Gradbytes Winter Issue 2016

Greetings Western Sydney U  alumni and welcome to Gradbytes. It's a jam-packed edition today with exciting news from in and around Western Sydney University, and super-inspiring stories of your fellow alumni making their mark in the world. We kick off with Najeeba Wazefadost's remarkable journey from boat person to brave defender of refugee rights. Remember her name – she is a young woman going places and walking embodiment of the amazing contribution refugees and migrants are making in the Greater West. Next, Scott Beker's late grab at his dream job reminds us that it's never too late to follow your true path. He's in Rio right now, refereeing Olympic basketball.

Western's illustrious Law Alumni graced the hallowed halls of power at a recent event in the NSW Parliament – a portent perhaps of their future paths. Keynote speaker Chris Bowen used the opportunity to launch a blistering attack on the national shame that is Indigenous incarceration rates, and was rewarded for his efforts with a spot in the national news.

All had a ball at the GradLife Social Alumni Networking event, and the construction of Western's Parramatta city campus now nears completion. This $220M, 14-storey building opens its doors in 2017, delivering a shining new state-of-the-art educational facility for up to 10,000 Western Sydney University students.

Happy reading!

The toast of the town (and country)

Najeeba Wazefadost

Najeeba Wazefadost's childhood, like millions of displaced young people around the world, was stolen from her. Instead of carefree days and childhood games, she carries memories of fear, persecution and death. Najeeba and her family fled the Afghanistan and the Taliban's genocidal massacres of the Hazara ethnic minority when she was 12 years old. She came to Australia by boat with her family in late 2000, arriving in Curtain Detention Centre shortly thereafter.

Today Najeeba is 28, a resident of Western Sydney, and among our most brightly shining young alumni stars. Najeeba graduated with a Bachelor of Medical Science in 2010, just ten years after she arrived in Australia. This says a lot about her drive, determination, and unwavering belief in the transformative power of education. She recalls:
My dream was always to get an education. I came to Australia with no English and have now graduated high school and have a degree in medical science. I hope to be a doctor one day. I will always thank Australia for giving me the opportunity to be educated, safe and secure and I want to contribute to Australia and make it proud of me.
In this Najeeba has already succeeded, and prodigiously so. Since graduating, she has worked tirelessly to harness those searing early experiences as a force for good. Today, she is a highly effective advocate for refugee rights, notably the release of children from detention centres. As an ambassador for Amnesty International, she shares her story and calls for greater compassion for the plight of refugees around the world. Last year she appeared on The ABC's Q and A program, with a star turn that demonstrated extraordinary clarity, charisma, intellect and natural-born leadership ability. Najeeba is fast carving out a national profile, with a growing reputation as an accomplished spokeswoman for a cause she has lived and breathed, and to which she is deeply devoted.

Najeeba typifies the story of human potential realised through higher education. In this way, she's a poster girl for Western Sydney University's commitment to students from refugee and migrant backgrounds, and its forthcoming 'Town and Gown Dinner'. University is currently fundraising like never before as part of a momentous effort to deliver hundreds of scholarships to refugees, migrants and disadvantaged young people across the Greater West. Town and Gown raises funds for this purpose and celebrates Western Sydney University's enduring commitment to GWS region. Find out more at

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The ball's in your court: it's never too late to reach for the stars

Scott Beker

It's cliché to say never give up on your dreams, but clichés are clichés for a reason. They're very often true. Equally, it doesn't matter how long it takes to realise your dreams – it's the journey as well as the destination that makes arrival a victory. Western Sydney University alumnus Scott Beker is here to tell that story – his path towards a more satisfying career and realising his great life passion started at 35, when he enrolled at Western Sydney University in a Bachelor of Business and Economics. Scott explains:

"As a mature age student, University was a means to an end. At the same time as completing my degree by distance education, I was holding down a full time job in an unrelated industry, being a family man with two pre-school aged children, and working towards a much bigger personal goal. While juggling all of this, I was travelling around Australia and New Zealand most weekends, refereeing in the National Basketball League, which I've been doing now for 15 years. For as long as I can remember I've been chasing a dream of refereeing at the Olympic Games. This year, I realised this dream, representing Australia as a referee at Rio. It's never too late to change your career, as I did with the completion of my degree, nor is there such a thing as being too old to chase your dreams."

