assignments, official documents, and communications.

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