Western Sydney University congratulates summer graduates

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Thousands of happy graduates have celebrated their university achievements as Western Sydney University held its summer graduation ceremonies. 

Held across 16-17 December, students graduated from a range of disciplines including nursing and midwifery, medicine, business, law, science, health and education.

Graduates were also inspired by a number of guest speakers who delivered the occasional address:


Executive Director of Nursing and Midwifery, Nepean Blue Mountains Local Health District, Clair Ramsden  

Clair Ramsden 

Clair is the Executive Director of Nursing and Midwifery for Nepean Blue Mountains Local Health District. She also holds the role of Health Service Functional Area Controller which overseesemergency and disaster control in the district, and is an Associate Professor with the University of Technology Sydney.

She currently manages a large strategic and operational portfolio, including professional nursing and midwifery leadership, workforce clinical training and education, nursing research and practice development, patient transport and patient flow.

Clair has practised as a nurse in a variety of settings both in Australia and the UK and she has also temporarily filled the role of NSW chief nurse and midwifery officer.

Clair has published a number of articles and book chapters including Emergency and Trauma Care for Nurses and Paramedics.

Clair holds masters degrees in health care ethics and health service management.

General Practitioner, Jamal Rifi

Jamal Rifi 

The University is pleased to be awarding Dr Jamal Rifi the title of Honorary Doctorate of Letters as part of this ceremony. Dr Rifi is a proud Lebanese Australian Muslim. He is respected in his community in South Western Sydney, where he is a local GP. He is also well known as a spokesperson for moderate Islam, working in the local and broader community, and speaking to the media. He has forged friendships on both sides of Australian politics to build bridges between Muslim and non-Muslim Australians.

Dr Rifi has become a social commentator to promote racial cohesion in Australia. In the wake of the Cronulla riots he was instrumental in establishing the successful 'On the Same Wave' program to recruit and train young Muslim men and women to become lifesavers at Cronulla. He led a trek of the Kakoda track with young men and women from the Muslim community, lifesavers from Cronulla, and politicians from both sides to promote racial harmony.

Dr Rifi has received a number of awards in recognition of his work and achievements. He was the recipient of the 2007 Human Rights Community Award and was Australia's Local Hero for NSW in the 2009 Australian of the Year Awards. In 2015, The Australian Newspaper named Dr Rifi Australian of the Year and more recently he was named Australian Father of the Year.

Director of the Smithsonian Institute's Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Melissa Chiu

Melissa Chiu 

The University is pleased to be awarding Melissa Chiu the title of Honorary Doctorate of Creative Arts as part of this ceremony. Dr Chiu is one of the world's leading authorities on modern and contemporary Asian art.

Dr Chiu graduated from the University of Western Sydney with a Bachelor of Arts (Art History and Criticism). She followed this with a Master of Arts (Arts Administration) from the College of Fine Arts, University of New South Wales. Then in 2005, she received her PhD from the University of Western Sydney, with a dissertation on experimental Chinese art.

Dr Chiu has had an extensive career in the arts. She has been the curator of University's own art collection, and was also Founding Director of the Asia-Australia Arts Centre, a non-profit contemporary art centre in Sydney. In 2001, she was appointed as the first curator of Asian and Asian-American Arts by the Asia Society in Manhattan, and in 2004 she was promoted to museum director. In 2014 she became the Director of the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden.

Dr Chiu is highly regarded for her skills in cultural diplomacy whilst also curating exhibitions which might confront political challenges. She attributes her career success to the early opportunities she received in Australia.

Scientist and TV Presenter, Ruben Meerman 

Ruben Meerman 

Ruben is a surfer with a physics degree, known to a generation of Aussie kids and parents as the ABC's Surfing Scientist. He has presented science experiments and stories on ABC television programs since 2004 and appeared on 'Catalyst', 'Sleek Geeks', 'Studio 3' and 'Roller Coaster'. In 2012, Ruben became the first ever resident scientist on 'Play School'.

Ruben has written four children's science books, visited more than 1,500 Australian primary and high schools, taught science education at Griffith University, and continues to produce and publish science experiments and content for ABC Science Online.

Ruben's career took an unexpected turn to the science of weight loss where he stumbled on the widespread and alarming misconceptions about weight loss among doctors, dieticians, personal trainers, pharmacists, teachers and the general public alike.

