Diversity, inclusion and wellness focus for professional staff

Over 700 staff from across the university came together to share ideas and experiences and gain new knowledge at the recent UOM Professional Staff Conference.

The event was centred around the themes of working in harmony, connecting with others, and the importance of valuing all members of the University’s community.

Attendees saw an expert panel chaired by Dr Shane Huntington, Deputy Director, Strategy & Partnerships, MDHS. They heard from the Vice Chancellor, Professor Duncan Maskell, and were stimulated and moved by the keynote addresses from Dr Bridie O’Donnell and Dylan Alcott AOM.

Staff also engaged with their UOM peers and leaders. Over 25 presentations were delivered around the conference’s sub-themes of Harmony & Success, The Importance of Being Us, Future World, Career Evolution and Wellness at Work.

New this year was the Wellness at Work hub, an interactive space highlighting the importance of self-care, health and wellbeing. It proved to be hugely popular with attendees, and included Audiology Clinic, OHS/Ergonomics advice, Sustainability, UM Sport, Paws the Pressure, 3 Minute Angels massage and Chair Pilates.

To launch the event attendees were met with a Didgeridoo performance, followed by the Welcome to Country with Janet Galpin, representing the Boon Wurrung nation.

Mr Neil Robinson, Head of Operational Performance, opened the conference. He spoke of the importance of working together, a sense of pride, and acknowledging diversity and inclusivity in delivering the university’s 2030 strategy.

Panel session

Joining Dr Huntington on the discussion panel were members: Rebecca Bond, Sarah Fortuna and Dr Victor Sojo Monzon from UOM and external consultant, Dennis Gentilin.

They discussed their personal career journeys, and what leadership means to them. People were reminded to be open to opportunities, be curious and connect with others throughout their career.

Key questions included:

  • How do you make staff excited to come to work?
  • How can managers prepare staff for their next role / the next phase of their career?
  • How do you foster and build a safe and inclusive culture?

Rebecca Bond, Faculty Executive Director, Faculty of Architecture, Building and Planning, UOM, shared her knowledge, “People need to have drive and ambition…managers need to be honest and transparent with their own failures and problems…they need to listen with understanding and encourage staff.”

Dennis Gentilin is a public whistleblower who now consults on corporate ethics, governance and conduct. He spoke of the importance of the attitude staff bring to work. Not everyone is as ambitious and driven as each other, some seek a work/life balance and focus may shift to personal and family commitments – but these people too add value. Everyone is searching for meaning in their personal lives. Staff need to create a local purpose and not rely on senior management to provide this.

“People need to feel comfortable speaking up about issues they are experiencing both in the workplace and personally. Local leaders have an important role to play here,” Dennis said.­

Read the pre-conference interview with Dennis Gentilin here.

Dr Victor Monzon, Lecturer in Leadership and Research Fellow at the Centre for Workplace Leadership in the Department of Management and Marketing, FBE, said, “Leaders need to pay attention to their team and share opportunities across their staff…people ultimately seek career progression…and don’t be tokenistic in regards to wellbeing.”

Dr Bridie O'Donnell

The morning keynote address was delivered by Dr Bridie O’Donnell, world champion cyclist and Director, Office for Women in Sport & Recreation, Victorian Government. Bridie charmed the audience, sharing her heartfelt story, emphasising the value of diversity and the importance of different skill-sets, styles and world views.

As a woman leader in sport, Bridie spoke of unconscious bias, and the different levels of scrutiny applied to women in leadership roles. She referred to the label of "difficult" often given to ambitious women in the workplace.

“Don’t pre-judge, be curious, be kind and continue to learn how to fail,” O’Donnell advised the audience.

Read the pre-conference interview with Dr Bridie O’Donnell here.

Highlights of staff presentations

Building inclusive University cultures with a focus on wellbeing

Dr Megan Sharp, a researcher of Diversity and Inclusion in MDHS, works with emerging health practitioners in working towards an inclusive health community.

The presentation centred on the Pride in Action Network (PiAN) launched in Feburary 2019. There are 2,700 PiAN members, both staff and students, across the University of Melbourne and partner organisations. LGBTQI+.

For more info or to join the PiAN please visit: https://staff.unimelb.edu.au/pride-in-action-network

Hear Us

A deeply moving presentation using the art of storytelling to depict the perspectives of three proud Aboriginal Women working at the University.

The presentation and title "Hear Us" was created to encourage open dialogue among colleagues, with an emphasis on having their unique experiences and voices heard.

Yirgjhilya, Kym and Rebecca each shared their own personal stories in a powerful call for greater cultural awareness and support for Indigenous staff at UOM.

Kym described her experience of “walking in two worlds” and the importance of open communication with Indigenous staff.

“Let’s have a coffee and a conversation!” Kym said to attendees.