Scott's brilliant late onset career is proof positive. His determination has earned him a coveted role as part of the elite pool of referees chosen by the International Basketball Federation to control both men's and women's games at Rio. He was equal parts surprised and delighted to make the cut after missing the end of the NBL season with a calf injury. Still, and demonstrating his remarkable aptitude in overcoming obstacles, he's notching up new victories with each passing day. Scott has just been appointed to referee the Group A men's game between the USA and Venezuela. He'll be sharing the court with NBA superstars including Kevin Durant, Carmelo Anthony, Klay Thompson and Kyrie Irving.

Upon his return, Scott will pursue the professional career his Western Sydney University business degree enables. And in everything he does, will prove that dreams do come true, and it's never too late to follow your own. Congratulations Scott! No matter who comes home with gold, you're a winner we're proud to claim as our own.

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Law Alumni Night electrifies and inspires

Alumni Law Dinner 2016

With NSW Parliament as the chosen venue and Shadow Treasurer Chris Bowen courting controversy with his keynote address, this year's Law Alumni dinner took on an overtly political flavour. It even made the news!

Just days before explosive revelations about abuse at the Northern Territory's Don Dale juvenile detention centre, Bowen (himself a proud son of Western Sydney) took the opportunity to call for a national target to close the gap in Indigenous incarceration rates. With the sobering statistical vignette that young Aboriginal men are more likely to go to jail than university, Bowen said that action is overdue. Declaring "we can't put the over-representation of Indigenous citizens in the too-hard basket any longer" he issued a challenge to end this disparity by 2040.

Bowen also warned that a plebiscite on same-sex marriage had the potential to distract from the issue of constitutional recognition for Australia's first peoples. With an insider's insight into political machinations, he said that society has a limited ability to deal with different political issues at any given time. He told guests, "I for one would hate to see our national political bandwidth exhausted and progress on these two important issues denied because of political decisions about progress".

The Law Alumni dinner is an annual event designed to facilitate networking opportunities for Western Sydney U law graduates, at the same time as providing food for thought via a keynote address by a prominent public figure. This year's lively instalment was hosted by the Hon Guy Zangari MP and attended by a capacity crowd of law alumni. Twenty-two young legal eagles of the future were also able to attend via sponsored places for local high school students. All members of Western Sydney's Youth Pathways Network, this talented group of teenagers had the time of their lives, affirming their aspirations to pursue careers in law and politics. Watch out for these young GWS firebrands – they'll be coming soon to courtrooms and television screens near you. And Law Alum, make sure you're along next time – this is an event not to be missed!

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The need for speed: GradLife Social on fire

Heather and Mark Jones

Not to be outdone by their lawyerly peers, the good folk behind the recent GradLife Social event kept things fresh with a speed networking session. Taking its cue from the better-known phenomenon of speed dating, guests were inviting to network at pace with their best elevator pitches delivered at lighting speed. There was a lot of chatter and banter and fabulous practice in putting their best foot forward, professionally-speaking.

Mark and Heather Jones were this year's special guest alumni. Mark and Heather are the dynamic duo (in life and business) behind Filtered Media, which today is one of Australia's leading story-telling agencies. They meet at Western Sydney University while Heather was studying Public Relations and Mark was completing a Journalism degree. Post graduation, they pursued high-flying careers in San Francisco before returning home to start Filtered Media. They now have some twenty employees and have been described as "one of Australia's hottest content agencies".

With the foresight afforded by first-class degrees in synchronistic fields, they watched the media landscape changing, and dreamed a dream of an agency where PR, journalism, social media experts, video producers and event consultants could work together on common goals, their various skills sets delivering in a seamless outcome for corporate, government and community clients. Understanding the power of story and harnessing its potential for corporate and community clients has now become their stock in trade.

Needless to say, they had plenty of insights into the art and science of story-telling, fast paced and otherwise. An uproarious time was had by all, and everyone went home with at least one story to tell.

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Parramatta City campus on track to open in 2017


The University's world class Parramatta City campus has reached a significant milestone recently with the highest point of the construction of the building being reached. This marks the end of the construction phase of the $220.5 million, 14 storey commercial development at One Parramatta Square (or 1PSQ), located within the Parramatta Square Precinct.

The new campus is officially set to open in 2017 and will offer world class educational facilities for up to 10,000 students. Students currently studying courses or units from the School of Business currently on the Parramatta (South) campus and students from the Sydney Graduate School of Management at 100 George St, Parramatta, will transfer to the new campus next year.