Ruben is now a PhD candidate in the School of Biotechnology and Biomolecular Sciences at UNSW. One of his main objectives is to change the way metabolism is taught and presented in medical and biochemistry textbooks, and to correct the widespread misconceptions among health practitioners and the general public.

State MP, Member for Lakemba, Jihad Dib

Jihad Dib 

Jihad is the Member for Lakemba. He is the state's first lower house Islamic MP in the NSW parliament, and brings extensive experience as an innovative educational and community leader to his parliamentary role.

At the age of 33, Jihad was appointed to lead Punchbowl Boys' High School, a school that had been on the verge of closure due to falling enrolments, student violence and community disengagement. Under his leadership, the school made significant, externally recognised improvements in educational and social outcomes for students and the school community.

He has received numerous awards including the P&C NSW Secondary Principal of the Year, the Director NSW Public Schools Principal Award, and the NSW Pride of Australia Medal.

Jihad has also held many other important community roles including Australia Day Ambassador, Commissioner with the Community Relations Commission for a Multicultural NSW, and board member of the Together for Humanity Foundation.

Jihad was selected by the US Government to participate in the highly sought after International Visitors Leadership Program. In April last year, he received a standing ovation for his TEDx talk on school transformation.

Graduation also presents Western Sydney University with the opportunity to acknowledge the wonderful contributions made by some of the unsung heroes who go 'above and beyond' in their community work.  

The University's Community Awards are given to outstanding individuals in the Western Sydney region. 

This graduation season, awards were given to:


Roger and Lana Borg Mama Lana's Community Foundation

In 2013, Roger and Lana Borg identified a need to help the homeless and underprivileged community in the Penrith region. They set up Mama Lana's Community Foundation, a not-for-profit organisation dedicated to helping those who need a helping hand.

The Foundation provides community members with hot meals four nights a week, and supplies food, toiletry items, clothing and blankets, and furniture.

Roger and Lana, along with other volunteers, also liaise on behalf of patrons with Centrelink, Penrith Council, Department of Housing and other resource centres and government departments to improve their circumstances and help find long-term solutions.

Mama Lana's Community Foundation is not just about serving nutritious meals to the homeless community. They have a dream of operating a food van in order to reach people in locations further afield. They also plan to increase their facilities, and hope to one day open a café that caters to customers during the day, and can be a warm, inviting place for patrons to enjoy their meals at night.

Australian Air League

The Australian Air League is a volunteer, not-for-profit organisation, which aims to teach aviation to members starting from eight years of age. Since 1934, it has served thousands of young people across Australia, providing a valuable service to the community, in particular, giving young members an opportunity to participate in group activities, which has a positive impact on their cognitive, social, emotional wellbeing.

Based at Camden aerodrome in Greater Western Sydney, the Air Activities Centre runs activities on the weekend during the school year and camps during school holidays. The Centre has three aircraft and a flight simulator (donated by the University's MARCS Institute) for ground training. Cadets obtain proficiency in aviation theory subjects as well as learning to fly at a reduced cost, thanks to a small band of dedicated flying instructors and aircraft maintenance engineers who all provide their services on a voluntary basis.

Beyond aviation training, the Australian Air League provides opportunities for young people to develop good citizenship, teamwork, ingenuity and resourcefulness, through programs such as the Duke of Edinburgh award scheme. The Air Activities Centre at Camden has a positive impact on the wellbeing of young people in Greater Western Sydney.

Dr Anysia Den

With roots tracing back to the Warumungu people of Tennant Creek, Western Sydney University alumna Dr Anysia Den is determined to make a difference in Indigenous health as she reconnects with her family heritage through medicine.

Anysia originally studied science and teaching at Campbelltown and started her career as a high school teacher. When the University launched its School of Medicine, the then 33 year-old saw it as an ideal opportunity to return and study something that had always interested her.

Anysia is particularly interested in obstetrics and wants to help address the high mortality rate of Indigenous children. Despite improvements over recent years, the death rate of Indigenous children is still more than double to that of non-Indigenous children.

Whether it's listening to a patient, holding their hand or comforting them before a procedure, Anysia prides herself on taking an extra moment to improve every patient's experience.

A resident doctor at the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, Anysia was named Intern of the Year for 2013. She also featured in a recent edition of the University's GradLife magazine, sharing her story to inspire fellow alumni and others considering further study.

 Ends

17 December 2015

Media Unit

Photos: Sally Tsoutas

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