Yirgjhilya, a singer-songwriter and Miss NAIDOC 2019, shared her journey to UOM in an emotional story about the loss a close family member, the adversity she faced as a young person living away from family and culture - and how coordinating this presentation has been a way of using her struggles to empower others.

Pulling together both stories was an insightful talk from Rebecca about community: “Let’s start implementing more of our 65,000 years of rich Indigenous knowledge on living in harmony with the land and each other - by using this platform and the opportunity we have to lead the way forward and grow a better, brighter, healthy future for us all,” she said.

Winning second place for Best Presenters, Yirgjhilya, Kym and Rebecca hope to continue to raise awareness - and of course are available for coffee and a conversation!

  • Yirgjhilya Lawrie – Wuthathi (QLD) and Mirning (SA), Legal & Risk Operations
  • Kym Williams – Iningai (QLD), Melbourne Graduate School of Education
  • Rebecca Quin –  Putalina Palawa (Tas), Faculty of Science

Will you take a proactive step towards reconciliation?

[resource from Indigenous Strategy Unit, Chancellery]

For more information on the Jawun Indigenous Strategy, UOM Reconciliation Plan or to sign up to the Melbourne Reconciliation Network please visit: staff.unimelb.edu.au/indigenous-resources

Unconscious Bias

Dr Victor Sojo’s presentation focussed on how to recognise and avoid the effects of unconscious bias in workplace.

Processes need to be reviewed, restructured and put back together, removing gender bias. Decision making in teams must be universal, all members must contribute. As an example, to encourage inclusion, the leader/convener shouldn’t be the first one to speak, everyone must have a voice and ultimately this will lead to authentic team communication and decision making.

Dr Sojo is a Lecturer in Leadership and Research Fellow at the Centre for Workplace Leadership in the Department of Management and Marketing, FBE. Current research includes discrimination of women in occupational settings, women in leadership and the impact of harmful workplace behaviours against women at work.

Read more about Dr Sojo's work on Pursuit.

If People are Assets, Frontline Employees are Gold

Presented by Simon Bell, this session focused on frontline employees as the most important asset in service organisations. UOM frontline employees are the crucial contact point for the University and help student understand how Melbourne works.

“It’s about transparency and insight – not persuasion. It’s not about a message but how we can actually help.” Simon said.

Creating and Measuring Content with Impact

Imogen Crump, Editor of Pursuit, and Rebecca Scott, presented on the University’s digital news platform. Imogen raised the issue of the changing newsroom, where specialist journalists are being replaced by ‘junior generalists’.

Pursuit has a strong standing as a specialist news platform. UOM’s research impact, leadership and expertise is communicated to an international audience, now reaching 8 million. Pursuit articles have featured in the BBC and Washington Post.

“It is a trustworthy and credible news platform in an era of fake news,” Imogen said.

The UOM media team are measuring the impact of these media stories via a new interactive dashboard currently in development.

Self Care

Olivia Rowan from the School of Population and Global Health told attendees, “Give the world the best of you – not what is left of you.” She said people are shaped by those they spend the most time with.

The audience was given "homework" and asked to identify their five strengths, to change the conversation with yourself, the negative self-talk and create a positive inner dialogue.

Professor Duncan Maskell

The University’s VC, Professor Duncan Maskell addressed the audience prior to the afternoon keynote. It was the first time a VC had attended and addressed a Professional Staff Conference.

“My goal is to create the most diverse and inclusive place in the world”, Professor Maskell told staff. He emphasised that the university needs to produce and attract great people, mutual respect is critical and innovation and creativity must be encouraged.

“Every role is important and everyone has something to contribute to the conversation,” Professor Maskell said.

Dylan Alcott, OAM

The afternoon keynote speaker was Dylan Alcott, Founder of Dylan Alcott Foundation, Co-founder of Get Skilled Access and Alumnus of the Faculty of Business and Economics at The University of Melbourne.

“I attended all my UOM lectures so now I am very happy to be lecturing you,” he told the audience in his opening remarks.

Dylan, who has a 176 km/hour serve in wheelchair tennis shared the inspiring and motivational story of his life, telling the audience, “we make our friends and colleagues proud when we achieve things”.

For Dylan, the lack of expectation that others have placed on him and his disability has been the most disappointing.

Dylan also spoke unconscious bias. He defined the Paralympics for the audience: the Paralympics are Olympic style games for people with impairments that take place during the same year and same venue as the Olympics. The ‘para’ stands for ‘parallel’ in the word ‘paralympics’, not paraplegic as thought by many people.

“You are allowed to use the word ‘disability’” Alcott said.

Read the pre-conference interview with Dylan here.


Sincere thanks to the amazing PSC organising committee on delivering a highly engaging conference to our talented professional staff.

About the Conference

The PSC was established in 2014. The event is designed to bring together professional staff from across the University to highlight best practice, share ideas, and provide professional development and networking opportunities to our vibrant staff community.

For more information please visit:

UOM Professional Staff Conference