Vice-Chancellor, Professor Barney Glover, says 1PSQ will be one of Australia's most digitally infused and technology-rich teaching and research spaces. "As we near the completion of the building phase, we are particularly excited for the internal fit-out to begin," said Professor Glover. "The 10,000 students who will study here will find themselves immersed in one of the country's most technologically-advanced learning environments – one that is highly interactive, and which uses personalised technologies and approaches to significantly enhance the student experience. "Importantly, the campus' connection to the civic heart of Parramatta will provide a unique student experience and encourage even greater engagement between the University, business and the community. Together, we are proud to make Parramatta a true university city."

Another significant milestone is the announcement that PricewaterhouseCoopers will have up to 200 staff working from our new, high-rise Parramatta City campus, and have also signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the University. The MOU will see students and staff from the University's School of Business work side by side with PwC at the new campus, with the two organisations working together to explore mentoring and work integrated learning opportunities for students, joint staff and leadership development, and collaboration on mutually beneficial research and innovation projects. 

Professor Barney Glover said the University's partnership and co-location with businesses like PwC will make Parramatta City campus a true innovation precinct - one that will generate significant opportunities for Parramatta and for Western Sydney. "To capitalise on the 'Ideas Boom' we must grow our connections with innovative industries. Our partnership with PwC will help unlock new areas of research, angel investing and business improvement for the Western Sydney region," Professor Glover said. "Not only will our students have access to initiatives and experiences with the largest professional services firm in Australia, our researchers will also be empowered to conduct important research that has a focus on industry impact."

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Good Dog! International Film

Good Dog Film Festival Good Dog! is a film festival screening engaging films that include a dog. The annual festival is held on Sydney Harbour, Australia. All profits are donated to Australian and International dog charities. The festival director is Anny Slater, an alum of Western Sydney U who is a lawyer, filmmaker, writer and philanthropist. 

U.S. MovieMaker magazine named Good Dog! in its list of "Top 10" Coolest Film Festivals in the World 'Out of the Box' category. The magazine said "If it isn't cool enough that each movie GDIFF screens features a dog, all of the profits are donated to Australian and International dog charities". 

The festival is being held on 2 and 3 December 2016. To find out more visit the Good Dog! International Film Festival website online. (opens in a new window)

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Classic Wallabies Indigenous Exchange UK - October 2016

An opportunity for Indigenous people who are currently employed and have completed an undergrad program in either business or commerce and working for at least three years.

The Classic Wallabies are offering 5-6 fully funded places for the selected candidates to participate in a two week field trip to the UK undertaking some work experience, volunteer work and some cultural activities.
Successful candidates will also complete their MBA with Edinburgh Business School ("EBS") as well as participate in the upcoming CWIE UK Exchange in October of 2016.

The scholarship will cover all costs relating to the completion of the required subjects at EBS, as well as the travel, accommodation and other elements that are required to participate in the Exchange Program.

When: October 2016 (2 Weeks)
Where: Heriot-Watt University - Edinburgh Business School / Scotland
Corporate Sponsor: Origin Insurance Brokers Pty Ltd
Application closes: Expressions of interest are being received for the CWIE program to the UK until Friday, 16 September

To find out more, download the CWIE and UK Exchange Overview PDF, 415.71 KB (opens in a new window)

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The Western Sydney U Solar Car Project

Unlimited. Solar CarCongratulations to the The Western Sydney U Solar Car Project who have successfully completed the Bridgestone World Solar Challenge's 3000km journey across Australia with their car UNLIMITED., achieving a fantastic result of 10th out of 43 teams.

The 2017 Bridgestone World Solar Challenge Regulations have now been released! The team is back to doing what they do best and designing their entry for the 2017 Bridgestone World Solar Challenge.

Following the success of our first foray, Western Sydney University is now investing in the project and invites alumni, private, corporate and government partners to do the same. Financial and in-kind support is welcome.

A range of sponsorship benefits are available. Interested individuals and organisations are invited to share in the success of this opportunity which only comes around every two years. With your help, we can get the Western Sydney University Solar Car on the road again for the 2017 World Solar Challenge. To find out more about the project, visit the Western Sydney U Solar Car Project Website (opens in a new window), or you can give online now. (opens in a new window)

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