Western Sydney University has been designated as the global hub for its international leadership in reducing inequalities by the United Nations Academic Impact (UNAI).
The United Nations Academic Impact (UNAI) network is an initiative that aligns institutions of higher education with the United Nations in supporting and contributing to the realisation of United Nations goals and mandates, including the promotion and protection of human rights, access to education, sustainability and conflict resolution.
In 2018 the UN announced partnerships with 17 universities around the world to serve as centres to promote scholarship and best practices around each of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals 2030 (SDGs). WSU has been designated as the global hub for SDG 10 ‘to reduce inequality with and among countries’.
Our work in this area was also recognised in 2019 by the new Times Higher Education (THE) University Impact Ranking. Western Sydney University ranked 11th worldwide and 1st in Australia overall. Western also ranked 1st worldwide in SDG 5 – Gender Equality and 2nd worldwide in SDG 10 – Reduced Inequalities.
Western's work around SDG 10
Improving Livelihoods in India: Marvi
Managing Aquifer Recharge and Sustaining Groundwater Use through Village-level Intervention
MARVI (opens in a new window) is being adopted by the Government of India and the World Bank to support the implementation across seven states to enable the more effective and efficient use of groundwater and improved livelihoods.
International Human Rights Conference
In November 2018 the University hosted the 9th International Conference on Human Rights Education (ICHRE) led by Professor Sev Ozdowski AM, Director, Equity and Diversity. The conference was attended by over 380 delegates and speakers from around 50 countries.
ICHRE provides an opportunity for participants to learn about the latest research, practices and trends in human rights education for application to their ongoing work. It also strengthens their practical knowledge and skills and fosters contacts and networks to facilitate partnerships and collaboration. The Conference developed a Sydney Declaration on Human Rights Education to strengthen civil society as an agent for positive change.
Why this matters: SDG 10.3 Target: “Ensure equal opportunity and reduce inequalities of outcome, including by eliminating discriminatory laws, policies and practices and promoting appropriate legislation, policies and action in this regard.”.
Youth for the Goals: The Asia-Pacific SDG Youth Challenge
Empowering youth across Asia Pacific the Asia-Pacific SDG Youth Challenge is an exciting and unique youth led initiative focussed on delivering the SDG’s at a local level. Conceived by RCE youth leaders at Western Sydney University and Universitas Gadjah Mada, Indonesia the Challenge uses a peer-peer learning model coupled with virtual mentoring support to empower and enable youth leaders to engage with each other and to deliver grassroots projects that matter to them and their communities.
The Youth SDG Challenge for 2019 commenced in February with a focus on SDG 1: No Poverty, SDG 6: Clean Water and Sanitation and SDG 10: Reduced Inequalities. Projects for 2019 include clean-ups, photography workshops, youth/school conferences and workshops, technological and app innovations, registered training courses and disability e-sports. You can find out more about the Youth SDG Challenge for 2019 (opens in a new window) in this video.
In total, 10 individual youth-led sustainability projects were delivered across the globe from youth in America, Mexico, India, Malaysia, Australia and South Korea. This year they collectively engaged over 10,500 individuals.
Widening Participation at WSU
Access to and participation in higher education (opens in a new window) is widely seen as way to reduce inequality. For more than 25 years, WSU has been committed to widening participation in and access to university education, resulting in a continuous rise in the number of students from non-traditional backgrounds.
The most successful activities are those that have a ‘generational’ impact, making the children of first-generation higher education students more likely to consider further education. Priority student groups include: low SES backgrounds; Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders; Pacific Islander backgrounds; women (studying in non-traditional areas); non–english speaking backgrounds and new and emerging communities (refugee and asylum seeker backgrounds).
Why this matters: SDG 10.2 Target “By 2030, empower and promote the social, economic and political inclusion of all, irrespective of age, sex, disability, race, ethnicity, origin, religion or economic or other status”.
Weathering the Storm: The Case for Transforming the Hunter Valley
Image - Dr Jason Reynolds – Field trip Science of the Anthropocene
The Hunter Valley in New South Wales is the heart of Australia’s thermal coal industry and the local economy is deeply rooted in coal mining and exports. Thus, the economic future of the region is intimately bound up with global efforts to prevent dangerous climate change. Researchers from the School of Business, Dr Neil Perry and Dr Gillian Hewitson, conducted research that looked at 2 varying futures (business as usual or diversification) and found that there are far-reaching risks to the region with no preparation for global coal decline. Read the full report Weathering the storm: The case for transformation in the Hunter Valley.
With world action to implement the Paris Agreement climate change goals and the UN Sustainable Development goals, the Hunter is at serious risks if the region does not prepare for the global changes that are underway. Over 5,000 jobs and $700M in wages and salaries could be lost if predicted global declines in coal occur.
Young and Resilient Research Centre
The Young and Resilient Research Centre (YRRC) embraces an integrated mode of R&D, education, training and enterprise to research and develop technology based products, services and policies that strengthen the resilience of young people and their communities, enabling them to live well and participate fully in social and economic life. YRRC are currently working with the United Nations to develop a UN General Comment to help states and non-government organisations interpret the Convention for the Rights of the Child for the digital age.
To ensure young people’s perspectives inform these changes in policy, researchers are coordinating international children’s consultations in 26 countries to gather children’s insights and experiences, including countries in Africa and the Pacific. Additionally, the Centre is working in partnership with the Global Partnership to End Violence Against Children, using a Living Lab process to bring 50 teenagers and more than 90 key adult stakeholders together to develop child-¬centred indicators of violence in the City of Valenzuela, Philippines. The process tool and indicators will be adapted for other Pathfinding Countries including in the End Violence network.
Transforming Early Education and Child Health (TeEACH)
In 2019 the University announced our investment in two new Strategic Research Initiatives – cross disciplinary research centres which partner with industry partners and endusers to address grand challenges and wicked problems. The first of these, Transforming Early Education and Child Health (TeEACH), focuses on the converging vulnerabilities faced by many children in the first eight years of life. TeEACH seeks to address the impacts and ensure that locally, nationally no child should have her or his potential limited by the settings into which they are born and live.
WSU Student Disability Collective and Leadership
The Disability Collective is for student carers and students who identify as having a temporary or permanent disability (e.g. physical, visual, intellectual, etc.) or medical condition (e.g. anxiety, rheumatism, diabetes, etc.). The role of the Disability Collective is to remove discrimination based on having a disability and engage in activities and advocacy that will further develop representation of students with disabilities at Western Sydney University. It also serves to assist students with a disability to have a presence in student representation. In addition, the Disability Collective since its conception in 2017 has maintained a continued commitment to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals and Disability Inclusion Plan in all their advocacy campaigns and initiatives across the university network.
Western is a large community with almost 49,000 students. By demonstrating leadership across our own institution we hope this work inspires other universities to implement their own strategies and plans focused on promoting participation and leadership opportunities for all. In 2019, the University established a new model for student representation which incorporated significant changes to the Student Representative Council (SRC). The SRC now includes equity positions with full voting rights, including a Disability Representative. The role of the Disability Representative is to ensure the voices of students with a disability are heard within the SRC and the University more broadly, and to increase participation of students with a disability in forums such as the Disability Collective, and other relevant areas.
Sonocent (Assistive Technology)
During 2018/19 Western has introduced Sonocent (Assistive Technology) to 240 students who have disability that impacts on their note taking skills. This has allowed increased autonomy and freedom from reliance on assistance with their notetaking in classes. Supported by the Assistive Technology Specialist position within Information Technology Design Service which allows the University to better keep pace with the fast moving developments in higher education Assistive Technology and provide students with disability with the latest and most effective technological options. Other technological innovations include the installation of a new Assessment and Referral Team to allow more immediate response to new requests for disability-related student support.
Academic Integration Plans
Academic Integration Plans (AIP) are developed for students with disability with a Disability Advisor that outlines the 'reasonable adjustments' or academic strategies required to ensure completion of academic work while managing symptoms. During the second semester of 2019 there were 1,580 current Academic Integration Plans for students. This included 780 specific support activities for individual students. Western also support approx. 230 staff with disability, including the provision of approx. 700 specific workplace adjustments. By the end of 2019 the University will have provided over $70,000 AUD worth of equipment and other aids to staff with disability.
What is SDG 10?
SDG 10: Reduced inequalities is defined as “Inequality within and among nations continues to be a significant concern despite progress in and efforts at narrowing disparities of opportunity, income and power.” - United Nations (opens in a new window).
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Western leads the world for its social and economic impact in the inaugural Times Higher Education University Impact Rankings.